17 November 2000


Struggling to keep track of

the paperwork or get

invoices out on time? Then

perhaps its time to improve

office efficiency. Lincolnshire

spray contractor S G Avison

did, and the results have

been dramatic, as the firm

explains to Geoff Ashcroft

KEEPING track of a contract spraying operation that covers about 40,500ha (100,000 acres) each year takes more than just a few roughly scribbled notes on the nearest piece of paper.

Thats what Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire-based spray contractor SG Avison found as business expanded over the last 18 years.

"We have always been very good at record keeping – as contractors, you have to be, to ensure jobs are properly recorded, documented and invoiced," explains Jane Avison who takes care of the office administration including record keeping, invoicing and accounts for the contract spraying business run by her husband Gary.

"When Gary started in business all those years ago, working on his own and handling 4000 acres of contract spraying, it was probably quite easy to keep track of what was applied, and for who – and importantly, how much customers would be charged," she says.

But as the business grew, so too did the record keeping requirements. And in the last few years Mrs Avison found it difficult to keep up with a continually increasing workload, using just a typewriter.

"Typing up work sheets, invoices and COSH&#42 sheets on a daily basis was just too much," she says. "I needed a system that took less time to manage, and also offered the scope for more detailed record keeping," says Mrs Avison.

Computer system

"The only way to keep track of the business was to switch to a computer-based recording system that would allow us to make faster and more detailed records for each job," she says. "And that includes recording weather conditions and machine maintenance details, too."

SG Avisons office now relies on a computer-based record keeping system installed by Honeysett Computers, complete with a regularly updated specialist contractor software program that enables the firm to record every aspect of its spraying operation.

"Invoicing can be extremely complex with a contract spraying business, which dictates that you need efficient record keeping and a good computer system to analyse and collate all the correct information to put on an invoice when a job has been completed," says Mrs Avison.

It is a system that the firm has utilised for about the last four years and enables the Avisons to keep accurate details of contract work carried out on a daily basis.

"Our business now includes the application of pesticides, acid for haulm desiccation and liquid fertilisers on a total of about 100,000 acres," says Mrs Avison. "And with about 10 self-propelled sprayers, plus operators and mechanics, you must have a good office system that enables you to create accurate job records that can be used to generate invoices, VAT returns and traceability data sheets for customers."

"Theres often a need to refer back to these records too, so its important to be able to find them on the computer when you need them."

While Mrs Avison will be the first to admit that shes not one who has had training in computers, she reckons the Honeysett system is a simple one to navigate through.

Self-taught skills

"I am not an accountant – all my computer skills were self-taught and Ive learned very much as I went along," she says, adding that she can also understand the figures that come out of the computer too. "Theres no jargon or complicated procedures – just common sense and a logical approach."

But for all the technology available, the Avisons still need to collate information from machine operators on a daily basis, and that all starts with work sheets.

"Paperwork and tractor cabs dont go hand-in-hand, but each operator does have responsibility to record what goes on and where. Then each work sheet is returned to the office when a job is completed," she says. "Each sheet contains a wide variety of information, for example, details of tanks mixes, weather conditions, field numbers, application rates and quantities of chemicals used."

"As work sheets are entered into the computer, they receive a job number and a COSH&#42 reference – the original is kept for our records and a copy is sent to each customer, along with an invoice at the end of the month," she says.

"It is a system that works well, both for us and our customers, and it meets the requirements for COSH&#42 and ACCS when it comes to record keeping and traceability," says Mrs Avison. "We can even give job records in metric or imperial measurements, depending on what our customers are most at ease with."

"However, we could not be so accurate in the office without good teamwork in the field – I can only store information that is given to me by our sprayer operators," she adds. &#42

Above: Jane Avison of contract spraying firm S G Avison reckons efficient record keeping is vital to the success of a contracting business.

Left: Despite the advances in the office, work sheets still need to be filled in by Avisons sprayer operators to ensure records are accurate and contain enough detail to satisfy customers and legislation.

Above: Keeping tabs on the workload. "Entering job data on the computer is straightforward and easy to go back to at any time."

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