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Food ERP System FAQs
Food ERP System FAQs
29 Jul 2022Jack Payne
In your ongoing efforts to better equip your food and beverage business for the future and improve outcomes, you’ve likely come across the concept of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the powerful, all-in-one software solutions dedicated to it. Perhaps you recognize the brand names of a few providers or have heard anecdotes of companies similar to yours realizing good results with a food ERP system.
Of course, seeing a couple of advertisements and getting your peers’ impressions in second-hand fashion probably hasn’t painted a very complete picture. You may still not be entirely clear on the nature of ERPs, what purposes they serve, how they work in practice and what makes one platform or vendor different from the rest.
Fortunately, we’re here to shed some light on the subject, served up in an easily digestible FAQ format with links to additional resources to learn more on a particular subject if you’re curious. So here it is—all the answers to your food ERP system questions in one spot.
What Are the Main Benefits of ERP Systems for Food?
While an exhaustive list is outside the scope of this post, these are a few of the most significant benefits of ERP systems for food businesses:
A “single source of truth” via an organization-wide database for better decision-making
Bi-directional traceability forward and backward along the supply chain
Streamlined quality assurance that enhances consumer experiences
Complete inventory control for better visibility and waste reduction
Greater efficiency, profitability and flexibility in a dynamic marketplace
Why Do We Need an Industry-Specific ERP?
In your initial exploration of ERP technology, you may have come across some offerings that claim to serve companies of all kinds, no matter what the nature of their operations might be. The reality is that these “jacks of all trades” are likely masters of none, and thus don’t represent your best option if you’re looking to purchase and implement a solution.
That’s because they tend to lack the specialized tools that food and beverage businesses like yours need for the unique challenges you encounter. For example, if you deal in meat, poultry or seafood, you likely need to account for catch weight when labeling and pricing your products, and it’s unlikely that generic ERP software will have the features you need for that critical function.
Which Departments of Our Business Can Use an ERP?
The short answer here is “all of them.” ERP systems are designed to be cross-functional, acting as a unified shared base of knowledge for everyone in the organization and offering purpose-built features for every department, from production and marketing to sales and finance.
When you’re evaluating what’s available on the market, consider how each platform you find would work in practice for every individual on your staff. The ideal solution will make a positive difference for all of your employees, whether they’re on the factory floor or in the C-suite offices.
What Features in a Food ERP System Should We Prioritize?
While the specific product segment that your food and beverage business specializes in will at least to some degree determine what’s most important for your situation, these are some of the must-have features of food ERP systems that offer advantages regardless of the sector you serve:
A dedicated traceability module that allows for tracking of raw materials and finished goods from one end of the supply chain to the other
Inventory control functionalities that increase accuracy, update stock levels in real time and simplify expiration date management with first-expiry, first-out (FEFO) methodology
Recipe and formula management tools that allow for creativity, iteration, precision and consistency
Automations and integrations that streamline quality assurance and compliance while never missing an important check
Robust scheduling and demand forecasting functions that help you plan for the future
Financial analytics and visualizations for actionable insights and greater profitability
How Is an ERP Implemented or Installed?
ERP systems for food and beverage businesses are typically implemented in one of two ways, either on-premise or via the cloud. There are pros and cons to each approach, and both take time, as it’s not as simple as installing some software on a single hard drive.
In general, we here at Aptean recommend cloud-hosted setups using a software as a service (SaaS) model, as these keep up-front hardware costs to a minimum while maximizing flexibility, resilience to disruptions and mobile accessibility. They also offer enhanced security and maximum uptime via redundant offsite servers.
This deployment method can also have a positive effect on your bottom line—IDC’s Global Food and Beverage Industry Trends and Strategic Insights whitepaper, commissioned by Aptean, found that companies with cloud solutions enjoyed annual increases of 3.3% for revenue and 3.9% for profit, as compared to more modest gains of 1.7% in revenue and 2.7% in profit for on-premise implementations.
Will Training Be Required for Staff that Use the System?
As tends to be the case with any significant change initiative or deployment of a new system, a new food and beverage ERP platform will in all likelihood require some amount of training for your personnel to be able to use it optimally. The effort will be well worth it in the end, though, as everyone’s jobs will be easier, with more time to focus on critical tasks and fewer issues due to human error.
One advantage that our own Aptean Food & Beverage ERP offers is the fact that we’ve built our own unique, industry-specific technology on top of a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central platform. That lends it a user-friendly interface that’s easily understandable for anyone who’s used other Microsoft products, helping your teams get up to speed in no time.
What Kind of Return on Investment (ROI) Can We Expect from an ERP?
While it’s difficult to put a monetary figure on the “typical” ROI of an ERP system for food and beverage companies, we can answer this question by highlighting some of the benefits that have the potential to boost your bottom line. For example, the increased efficiency that you can achieve through automations can make your business more consistent in reaching daily plan attainment and larger production goals, ensuring you can fulfill orders on time and in full.
What’s more, the enhanced visibility into your processes can give you a firm grasp on what’s working well and what needs to be scrutinized for ways to improve, providing you actionable insights for better outcomes in the future. Also keep in mind the robust financial analysis tools mentioned in an earlier section—those can give you a look at where your real “wins” are, informing your decision-making for maximum profitability.
Complete ERP implementations can take time, but with a phased rollout, you can start seeing a return on your investment in just months. We can also offer some best practices advice on achieving an optimal ROI, including steps for creating a realistic estimate.
How Should We Prepare for an ERP Deployment?
Most ERP implementations are conducted in stages, with various milestones to reach with the rollout of additional features or modules. However, before the installation even begins, you need to start your journey with these vital steps:
Define the purpose behind the deployment of an ERP and communicate it clearly to all personnel.
Assess critical processes—those that are necessary for the functioning of your operations and generating revenue.
Form an internal team dedicated to implementation, taking care to include members from various roles.
Conduct thorough research of your options for a system and consider using a request for proposal (RFP) to evaluate them.
From there, you’ll want to work closely with your ERP software vendor to create a timeline and roadmap that works for both parties. The provider should have extensive experience implementing their system for companies like yours—and if not, you may want to consider looking elsewhere for a company that has greater expertise in the food and beverage industry.
What Will Be Required of Our Company During Implementation?
First and foremost, an ERP deployment requires buy-in—from everyone in the organization, be they part of the board of directors or an entry-level employee tasked with stocking new inventory. You need your staff moving in lock-step and all involved to trust the process and believe in the purpose behind the initiative.
You’ll also need to maintain clear and consistent communication with your personnel, as well as your software provider, to keep everyone engaged and on the same page. Also, as mentioned previously, some amount of training and onboarding will be necessary, but if you choose a system with a highly approachable interface, you’ll have an advantage on this front.
Then, of course, there are the obvious investments of time and funds to purchase and implement the food ERP system you choose. The outlays you expend now will pay off in the end with better visibility, agility, confidence and profitability.
Can a Food ERP System Function Well with Our Other Business Systems?
Typically, the answer here is “yes,” but that doesn’t tell the whole story, as each ERP is different in terms of how it interacts with other systems. As a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid integrations that would have to be custom-built—that can get costly and could interfere when upgrades to your ERP are necessary.
At Aptean, we have a full suite of business solutions that function as a cohesive ecosystem. That means if you choose Aptean Food & Beverage ERP for your business, you’ll also be able to explore the potential addition of Aptean's product lifecycle management (PLM) for food and beverage, our overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) system for food manufacturers, Aptean Business Intelligence (BI) and more to advance your digital transformation closer to full maturity.
What Should We Expect from Our Vendor?
As you continue to learn more about ERP technology and how it can help your company realize better results, you’ll almost assuredly find that just as not all ERPs are created equal, neither are the providers that sell them. Some are happy to simply sell you a product off the proverbial shelf with minimal guidance, whereas others act as partners throughout the process.
Aptean is proud to fall firmly in the latter camp—we strive to act as an ally and guiding voice for each and every client, taking the time to understand their goals and what they need to reach them. We have decades of industry experience, too, and our professionals are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to industry best practices and how to get the most out of our ERP systems.
Consider the Aptean Edge
Hopefully, this post answered some of your most important questions regarding food ERP systems and leaves you better prepared for the next step on the road to putting a technological foundation for the future of your business in place. When you find the solution that’s right for your organization, you’ll be making an investment that will pay off for years to come.
We’ve mentioned some reasons that Aptean Food & Beverage ERP should be among your top choices to consider in your evaluation process, but for one more, consider our recent recognition with Frost & Sullivan’s 2022 Product Leadership Award in North American ERP Software for the Food and Beverage Industry. We also have thousands of satisfied clients around the world already enjoying the benefits of our offering—case studies and success stories can be found on our Insights page.
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