By Dino Giacomazzi
One of my late father’s favorite expressions was, "You can’t run a dairy from the office!"
While I agree with the premise of this statement, today’s dairy business is far more complicated. Maybe the modern version of this little life lesson should be, "You can’t run a dairy from the office, but you can take the office with you."
It is now possible to do most of your office tasks out in the field, corral, truck or coffee shop. A laptop, netbook, tablet or smartphone is all you need to get started.
The next step is to get all your devices talking to each other. For this task I use Dropbox, a very simple yet powerful tool. Just install the Dropbox.com application on a Windows, Mac, iOS or Android device, move your files into the Dropbox folder and in a few minutes you are off and running.
Bonus content: Additional software requirements
You can add any kind of file to Dropbox, including Word, Excel and PDF files. You can open and modify files from any of your devices. Once you save the file, Dropbox automatically updates it everywhere.
For example, our last two fields of winter wheat were planted today. From the tractor, I accessed a population chart from my Droid X2 to set the rate of the grain drill. Later, I was at the dairy office when the tractor driver sent me a text to let me know he had finished the first field.
I opened our "field log" spreadsheet on my Dell PC and saw that he had already entered the date, planter setting, variety and total seed used for field 1 with his iPad. The spreadsheet showed me that he was planting a little heavy, so I sent him back a text message suggesting he drop the planter setting a notch or two.
Another example is how I manage bills. My mother is the bookkeeper for our company and works from home. When bills arrive, she scans them to Dropbox using a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 scanner and her HP laptop.
Recently, I looked at the bills on my Apple MacBook Pro while flying to Las Vegas for Dairy Today’s Elite Producer Business Conference. I made comments on some and filed the rest. When I arrived in my hotel room, Dropbox synced the bills back to my mother.
I may have put a modern twist on my dad’s old saying, but in the end the principle is the same. Mobile technology allows me to spend less time at the office and more time with my crops, cows, employees and family. And in the end, I believe that’s the lesson my father tried to convey.
Additional Software Needed
A mobile office requires a few additional technologies not mentioned in this column. First, each of your devices must be connected to the Internet. They do not need to be connected all the time, but it is necessary for them to have Internet access in order to sync the data.
In order to edit documents on your mobile devices, additional software is also necessary. To edit MS Office documents such as Excel and Word, I use Quickoffice Pro on both iPad and Android.
If you are using all Apple devices, including Macintosh computers, you can do the same thing using Apple’s office applications Numbers and Pages. You can synchronize them between all your devices with the iCloud service.
To make notes on a PDF document, I use GoodReader for iPad, and qPDF Notes for Android. Both of these apps allow you to synchronize your files with Dropbox and save your notes in the PDF. You can also use these apps to sign and send PDF documents.
Dino Giacomazzi is the 4th generation to manage his family’s dairy farm near Hanford, Calif. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.