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The IoT path of breakfast taco salsa, from farm to grocery store

I like salsa.

I like salsa on chips.

And I like it on my eggs at breakfast.

If you’re the kind of person who has to add some salsa to your eggs or breakfast tacos, few of us truly understand the journey of this condiment from the farm to your home or restaurant.

Today, sensors connected through the internet can monitor all of the key steps needed to create the tomato-based topping. In turn, operation managers and their accountants can also check their team’s key operational transactions, correcting product or logistical issues through the internet of things capabilities now available to them.

Our IoT saga starts near McAllen, Tex., where a produce farmer monitors his crop of tomatoes and hot peppers. IoT sensors located throughout his fields tell him if they have enough water in his irrigation reservoir co-op he shares with other nearby farmers. An IoT gauge can tell how much water is available and the cost to use this resource when needed. It also can give feedback on the fertilizer effectiveness for his crops, as well as the amount of sun the crop has gotten in a week. If temperatures hover near the freezing level, it can also alert the farm’s owner.

The IoT sensors were given to him through a Texas Department of Agriculture application. The data produced by the sensors will help the state monitor the overall water resources for this year and make predictions for future water use in upcoming years.

After harvesting the crop, the farmer takes his product to his produce co-op. There, it joins other produce awaiting an order for delivery. While offloading the tomatoes and peppers, the co-op’s sensor measures the weight of each for the McAllen farmer. It also gauges the produce’s temperature as required by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Based upon the weight at delivery, the farmer can then create an invoice to the co-op through a “bill on behalf of” (BOBO) accounting software.

When a manufacturer needs a new crop of tomatoes, a semi hauls 40,000 pounds of the fruit to a produce retail distribution center. The semi-truck’s sensors, located within the trailer, monitor the produce’s temperature for temperature variation, as required by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. With external sensors, the driver can pay his tolls on the George Bush Turnpike, as well as get his vehicle remotely weighed at a Department of Public Safety inspection center. Other sensors monitor the driver’s time on the road for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic log driver (ELD) requirements.

After dropping off his produce at a wholesale center near U.S. Interestate-35 and I-30, the driver reports his completed mission to his operations center via another sensor. There, his business development team can give him the details for his next long-haul mission, while his ELD supervisor can note his hours on the road, extended by two accidents and ongoing road construction on I-35. If other trucks experience similar delays on I-35, the operational plans team can look for alternative routes.

IoT and machine-to-machine capabilities are improving operational efficiencies for a variety of industries. The new technology is also impacting cost and managerial accounting processes. Through BOBO software technology, accountants can now efficiently report data to their operations teams or outside customers. With these new IoT accounting processes coming into place, the search for key historical data is also made easier to retrieve from their data sets.

Let’s go back to this delivery of tomatoes that will perhaps become part of the salsa pack for your breakfast taco or as part of a jar of the sauce at your local grocer. With QuickBooks or a similar accounting program, the trucking firm would have to wait for a completed delivery form when the driver returned or when she faxed it to their office before preparing an invoice for the manufacturer. Travel costs, such as tolls and gas, would have to be reported to its accounting cost center with the receipts given to them. BOBO software will make needed updates and expense reports as they occur through any logistical phase.

Older accounting platforms would require manual updates for invoices and expenses. Newer accounting software, such as LogiSense, RevX or Rev.io, allows businesses to capture and then capitalize the data more timely and efficiently. These accounting BOBO platforms have helped carriers like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile monitor each customer’s personal and business usage. Those same accounting processes have now entered new markets, tying a business’s enterprise billing capability to the records available to them through IoT sensors.

With these operational capabilities, decision-makers at all levels can now accumulate data to allow senior leadership and their accountants to review expenses and billable actions as they happen. More importantly, this real-time data would allow the firm’s ownership at the hypothetical fleet of trucks to anticipate upcoming costs for new trucks, tires, brakes and other major vehicle expenses.

There are still more ways where our salsa interacts with IoT processes and the accounting systems that monitor every step of this Hispanic culinary creation.

Consider a manufacturer that purchases half of the south Texas tomatoes in our hypothetical case study. It will take the produce to make into salsa. At its plant, accounting professionals can track the work day of each worker through the RFID device on their badge. Another set of sensors monitor the factory’s equipment, from the dicing machine for the tomatoes to the inventory of jars on hand. The salsa factory’s operations team knows the average lifespan for each dicer on a line. That allows the plant’s operations team to know when its repair team must update the equipment. This also helps the accounting team to build a financial budget to replace the dicers.

If a key employee has to miss work or leave early due to a family emergency, his supervisor can locate a replacement from his work center. Through IoT sensors, the factory technician doesn’t have to waste time signing out with his timecard; the accounting department can note the change and deduct the two hours from the employee’s sick pay as she goes to an accounting reporting station.

Once the salsa is ready to deliver to local retailers, another trucking firm takes it to three grocers and two restaurant chains. Here, sensors can monitor the refrigerated cab for temperature. When another interstate accident occurs along the route from the Dallas manufacturing plant to an Arkansas retailer’s warehouse, the manufacturer can factor in fuel costs to keep the product within the quality controls needed to protect the product from spoilage and to comply with the ELD standard. With BOBO accounting, the salsa manufacturer is getting real-time data on the transporting costs.

After its arrival at each customer’s distribution center, the manufacturer can monitor sales by region. For example, in Oklahoma, the grocery chain exceeds sales expectations by 40%. However, sales in El Paso were lower than expected. When the marketing department researched the order, it found someone in the warehouse had misrouted the hot salsa preferred by their retailer’s El Paso customer base to the grocery store chain in Little Rock, where customers prefer a milder variation. Before IoT accounting software was available to non-telco customers, a sales manager would not be able to spot the trend for three to four weeks at best.

With the real-time data, the marketing team works with the El Paso grocer to provide some samples of their product with a new Bloody Mary recipe and another for micheladas (a mix of salsa, tomato juice and beer). The effort increases sales for the salsa, which is discounted for the promotion. Using a special QR code on the recipe card, the marketing team captures the names of the visitors to its demo. When the manufacturer’s research department creates a new recipe for spinach-flavored enchiladas, it sends it to the customers who asked for future meal and entertainment ideas.

After hiring two product demos for micheladas at the El Paso grocery store, the payment to the sample vendor is processed through a BOBO online accounting system. The store manager verifies the time in the demo, and the salsa manufacturer pays the person who showcased the michelada recipe to the store’s customers.

IoT-based managerial accounting software will aid decision-makers on payments and costs associated with human error. Before these software developments took place, older, more established accounting software added extra human resource costs to track the cost of products like our salsa. More importantly, critical financial data took additional time for decision-makers to adjust budgets and create marketing and operational considerations.

Full IoT and accounting software integration will take some time. Accountants like proven processes to manage data with software platforms they trust. They should understand that IoT processes found with these robust telecom accounting processes were based upon mobile phone billing systems that monitored millions of calls in different areas with specific costs based upon the location of each phone user.

Yet, early adopters will learn that once they find more IoT-ready software to manage processes, they’ll help their organizations and customers more effectively embrace the full capability and opportunity that the new accounting technology brings to markets besides telecommunications.

Better IoT processes, in turn, will lower the carbon footprint from traditional accounting and billing practices that require extra paperwork. Already, Walmart is pushing its Project Gigaton to eliminate waste in the supply chain. In our view, BOBO IoT accounting processes will help its suppliers meet those goals to reduce the paper trail for billing and invoicing.

In time, more traditional accounting teams will find IoT software will help them manage their processes so that they’ll reconfigure the way they handle their normal duties, making financial data readily available as any operational action is completed.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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