I am writing this post from a tea estate in upper Assam where Teapac, our ERP software for tea estates is being implemented. The estate is a large one with six divisions, factory and a crop of around 20 lakh kgs+ per year. The peak season worker strength is around 5000+ dropping to around 2500 in the lean season.
The computer department presently has one person who is handling the accounting work on Tally while the rest of the operations like paybooks, kamjaris, stores ledgers, factory records etc are being done manually.
A quick review of the workload necessary revealed that another three persons would be required to handle the day to day data entry for the workers as well as to update the stores, accounts, and factory and field records.
When I discussed this with the Senior Manager at the estate he was aghast. “You are asking me to increase manpower, when I thought that adding computers would help me to reduce mandays!”
“There is no way I am going to get a sanction from my Head Office to increase manpower. We have to find some other way out”, he added.
The truth of the matter is that when the daily attendance of 5000+ workers has to be entered manually in the computer system day after day, manpower will be required to run the system.
To circumvent this process and the need for more manpower many estates have gone in for automatic weighment systems in the field e.g. Easy weigh which is linked to the computer software and leads to reduction in manpower, better accuracy as there is no manual entry and daily uploads to the computer software.
What are the options for the estate without increasing manpower and introducing automatic weighment systems?
Reallocation of the workload
This is a distinct possibility if there are users amongst the staff who are computer literate. The management can reallocate the responsibilities so that some of the computer literate staff are moved to the computer section while their workload in handled by other staff. Further with computerization some of the manual records and registers would be discontinued thus giving the staff some more time for computer data entry.
Asking the individual departments to handle their own computer data entry
This would mean that the Field Mohurers would handle the attendance of the daily guinty books, the Stores Clerk would enter the purchase orders, stores receipts and issues, the Head Clerk/2nd Clerk would look after accounts and so on. This is a system which is in vogue in a lot of gardens today as opposed to the dedicated computer force as discussed above. However this is based on the assumption that the user departments would have manpower that is computer literate or can train them to use the new software. In reality, unless a user has a basic knowledge of MS Word, Excel and e-mail it is doubtful if he would be able to use a windows based ERP system.
Send some of the existing clerical staff for training on basic computer operations, so that there are a pool of operators in the estate who can run the system. This team would be able to handle their own work as well as spend maybe a couple of hours on the computer carrying out the day to day tasks. However most gardens are located away from towns and cities and hence any computer training would perforce have to be done at the garden itself. Very often the trained computer operators can train the other staff at the garden by allocating maybe a fixed time every day for training.
However, these solutions are often not solutions at all as the comments below will reveal!
“My Divisions are far flung. I cannot expect my Field Mohurers to cycle seven to eight kilometers every day in the evening to enter the guinty books after a whole day in the field” said a Manager to me one day.
A valid point and one which must be considered.
“My existing staff is old and not computer literate. They will not be willing to learn computers in this late stage” said another Manager one evening.
I agree that it is unlikely that tea garden “babus” who are on the verge of retirement will be able to learn computers at the fag end of their careers.
I would be interested to learn from other Estate Managers and as to how they managed their computerization and what solutions worked for them.
Please do write in with your suggestions and comments!