New satellite inventory management system keeps tabs on input supplies.

If you store feed additives or other inputs in a bulk tank or silo out on the back forty and are tired of driving out to check product levels, there's help. A new inventory management system by Electronic Sensors will monitor the levels for you and have new product shipped without your having to make a single phone call to your supplier.

Eye in the sky. Electronic sensors installed on the tank or silo measure product levels. That information is sent to your input supplier by way of satellite signals. Solar panels and a transmitter on the tank send the signals to the satellite.

In the past, telephone lines were the only way to transmit inventory information, which limited inventory management to those areas that had telephone connections or cellular service, according to Marsh Martin, spokesperson for Electronic Sensors.

"Now we can monitor tanks and silos that are remotely located, where you can't get to a phone line or other power source to transmit data," Martin says.

Using satellites also is cheaper than having a dedicated phone line. And it allows you to move your storage tanks without losing monitoring capability. "You can put [a receiver] on a railroad car, for instance, and can have a GPS signal that tells the vendor where the car is," says Mac McCurdy, product specialist with Electronic Sensors.

Daily checks. Your input suppliers can have access to information about product levels in your tanks on a daily basis so they will know when it is time to schedule a new shipment.

Martin says that vendor-managed inventory is a fairly new concept to agriculture. Vendors generally offer it as a free service to customers. If your suppliers do not offer this service, Electronic Sensors can help them get set up. Contact Electronic Sensors, Dept. FIN, 1611 W. Harry, Wichita, KS 67213, 800/886-2511.