When technology changes the game in your swine barn
From the outside, Pig Hill West looks like most large sow operations in western Iowa. But, when you walk inside the break room, you’ll notice something a little out of the ordinary: three big screens filled with brightly colored numbers, dials and figures.
Performance records and data collection have always been a priority for the Mogler family, but advancements in technology have allowed the newest generation of leaders at Mogler Farms to take their pig operation to new heights.
“In order to drive the performance of the farm, we have to focus on the execution of the work – that it’s timely and we’re getting the right work done,” says Chet Mogler, the 31-year-old general manager of their sow farm, Pig Hill West, in Larchwood, Iowa. “The way we do that is by measuring the right things and putting them on a compelling scoreboard.”
A Game Changer
So, how does a scoreboard make a difference?
“You completely change the game when you start keeping score,” Mogler says.
In December 2016, the family expanded from 900 sows to 4,400. During this time, they implemented new technology, including AP Edge’s ventilation system, Pig Champ performance records, Nedap’s equipment and technology to track and feed sows individually in a group setting and AP Network Master for measuring feed bin weights and feed data.
“I think that technology has allowed the incoming generation that Chet and his cousin Janae represent to take ownership of the facility and make it work for them,” says Tim Kurbis, president of New Standard US Inc., who began working with Chet in 2012 when they began discussing upgrades to the sow operation. “With the updated and current forms of data management and entry, the latest in electronics and design, and the deep understanding of addressing the sow’s social needs that we help them understand, they’re able to feel like they’re truly stepping out and leading the industry forward.”
The new technology allowed the Moglers to move away from entering handwritten data into a computer to scanning bar codes to upload data in real-time on breeding events, moves, vaccinations, pregnancy checks, heat detection and more. Not only has the automated system helped them measure the things that really matter, but it has also decreased errors by tenfold.
With the help of Chet’s uncle, Kent, they created a “scoreboard” to show this data in real-time to help drive engagement and performance of the boots-on-the-ground employee. Color-coded charts, live dials and condition formatting reveal when numbers are out of spec and help highlight concerns or recognize areas of improvement.
“Our employees feel more fulfilled because they see how they are doing on a daily basis,” Mogler says. “They are a crucial part of this process. If they make a mistake, they correct it. They want the best information at their fingertips so they can make more informed decisions as they go about their work.”
Part of that efficiency starts with finding the right positions for people on their team. The personality assessments not only help people better understand themselves and what drives them, but it also helps employees uncover their passions.
As a manager, Bierman says the assessments also help the teams communicate and avoid conflict. For example, he knows that his boss is a D (dominant) and wants to get straight to the results and isn’t as worried about the process.
Bierman says one of the reasons he enjoys his job so much at Pig Hill is that he knows he’s not a number.
“They aren’t so big that the higher ups don’t know who you are,” Bierman says. “I know if my car breaks down on my way to work, Chet will come pick me up. I can count on them for stuff outside of work, too. They bend over backward for people. And we all know that.”
Mogler is a straight shooter, Bierman says. He’s honest and expects others to be, too. Those characteristics, along with the company’s core values of team, trust, attitude and results, have established a good culture at Pig Hill.
Mogler says the best advice he learned years ago at a conference is that you never arrive when it comes to culture.
“Culture is like a rubber band,” he explains. “You have to keep it stretched the whole time. As soon as you let go, it’s going to go back to normal and normal is not good. If you want to have a great culture, it’s something you have to work on all the time. It is not a destination; it is a journey.”
He says that applies to their entire pig operation and their use of technology, too. “If you think you’ve arrived, you’re going to start going backward pretty soon,” he says.Find your ESF solution ›