Growing a better business with iPad.
Consumers’ increased focus on healthy eating and locally-sourced products has led to more demand for organic fruit and produce. That’s been a boon for certified organic family-run farm McClendon’s Select, a Peoria-based business that relies on iPad for each stage of its operation: planting fields, picking crops, filling orders, loading trucks, making deliveries to restaurants, and selling products at farmers’ markets.
“The iPad is really indispensable to our operation,” says Sean McClendon, co-owner and son of founder Bob McClendon, who started the business 36 years ago. “We couldn’t do the level of business we do today without it. The iPad has revolutionized the way we do business.”
In the Field With iPad
Sean uses a tractor to plow the fields in preparation for McClendon’s prime growing season, just like his father once did, but iPad helps him achieve a level of efficiency that wasn’t possible in the past. He uses a wireless camera on his tractor to ensure crop rows are as straight as possible; the mydlink Lite app on his iPad lets him watch the footage as he plows.
He explains: “By following the images on the iPad, we’re able to create rows with sub-inch accuracy, and we can maximize our growing areas and not waste a single inch of ground.”
Any time Sean encounters a problem in the field, he doesn’t need to leave the spot where he’s standing to solve it. Thanks to FaceTime and the built-in camera on his iPad, he simply points the iPad to show his father what he’s talking about. “I can connect with my dad no matter where he is and he’s able to assist in diagnosing the problem,” Sean says.
He’s also found the iPad to be invaluable when communicating with local chefs, who he says are “very, very picky about what ingredients they use.” Sean explains: “Sometimes chefs want to see the product that we have out in the field and by using the camera in the iPad, I’m able to take a picture and email it to them instantly so they can see exactly what they’re going to be getting the next day.”
Accuracy is key for the farm’s planting manager, who no longer needs to leave the field to handle the careful record-keeping required to maintain an organic certification. Thanks to the 3G connection on her iPad, she can access the web-based COG Pro management system to update her records of seed types and where and when they’re planted. “Being certified organic means the consumer can be assured of having fresh fruit and produce that is not contaminated with pesticides and synthetic chemicals,” Bob explains.
Home-Grown Real-Time Inventory Management
Before McClendon’s Select stepped into the digital age, orders were handwritten on a white board, Sean recalls. That proved to be a cumbersome process fraught with errors, and those errors affected their bottom line.
Now each employee grabs an iPad when he arrives for work in the morning and uses a proprietary app called Picker Entry. Employees generate a list of products to collect in the field based on online orders placed by restaurants and consumers. Then using AirPrint technology in the iPad, they wirelessly print their orders and head out to the field to pick product.
Sean explains what happens after employees return from the field: “They come in and add inventory that they picked using iPad. It’s real-time inventory management. They actually see all of the restaurants on the screen, tap the restaurant name, and they’re able to fill the orders right from iPad.”
When employees load those orders on trucks for deliveries, Picker Entry on iPad replaces a manual process that used to take 30 to 45 minutes. Sean says: “With a single tap, they are actually able to generate a report and it tells them where each box goes on the truck for restaurant deliveries.”
He adds: “We hear from our local restaurants that one of the main reasons that they use us is because of our order accuracy.”
Three Ways to More Organic Sales Growth
Real-time inventory management also plays a key role when McClendon’s Select sells their product at local farmers’ markets. Sean and his employees used to spend hours doing inventory at the end of each day, but iPad has changed that, as he explains: “By working with our software developer I was able to create an app that allowed us to check all of our inventory at the market within 20 minutes. We can run a report and tell us what we sold out of and what time we sold out of that product, so the next farmers’ market we’ll actually be able to increase that quantity so we can sell more.”
Sean has also reduced check-out lines, increased sales, and served more customers by eliminating their single credit card machine and enabling credit-card transactions on their iPads using the Square app. “Instead of just sharing one credit card machine, all of our cashiers at the farmers’ market can process credit cards. Now our checkout lines move much more quickly and our customers are happier.”
Weathering Any Situation
Filling all those customer and restaurant orders and preparing for farmers’ markets means Sean, Bob, and their employees spend a lot of time in the field. Whereas farmers in the past had to rely on watching the skies or listening to a static-filled radio broadcast for weather information, the McClendon family today turns to weather tracking on the iPad.
Sean explains: “The WeatherLink app, allows us to access our weather stations at the farm so we can see what each climate zone is doing, whether it’s inside one of our greenhouses or out in the field, and it’s all real-time information.”
He adds: “If we have a storm come in, we need to know what that storm is doing because it affects how we do our jobs, and it affects our crops. We use the AccuWeather and the Weather Channel apps to look at live satellite imagery of approaching weather patterns to see when we need to come in before we get too wet, and we also look at the forecasts so we can plan ahead.”
A Business Revolution
McClendon’s Select opened its doors during the pre-digital days, but Bob says he had no problem embracing the new workflow, and neither did his employees: “Literally within just a few minutes they were fully proficient and able to fully utilize the iPads during their daily work. And some of these employees have never used an iOS device.”
Sean adds: “The iPad has allowed our business to grow beyond our wildest expectations.”
- Established in 1975
- Based in Peoria, Arizona
- 20 employees
- iPad plays a key role in everything from harvesting crops to selling produce to restaurants and at local farmers' markets
“The iPad is really indispensable to our operation. We couldn’t do the level of business we do today without it.”
Sean McClendon, Co-Owner,
“The iPad has revolutionized the way we do business.”
Sean McClendon, Co-Owner,