Australia's wool industry digitalizes its supply chain

Posted Aug 25, 2017 by Tim Sandle
The company Australian Wool Handlers, a major player in the wool industry, has announced ambitious plans to digitally disrupt the supply chain. The process offers learning points for other sectors.
Springtime is lambing time. Sheep farmers in Cumbria UK are taking part in a polot project to protec...
Springtime is lambing time. Sheep farmers in Cumbria UK are taking part in a polot project to protect their sheep from theft.
Gerry Lewis
The wool sector does not immediately come to mind when discussing digital transformation, yet the wool industry has a supply chain that matches many other sectors in terms of its complexity and in containing areas where mis-timings or miscalculations can lead to product loss or the product being undervalued (such as where a delay in shipping leads to a penalty being imposed by the client). One reviewed showed 121 discernible actions for the wool sector, from farm to mill.
Australian Wool Handlers has announced a program which is designed to capitalize on their dominant export control of Australia’s wool clip (the total amount of wool shorn from a particular flock in a given year). This will involve the digital disruption of the supply chain. Australian Wool Handlers is one of Australia’s leading logistics and warehousing specialists. While the company deals with many products, well-beyond its originating trade in wool, it remains dominant in the wool market. The company services over 55 percent of the Australia's traded wool, acting as both a wool broker and wool exporter.
According to Michael Jones, who heads up Australian Wool Handlers, the plans will lead to web and application-based transactions and handling of Australia’s wool clip. The expectation is that this will be fully up and running within two years.
The process will begin with the launch of a mobile application called Fast Classer. This has been designed as an electronic wool classer specification document, and it performs calculations. Data, once complete, can be uploaded to a cloud in the form of a verifiable document. At present the Australian sheep farming sector has taken up technology slowly. For farms in the supply chain, the farms will be given a financial incentive to use Fast Classer in the first year; following this there will be penalties for those not using the app in the second year.
The use of the app also pushes a layer of administration back to the farmers. Michael Jones told the website The Land why he things this type of disruption is necessary: "At the moment Australian Wool Handlers does that for you and it is inefficient in the way it is currently conducted so we need to create behavioral change."
The second wave will include the use of Radio Frequency Technology of bales in a bid to automate the storage and retrieval of bales. The approach to digital disruption may not be applicable to every sector, but the signal it sends is that the digitalization of the supply chain, for which ever sector, needs to be faced.