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Utilizing an RFP to Select the Best Food and Beverage ERP Solution

Utilizing an RFP to Select the Best Food and Beverage ERP Solution

Utilizing an RFP to Select the Best Food and Beverage ERP Solution

Sep 1, 2021

Jack Payne
Food and beverage business leaders compare ERP information on printouts.

There’s a good reason that enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are growing in popularity in the food and beverage industry. The robust analytics, end-to-end traceability, intelligent integrations and cross-functional versatility that these systems offer are major advantages for businesses that want to streamline and supercharge their operations.

For those organizations that have yet to implement an ERP platform, the process of selecting the right solution to meet their unique challenges can seem daunting. Internally, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into such a transformative change, and evaluating the available options and narrowing down the choices can be difficult.

We’re here to help shed some light on the topic and cover the various strategies that can be employed at the critical request for proposal (RFP) stage. Whether you’re interested in our food and beverage ERP RFP template, want to create your own or are choosing to work with a consultant, you should find the following guidance useful in your digital transformation efforts.

Getting the RFP Right

If your business has chosen to use our RFP template, you’ll be relieved to hear that we’ve done the heavy lifting for you, creating a comprehensive document that will allow you to get an in-depth understanding of the features that each of your candidate solutions offers. That being said, there are still some critical steps that all organizations should take, regardless of your starting point.

  1. Your internal implementation project team should engage with every department of the business and then define the critical processes of your operations. These might be your main profit-drivers, like the production and sale of your most popular line, or the procedures that are bogged down with inefficiencies and sub-optimal results.

  2. You’ll also need to critically consider what features are of importance in your sub-industry and how vital they could be in your overall change initiative. For example, bakery, snack and confectionery companies need excellent allergen control measures, so those should be included on your RFP. Likewise, meat, poultry and seafood organizations must have a way to account for variable weights. Fresh produce suppliers frequently need consignment tracking tools, whereas dairies need advanced costing functionalities that allow for changes to the class designations of their milk.

These two steps will allow you to make informed decisions about what features are absolutely necessary, those that would be nice to have but not crucial, and finally those that are of lower importance. Make sure this “shopping list” is specific and that the language in your RFP is precise so that you can be confident acting on the information you’re going to collect.

Internal Research and Settling on a Shortlist

There are two equally legitimate approaches for selecting the providers to which you’ll send your RFP. Some businesses prefer to conduct extensive internal research of the solutions they’re considering and narrow it down to just 3 to 5 top contenders, whereas others will request proposals from a larger pool—10 to 15 vendors—and use the responses received to then narrow their list down to the top 3 to 5 solutions.

Regardless of which path your organization chooses, an important step is to remove from your list any systems that were not specifically designed for food and beverage businesses. Settling for a generic ERP could well result in underwhelming results and costly customizations down the road, so they can be eliminated off the bat to save time and hassle.

You should be clear and realistic in communicating with the providers about the deadline for returning proposals. Assuming you’ve used our RFP template or created one of your own that is equally robust, 4 weeks is a reasonable turnaround time, but you should be generous and allow up to 8 weeks for those companies that may be smaller or facing a busy period.

Keep in mind that some vendors may choose not to respond to your RFP. That’s no huge problem—after all, it’s certainly easy to disregard an option if they simply pass on submitting a proposal—but it’s important to set your expectations accordingly and understand that providers will frequently choose to act in their own best interest in terms of time and effort expended.

Finally, you should also remember the importance of remaining transparent in terms of how responses will be judged. You don’t necessarily need to indicate the relative importance of certain functionalities over others, but if you’ll be using a vendor matrix that should be included in the materials you send out.

Acting on Information Received

Once you have your completed RFPs in hand, you should be able to really compare “apples to apples,” as the binary nature of the features checklists will make it perfectly clear exactly what each solution brings to the table and how they stack up against each other. Whether you’re simply using the list of must-haves you created earlier or a more nuanced scoring rubric, you should be able to come up with fairly concrete assessments of the fit between your options and your business.

There’s still more due diligence to be done, though. You’ll next want to request live demos from the cream of the crop, and depending on how many proposals you received, that could be as few as 2 or as many as 5. This gives you a vital look at how the solutions work in practice and how they would fit within your normal day-to-day.

You should come to these sessions prepared with key questions to ask—leverage the information you gain from the proposals to identify the topics you need to cover. Also, while key stakeholders and decision-makers will certainly be present, don’t forget to include the individuals who would be key users of the system in this step, as it’s crucial that they gain insight and can offer opinions.

This is also a good time to ask food and beverage industry peers about their experiences with your candidate systems. You should also request customer referrals from the vendors themselves, as it is invaluable to hear their perspective on the offerings.

All of these efforts will help you critically evaluate the fit between the platforms and your operations. Your internal discussions and final decision can be made from a fully informed standpoint.

Initiating Your Implementation

Once you’ve landed on your food ERP solution of the future, you’ll likely feel a sense of relief in having really found the system that suits your business best. Of course, a long and effortful implementation process is to follow, but thankfully we’ve written this in-depth guide, a higher-level whitepaper on change management and even a piece geared toward implementations for fresh produce companies.

Throughout the journey, rely on the expertise of your provider’s team and leverage their extensive experience. Involve everyone in your business and get the team excited for the progress to come—celebrate the little milestones you reach together, as well as the wins you achieve that come along the way.

If you’d like to hear more about Aptean Food & Beverage ERP and how our purpose-built solutions can jumpstart your digital transformation, contact us today.

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