Business management

How Picas works to help growers meet business management challenges

The Picas Group business intelligence platform

Innovative software solutions may not be a household name for producers in the controlled environment industry, but Picas certainly is. This is precisely why the company decided to change its official name to Picas Group last year.

greenhouse grower Editor Brian Sparks sat down with two members of the Picas Group team – Brand Developer Andrew Stallmer and Software Implementation Specialist Ben Dill – to learn more about the company’s rebranding efforts. business, the importance of using data to make informed decisions, and some of the Picas Group offerings.

Brian Sparks: Can you tell us about the main reasons for the company’s rebranding?

Andrew Stalmer: Picas is a well-known brand, but our previous company name was Innovative Software Solutions. So basically the name change eliminated a bit of confusion. But more importantly, we changed our name because we wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to reach a wider audience within the horticulture industry, not just growers who use our software but with any grower. Renaming ourselves The Picas Group allowed us to take advantage of a brand that had already built a reputation in the industry and position ourselves in a way that can be more conducive to growth. Our vision is to be essential to producers in this industry by providing great software, coupled with great service, and the name change allows us to more effectively serve that vision.

The reason we chose the word “group” for our company name is that we wanted to emphasize the group aspect within our company and in the industry. We want everyone who works with The Picas Group to feel part of our group/community. Producers have similar needs and interests, which promotes collaboration with each other in a group/team environment.

Sparks: What services do you currently provide?

Stallmer: We can talk about three main services: Picas BI (Business Intelligence), our IT department and web design. We felt like during the COVID-19 pandemic we needed to pivot in certain areas and start being creative with what we were offering to customers. Their needs were changing and they were looking to become as lean and efficient as possible. We felt like we had a lot of different skills as a company that we wanted to leverage, so we started these services. Website design was something we already offered, and the more I worked in that space, the more I realized the effect a powerful website can have. The horticulture industry doesn’t have many robust websites, and this felt like a service that many growers could benefit from. The goal is to enable producers to use a website that can help them build their brand, showcase their products and, if possible, be an e-commerce solution.

Information Technology (IT) is something we used to offer on an “ask us” basis, and now we offer it to anyone in the industry. It includes network configuration and management, security, employee training, etc. Producers can be easy targets for people with malicious intent, and most of the time they are not prepared for a hack or a security breach. It is important that producers have measures in place to protect themselves, and this is the goal of our IT department.

Business intelligence is also something we continue to develop. We are actively building our own team of business intelligence experts, so that we in turn can better help the growers we work with. When I talk to these producers, a lot of people collect data as a safety net or to cover their bases, but they don’t actually make decisions based on that data. Frankly, reading an Excel spreadsheet is boring and difficult, and can show up as something else on your to-do list. Business Intelligence is a series of charts and dashboards that help you make proactive or reactive decisions for your operation.

Sparks: You mentioned e-commerce. Over the past two years, there has been greater pressure for this. How important is inventory control for e-commerce?

Stallmer: During the pandemic, one of the things we’ve been able to do is create a Shopify or an integration with Shopify and allow our customers to create their own site that they can sell on but also talks about the system Pics. When they sell something on their website, it’s also updated in Picas, so there’s no confusion about how many units they actually sold.

Dill: The essential thing you mentioned for e-commerce is to track inventory control. Our e-commerce integration started as a broker integration, and it has expanded to integrations with box stores and chain stores, and now e-commerce sites. It’s really the same kind of functions or mechanics, just applied to a different scenario where it’s now a consumer on a website, instead of a team of brokers selling your product. We understand the need to maintain accurate inventory, which is why we’ve made these integrated solutions a priority.

Sparks: Back to your point about data. There is data collection and you have to know what to do with it. Can you talk about the value of making actionable decisions based on the data you collect?

Dill: Data collection is essential, and if you are not collecting data, you need to start there and have data to work with. Then we can talk about analyzing it, putting it in a dashboard, and finding ways to act on that data. A phrase I’ve heard a few times before is that what gets measured gets better. Once you have a measurement of something and collect data, you can now use it to improve something. At The Picas Group, we try to help producers identify these pain points, track information about them, and use that information to make decisions on everything from sales to supply chain. There are all kinds of things people measure, and every year it seems there are new features we can add to Picas to give producers a new way to look at the data and make better decisions.

Consulting Picas GroupSparks: What are the most pressing concerns producers face today?

Dill: It’s definitely the workforce and the supply chain, and how to manage them. For the supply chain, it is more important than ever to know what you need, when you need it, where it comes from and how much it will cost. With manpower, you need to know how many human resources you need, when do you need them and what they are supposed to do.

Going further, in this industry we often think of labor as manual labor for planting and filling trays, caring for plants, pulling produce, etc. There’s been a big push for automation, and there’s amazing technology out there. The next level is to automate your top-level positions: your management and your decision-makers. How to make life easier for these people? If you know the tasks they do, you can use software to make their life easier and take something that they spend two or three hours analyzing or processing, and generate a report to give all the information they have need. I’m excited to see where we’re going with this and what comes of it, because in this job market it seems like positions at all levels are competitive and companies are struggling to retain people at all levels. Besides the gains we have made on the manual labor side, where are there gains to be made on the next higher level of people? I think we have the right team in place to be able to look at this seriously.

Stallmer: I think it’s also interesting because everyone assumes that when you’re discussing efficiency, you naturally default to manual labor. But the reality is that if you’re in a higher level position, you may have X number of tasks to complete in a day, and if you feel like you don’t have the resources to complete those tasks, they’re just being pushed. at the back burner and you make them when you can. Systems like Picas and other services we offer can help you get back to work that was on the back burner. For those times when you feel like you don’t have the resources to get things done, most of the time you probably have the resources, they just aren’t allocated in the right way. If you take advantage of Picas or other software tools, you can take on some of those other tasks that you previously thought you didn’t have the resources to handle on your own.

Dill: From my own previous experience working for a grower (Wagner Greenhouses) and managing people, the right technology can help you plan and organize well in advance and free you up to do what you do best and what you like the most, growing plants. There are amazing people in this industry who have built amazing businesses, but I think at the heart of this industry is the love of plants, and we just want to give growers an opportunity to get back to doing what they like.