Contracting app cuts down time spent on workers’ timesheets

An innovative app is helping contractors and farmers reduce the tedious paper trail associated with job recording and workers’ timesheets.

HarvestYield cuts down on paperwork by sending information straight to the office computer.

The app started life as a field mapping tool with basic job recording functions, but has since developed into a slicker way for staff to record hours and details about a job, as well as providing workers with GPS directions to fields.

See also: Contractor tackles logistics with workforce management tech

The original idea for HarvestYield came from Chris Walmsley, a contractor’s son who was well aware of time-sapping paperwork, and Juan Figuera a software developer who helped build and develop the app in 2015.

Both are still actively involved, coding and adding new features for the 40 or so contractors and farm businesses which have so far signed up, including several in Australia and New Zealand.

How does it work?

HarvestYield’s key feature is the recording of job sheets on a smartphone rather than having it integrated to the machine like regular telematics software.

The upshot of this is that mixed tractor fleets can be managed from one platform and operators switching between foragers and tractors only need to have their smartphone with them.

Contractors visiting multiple farms in a day can record the exact time spent on a job, along with the quantity of consumables used, which avoids guesstimates and under/over charging.

It has also helped eliminate paper timesheets for staff recording their hours. The information is collected daily in real-time, rather than when workers visit the farm office.

The system is available as an app on iOS and Android. Upon entering a new field, the operator simply hits ‘start’ to begin recording all movements.

Information such as time worked, vehicles and implements used, job notes and particulars such as seed rate or bales produced can all be logged.

All customer fields can be mapped with a geo-note – details attached to a certain location on a map – which means fields don’t need to be mapped for the app to work.

It can also be used to log wet patches, so operators making passes in the future are aware of previous field conditions.

Staff management

Managers can set up push notifications that send an alert when a job is started and completed, useful for keeping tabs on the staff members that are lone working.

The app allows jobs to be queued up for operators in a list at the start of a day or week, and notes can be added to jobs, including specifics such as “leave headlands if wet”.

New operators visiting a farm for the first time can also be guided to the location using GPS, with fields clearly marked in colour on the app, leaving little room for error.

One helpful addition is that the point of contact for the farm is listed under the job, so if there are gate codes or key locations, the operator can ring the farm owner/manager directly. The numbers are stored in the app rather than on an individual’s phones.

Location pins are dropped every 10 minutes so managers can keep track on how jobs are progressing. If the phone is out of signal, all works are recorded and then uploaded once signal returns.

Push notifications are also available for low fuel levels and machine services.

Accounting packages

The next part of the puzzle is to link with accounting packages so invoices can be sent from the app to systems such as QuickBooks, Sage or Farmplan. Some rival systems already offer this facility, such as Farm Backup Task.

This allows contractors to invoice for the exact work carried out as per the job sheets, and as soon as the tractor leaves the field. 

All the data is stored in the cloud and accessible via the app or web browser. The cost of HarvestYield is based on the number of users you need to have access – £79/month covers up to five users, while £189/month is for unlimited users. There’s a 20% discount for annual subscriptions.

Case study: PR, JM and SC Houlston contracting

   

Based near Glaisdale, North Yorkshire, Houlston Contracting offers services including silaging, slurry application, cultivations and combining. 

Apart from full-time owners Paul and Steven Houlston, the business relies on self-employed staff to help throughout the year, with up to 12 people filing invoices during silage season.

“Keeping track of hours has always been via paper timesheets submitted weekly” says Steven Houlston.

“So we took on HarvestYield around 18 months ago and all but two of the regular staff are now recording jobs and inputting worked hours via their smartphone, which is linked straight back to the office”.

In the summer, the company has a number of seasonal staff who have little knowledge of the farms and local area, so the app is handy for detailing the exact fields to be worked and how to reach them.

The notes section is also used to store details about specific access routes for different farms.

Jobs can’t be closed until bale numbers and rolls of wrap are added to the job sheet.

“Machinery servicing and repairs are also recorded, which was handy last year when we had diesel problems”, says Steven.

“The app made it easy to see when the last filter change was. On one machine, a set of filters had only done 189 hours”.

The next logical step will be to link it with the farm’s accounting package, and it would be helpful for it to record slurry flow meters for actual spread volumes.

Other grassland and management apps

FarmGRAZE
This grassland management app allows farmers to monitor grass growth and offers advice on management.

Developed by Aberystwyth University, the app calculates yield and usage from factors such as sward height, grazing system, stock type and historical measurements.

Feedback is provided via traffic-light symbols indicating if yield is at an optimal level for the stock or if there is too much or too little grass. It costs £5.99, or there is a free version offering limited functions.

RB209 AHDB
AHDB has built an app to house its Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) to show best practice guidance when applying mineral fertiliser, manures and slurries to both crops and grassland.

The free app is available on both Android and Apple devices and includes automatic updates on new advice or policies. There is also a note-taking function and video content.

Smart Farmer
Developed by Scottish farmer Marc Skivington, Smart Farmer is a pre-start checklist app for machinery that works via a QR code located on each machine.

The operator scans the code to bring up its specific checklist. Using a traffic light system, each check is then recorded and issues are logged with photos and descriptions of the defect.

As the system is cloud-based, the most recent recorded check is live for all users to see, along with the repair date. Operational status of each machine, along with service intervals and maintenance records are all shown.

It is handy for assessing how much a certain piece of kit is costing the business yearly and for audits in case of accidents, says Mr Skivington. Smart Farmer costs £595, but an early adopter price knocks it down to £495.

Yagro
Yagro’s input management app allows individual farmers to compare prices and get quotes from multiple suppliers for commodities and consumables such as fertiliser, fuel, seed, chemicals and equipment.

Suppliers can respond within minutes and transactions are carried out and logged in the app. The app can then show expenditure and savings made. It is free to download on both platforms.

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