- Business: American Agriculture Systems
- Location: : Salem, Oregon, with service in Washington & Idaho
- Interesting Fact about American Ag Systems: It’s a veteran- and family-owned business.
For decades, family-run start-up West Coast Companies sold farmers the equipment they need to process, package, and store their products. As the company thrived, it found that there weren’t many companies that could offer reliable and accurate installation of the equipment. That’s how American Ag Systems was born. By offering installation and construction of processing plants, it formed a seamless partnership with West Coast Companies to create a “one-stop-shop” for processing customers.
But scaling up had its own challenges–among them, the need to dispatch more tradesmen to remote locations, while logging their hours down to the second. When American Ag Systems looked for a solution, it found ezClocker.
Farm to Table
Every day, food grown on American farms makes its way to our plates, either in whole form or as ingredients. Yet few of us understand the complex processes that bring a food as simple as say, a lentil or pea, from farm to table. Those processes take a number of perfectly tuned machines working in sync to separate, sort, and bag a harvest. The better the machines, the bigger the harvests–and the more plates served.
This unique position on the food chain, and the lack of qualified construction and installation companies within the agricultural sector in Oregon, inspired AAS’s founders, Andrew Burleigh & Travis Tatum, to start the company in 2014. “They saw that their customers needed help installing and servicing equipment,” says Merrissa Burleigh, Andrew’s wife and the company’s Operations Manager. The goal of AAS was to elongate the life of farming equipment through expert installation and regularly servicing. “We’re a one-stop-shop of reliable people who know what we’re doing, and who take care of our customers when they’re in a bind,” Merrissa says.
“A lot of millwrights just service processing equipment,” Merrissa says. “We take 3D visuals of a processing plant and build it up. Then we circle back after installation to make sure the equipment is running perfectly.”
New customers, new hires
When AAS first launched, it had just a handful of employees serving clients in the Northwest. Small but nimble, it forged strong relationships with the best processing equipment manufacturers in the U.S., who in turn trained AAS employees on the equipment.
Business was steady. Then, in 2018, the pea and lentil trades exploded in the Midwest and created a surge in demand for new plants and equipment. To help its customers keep pace, AAS took on bigger endeavors, like extracting old equipment; overseeing ground-up builds of complex processing plants; automating lines and conveyors; and adding net-weight scales and robotic palletizers.
AAS had an edge, as few agricultural construction companies possessed its intimate knowledge of a wide variety of processing lines. “A lot of millwrights just service processing equipment,” Merrissa says. “We take 3D visuals of a processing plant and build it up. Then, we circle back after installation to make sure the equipment is running perfectly.” Soon after, AAS made the jump to industrial equipment and services for plants that processed everything from candy and dog food, to cement and paint.
As referrals poured in, the company looked to expand its service range to the California Valley, Montana, Washington and Idaho. First, it would need to hire more tradesmen who could work far from company headquarters. And it would have to figure out a way to keep track of an increasingly mobile workforce.
“Finally, we could see where our employees were at any given time, whether they were at the hotel or on the job site.”
Managing a Mobile Workforce
As tradesmen traveled across time zones to remote farms and processing plants, AAS looked for a new time sheet system. It had to be precise in order to comply with strict labor laws that demanded timekeeping down to the second. It also had to be reliable in areas with poor reception, which the tradesmen often found themselves in.
AAS’s first experience with a popular timesheet app didn’t go well. Anytime an employee’s phone needed a system update, they had to reinstall the app. Employees frequently encountered log-in issues. Often, the times showed up as a.m. when they should have been p.m., and vice-versa. It made time-tracking of hourly employees unbearable, says Merrissa.
“We needed an efficient way to do timesheets remotely,” says Merrissa. “So we started looking around, and that’s when we came across ezClocker. Finally, we could see where our employees were at any given time, whether at the hotel or on the job site.” When employees encountered time-keeping issues, they simply communicated with the payroll company through notes in the system. The app quickly proved integral to AAS’s expansion. “ezClocker took us from a tiny startup to the professional company we wanted to become,” Merrissa says.
“We feel valued as ezClocker customers because we know they’re listening to us and improving the tech around our experience.”
Customer Service Stars
Today, AAS’s nine hourly employees use ezClocker regularly as they travel to farms and processing plants throughout the Western U.S. The company relies on the app’s efficiency, as well as ezClocker’s customer service center, which handles glitches with lightning speed. “We just call them up, and when we check back in the app, the issue has been fixed,” Merrissa says. “We feel valued as customers because we know they’re listening to us and improving the tech around our experience.”
AAS’s local payroll company is also a fan. “When we first showed them the simple and organized timecards generated by ezClocker, they said, “This is exactly what we’re looking for”” Merrissa says. “Exporting timesheets is a breeze–anyone could do it. And when you calculate the cost per employee, the app, with all its services, is more than worth it.”
With ezClocker, Merrissa believes the company can embrace exciting changes in the farming and industrial processing industries. “New generations are coming up with different ideas of how to run their family businesses,” she says. “We’re getting calls from customers looking to do innovative things, and now we have the workforce and technology to find solutions for them. New forms of technology are augmenting their businesses, and ours as well — and ezClocker is a prime example of that.”