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The Supply Chain: Supporting the development of RAGT Semences

03/09/2012 RAGT Semences is aiming to become a major supplier of Agricultural crops in Europe, in order to achieve this it will rely on three main areas : research, sales and marketing and the supply chain. This is made clear by Didier NURY, Supply Chain Director and Nicolas SAVIGNAC and Patrice MANI, Manufacturing Managers at RAGT Semences. What is the current situation at RAGT Semences?
Didier NURY: RAGT Semences is a European multi-species seed company. By relying on a clear strategy based on continuity, determination and stability we have grown progressively in our three core business areas: breeding, production and sales of seed of the major crops. We currently cover 85% of the needs of European UAA and are the market leader in the majority of species in our portfolio.

How does your commercial strategy support this development?
DN: Our organization consists of 15 sales companies located throughout Europe, where we are able to access the market directly. In other countries where we do not have a direct presence we work with preferred partners. Our approach is based on three crop sectors: a maize and oilseeds sector, a forage grass sector and a cereals sector, each of which have dedicated sales teams. At the head of each of these sectors, a director coordinates and mobilizes the sales and marketing. Having this type of organization means that we have a specialist in each our main crop areas.

How do you become a leading seed supplier of major crops?
DN: The key factors for success are our research and the quality of the genetic material. Although it is the marketing that obtains maximum value from this research we are first and foremost seed breeders. To this end, we dedicate significant resources to research: 14% of our turnover, 19 research sites in Europe, and 280 employees out of a total of 650.

Our research programs aim to continuously respond to the needs of our customers and so improve on-farm productivity. This means developing high yielding varieties as well as focussing on key areas such as pests and disease, technological advances, defensive traits, etc…

To support our international commercial organization, we provide an effective trialling system able to test our varieties under a range of conditions that take into account the agro-climatic specificities of each of our target markets.

How is your supply chain organized?
DN: We have three business sectors, which mirror our sales organization. This ensures close collaboration, which is key to responding to our development needs and the needs of our customers.

For field production, we work very closely with our network of seed multipliers. After harvest the seed is brought to our plants: we have two sites for maize, one in Rodez and one near Agen, one for forage and turf grasses in Le Mans, and three smaller cereal sites in France, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The operation is strengthened by the close partnerships we have formed with a number of sub-contractors, this enables us to manage wide variations in our production and processing schedules.

We have our own certified seed quality laboratories, which are able to carry out a number of analysis and certifications.

In total there are around 160 permanent employees in addition to a large number of seasonal workers. We are currently aiming to increase the number of employees in Western Europe and are setting up a supply chain hub for Eastern Europe. This will be structured around our production subsidiary in Hungary (RAGT Magyarország) and is intended to supply the local markets.

How will strengthening your supply chain be a key element of your strategy?
DN: Firstly, RAGT Semences must continue to develop its ability to produce the required volumes of seed. Currently, we are targeting a larger part of the European market with new countries, new varieties… and our supply chain must be able to cope with this growing demand.

We must also respond to market changes. Elements linked to the supply chain are becoming increasingly important: the quality of products, efficiency of logistics, ability to deliver seeds earlier and with greater flexibility. We must improve our overall offering not just the performance of the product.

These challenges have resulted in us changing our industrial tools in order to deal with a wider range of varieties and much larger numbers and smaller sized batches of seed.

We also have to closely follow changes in regulations, which are becoming increasingly strict in terms of dust control, labelling, etc… and we need to focus on these areas.

All this means continuously adapting how we operate and make our industrial investments.

The supply chain will become a key contributor to our competitiveness.

Organization of commercial subsidiaries and production sites in Europe

How are you addressing these issues?
DN: To meet the needs of our clients, two years ago we created a Supply Chain Division whose objective is to bring our different functions closer together: production, processing, and sales. In this way, we hope to adjust our methods and work areas in line with feedback from the field and to meet the expectations of both our clients and sales teams.

We have also made considerable investment to increase production capacity in our processing plants, to raise the quality of the product and to improve responsiveness and processing flexibility.

This development takes time, as due to the seasonal nature of our business we are only able to test our equipment and procedures once a year. We are making good progress but we are aware that we still have some way to go.

In this context, we consistently maintain a watching brief on technological advances in order to optimize our industrial efficiency. The new optical sorter we have acquired is an integral part of this approach.

Why did you decide to invest in a new Bühler optical sorter?
Nicolas SAVIGNAC (Industrial Development Manager) and Patrice MANI (Manager of the Rodez Plant): We have had this type of equipment since 2007. We use it for many different species in particular cereals, sunflower and maize. It is very effective as it allows us to sort difficult batches using traditional equipment and to isolate sclerotia and pieces of stem (notably in sunflower) while reducing the overall amount of waste.

Purchasing a second optical sorter means that we can work more accurately on small commercial batches as well as basic seed and seed for trials.

What are your expectations for the future?
NS and PM: We want to improve our performance in terms of the seed quality of all species. We are training our production teams to enable them to gain maximum advantage from the equipment and to optimize the purity level of our seeds.

RAGT Semences is relying on the performance of this advanced piece of equipment to improve the quality of its overall offering.

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