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4 Critical Considerations When Using an RFP to Assess Food ERP Solutions Providers

4 Critical Considerations When Using an RFP to Assess Food ERP Solutions Providers

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4 Critical Considerations When Using an RFP to Assess Food ERP Solutions Providers

Nov 9, 2021

John McCurdy
Food business leaders discuss RFP documents.

If your business is preparing a food ERP request for proposal (RFP) with the goal of finding the right technological solution and provider for your digital transformation, you might feel like you’re standing at the base of a mountain, staring up at the distant summit. You know what your ultimate goal is, but you’re uncertain of the best route to take and wary of challenges you might encounter along the way.

You’ve likely got plenty of questions about the RFP process, but there’s no need to go into this situation blind. In fact, because enterprise resource planning (ERP) system implementations can be lengthy processes and require the devotion of significant time, energy and funds, it’s best to learn all you can about the journey and what your organization must be ready to face.

With this post, we’re covering four of the most critical considerations for companies that are in the initial stages of finding the platform that’s best for their situation and seeking a provider to work with long-term. By keeping each of these top-of-mind during your selection process, you’ll be able to optimize your RFP and maximize your chances for a successful deployment of a new food ERP solution.

1. Identifying and Prioritizing Your Critical Processes

Your critical processes are those that are most vital in your day-to-day operations. They likely include maintaining total traceability of your ingredients and products, ensuring the efficient functioning of your factory floor and fulfilling customers’ orders, among others.

This step might seem a bit basic and obvious, but identifying and explicitly defining these processes will allow you to make them clear to all vendors from which you request proposals. You’ll be able to add the necessary purpose and nuance to your RFP, as you’ll have a clear starting point from which to build out your form.

You’ll also have better context for determining the potential alignment of a solution with your business. When evaluating the proposals that you receive back from solutions providers, you can quickly eliminate those that can’t demonstrate the necessary features associated with your most important procedures, like bi-directional traceability. Then you can pursue more in-depth conversations with those that show promise to make sure they offer the tools you need for your most important tasks.

As you get further along in your journey, make sure they’re highly visible for both your workers as well as your provider’s teams so that everyone is on the same page in terms of the goals of the implementation. You’ll need everyone’s eyes on the same target in order to get the results you’re expecting.

2. Ensuring Your Sector-Specific Needs Are Met

Each of the different sectors (or sub-industries) in the food and beverage world has its own unique concerns tied to the nature of its products. For you, they come with the territory, and you know them like the back of your hand—for others, though, they might not even warrant a second thought.

Here are some examples that further illustrate how they vary from organization to organization:

  • Allergen management for bakeries, confectioners and snack manufacturers

  • Consignment tracking and grower management for fresh produce providers

  • Catch weight management for meat, poultry and seafood companies

  • Costing and classification for dairies

There are plenty of other specialized needs, like inventory management and batch processing, that might be more crucial for some organizations than others. It’s vital that your RFP covers those that your business can’t do without, as you might otherwise have to add a costly customization to get the functionalities necessary for your business.

We’ve built out a robust RFP template for food ERP that includes many of these niche industry considerations. It’s free for download and can serve as an excellent basis for your own request form.

3. Knowing Your Solution Vendor Has Industry Experience

There are plenty of ERP solutions on the market, and while many may seem comparable in what they offer, the vendors behind them were not all created equally. You’re not looking for a generic ERP system, so you shouldn’t be looking for a generic provider, either.

Specifically, you need a provider who has in-depth, hands-on experience in the food and beverage industry. They need to understand the ins and outs of the space and be up to date on the latest best practices. It’s also crucial that they’ve used that knowledge to inform the development of the system they’re selling.

While vendors’ responses to your RFP will be telling of how well-aligned their platform is for your industry, the best way to gauge their food and beverage expertise will be to engage in conversations with members of their teams. Ask pointed questions to test their knowledge, favor those that actively offer process suggestions and industry insights, and request a demo if you’re seriously considering their offering.

It’s also a good idea to reach out to a few of the providers’ current clients for their honest assessments of the solution they chose. This can be an invaluable way of understanding how the various systems that you’re evaluating function in practice.

4. Getting Implementation Guidance from Your Provider

Deploying a food ERP platform isn’t likely something you’ve done before, but your provider has presumably gone through the process hundreds, if not thousands, of times. As such, you need to confirm during the RFP process that you’ll be able to rely on them for guidance and support as you prepare for a lengthy working relationship with them.

Any potential provider should be proactive in creating your implementation roadmap, complete with distinct phases and specific timeframes, for the route you’ll take to the day you go live. Your vendor should work in tandem with your teams on this task, offering insight from past experience regarding what measures are necessary, when to take them and how long each stage should take.

This will not only create a realistic picture of the requirements and expectations for the process, but also facilitate your communication with staff regarding the progress being made and when certain changes will take place. It’s important that you keep all of your employees well informed when it comes to how their responsibilities will be affected and what they’ll need to learn to work with the new system.

Another important topic on which your provider should offer advice is what setup would work best for your company. For example, if your employees are frequently on the road or work from home, then a flexible cloud deployment with remote access capabilities will be crucial.

The Importance of Seeing Your Provider as a Partner

While your internal teams’ efforts at the RFP stage will be critical in the implementation of your ERP solution of choice, it should be clear from this list of key considerations that the provider of the product will also have a major role in the process as well.

They must build their offering with sufficient knowledge of the industry to help you tackle your challenges, and they also should share in the responsibilities of planning and carrying out deployment. And because your employees will be working with the vendor company for many months—if not years—to come, a cultural fit between the two organizations is a must.

Carefully evaluate each provider you consider, and look for the advantages and disadvantages each offers. As stated before, while the platforms they’ve brought to market may seem similar, you’ll find considerable variation in the expertise and technological know-how of the vendors in the food ERP space.

At Aptean, we’ve set ourselves apart with a long track record of success and decades of food and beverage industry knowledge. We also strive to always be on the cutting edge of technology, and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 foundation of our software helps us integrate all the latest developments.

We also encourage businesses to consider our cloud deployment options for the extra agility, security and reliability they offer. Our dedicated IT teams make sure that uptime is 99.9% or higher, meaning you’ll essentially always have the tools you need at your fingertips.

Ready to learn more? Find out more about Aptean Food & Beverage ERP on our product page, request a demo or contact us directly with questions.

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