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The 5 Top Features to Look for in Food Distribution ERP Software

The 5 Top Features to Look for in Food Distribution ERP Software

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The 5 Top Features to Look for in Food Distribution ERP Software

Mar 1, 2022

Jack Payne
Food distribution facility workers pose in front of loaded boxes.

As a food and beverage distributor, you’re in the business of getting the products that consumers need to their destinations on time and in full. Every order warrants care and attention to make sure that you meet these expectations, but as your volume grows, so do the number of disparate considerations that you must juggle.

This obviously isn’t a matter that you can simply assign to an assistant and achieve satisfactory results—no human can keep track of all the necessary facts and figures, let alone operate with the speed and efficiency required to keep up with the pace of today’s industry. Luckily, the need for a smarter solution has been recognized and addressed, and food distribution enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is now the standard for companies that want to compete in this dynamic marketplace.

That being said, picking the first ERP system you find for an organization-wide implementation could be a mistake. Without the right functionality and specialized tools for your processes, you could end up expending a lot of money, time and effort only to get sub-optimal returns.

So, what should you look for in a food distribution ERP platform? These are the top 5 features that should be included in any solution you consider.

1. Complete Bi-Directional Traceability

Regulatory agencies and consumers alike are becoming more demanding with regards to food safety, so you must do everything possible to keep contaminations to a minimum and quickly identify the source of a health risk so it can be mitigated or eliminated. That means capturing a lot of information—from country of origin and variety to weight and grade—and being able to retrieve it at a moment’s notice.

Only a dedicated digital platform for data management will work for these purposes, and that’s what the traceability module of your food distribution ERP software should provide. With all of the relevant details contained in a single, unified interface and a level of granularity that lets you track down to individual lots and shipments, you can feel confident in your ability to pinpoint problems and resolve them.

Better still, advanced systems like Aptean Food & Beverage ERP can integrate with handheld barcode and QR code scanners to automate the process of data collection, speeding up the process and eliminating the possibility of operator error in logging the readings. No more hastily scribbled notes or incomplete records should translate to greater accuracy and reliable access to the information you need.

2. Robust Inventory Management

Your warehouse is a busy place, with replenishments coming in regularly and items being picked to fulfill orders all the time. Not knowing what you have, where it’s being stored and what shape it’s in can be a major liability in such an environment.

Good inventory management for a food distribution business entails not only knowing the quantities on-hand for all your materials but also ensuring that they are stored in the proper conditions to maintain freshness and viability. The right ERP software for food distributors can update your stock counts in real time, and through the use of smart sensors and thermometers, you can make sure that the proper temperature, humidity and lighting settings are being maintained.

An additional advantage of Aptean’s food ERP is the automatic reordering of supplies to avoid critical shortages. That, combined with demand planning—which we’ll cover in greater detail below—can help keep your inventory at optimal levels for flexibility and profitability.

3. Expiration Date Tracking

Today’s discerning shoppers expect the goods they pull off the shelf to be of excellent quality, if not perfect, and the danger of a consumer becoming ill due to consuming something that’s expired or spoiled is one to avoid at all costs. For those reasons, ensuring the freshness of your goods should be a priority, as that’s huge component in preserving the taste and appearance of your products, not to mention keeping your customers safe and healthy.

Food distribution ERP software captures this vital information and keeps it highly visible for everyone in your organization. This can also help you enforce a first-expiry, first-out (FEFO) picking order that will help you get the most out of what you have and reduce waste from items that go bad before they can be sold. That has the potential to boost both your profit margins as well as customer satisfaction, demonstrating the holistic improvement possible with the right solution.

4. Demand Planning and Forecasting

Aligning your purchasing with anticipated demand is a difficult balance to strike in a vacuum. Seasonality, shifts in consumer preferences, adverse weather events and supply chain disruptions can all throw a wrench in even the best-laid plans.

There’s no crystal ball you can buy to see the future, but the forecasting features of ERP software designed specifically for food distributors are as good a stand-in as today’s technology can provide. By combining years of past sales data with emerging trends, the right system can provide you with reliably accurate projections that inform smart preparation.

When you know ahead of time what your best opportunities will be in the months to come, your decision-makers can focus on what makes the most sense now and down the line.

5. Total Supply Chain Visibility

As we stated in the introduction to this piece, the work of food distributors is to get products to their destinations, but that’s a bit more complicated than it sounds considering the sprawling, splintered supply chains of the modern world. The issue is further compounded by the fact that the more you expand your offerings and client base, the more information you must capture and manage.

If you want to know exactly where your inbound and outbound goods are and keep tabs on their condition at every critical tracking point (CTP), food distribution ERP software is what you need. You can stay apprised of timelines, identify delays and track deliveries in real time, all from the same interface that you use to manage other aspects of your operations.

Aptean Food & Beverage ERP also boasts supplier and client relationship management tools that make working with your supply chain partners much easier. By facilitating communication and consolidating important contract details in a digital format, all of the relevant facts are made highly visible for prudent decision-making.

What to Look for in Your Solutions Provider

We’ve covered the features of ERP software for food distributors that you should prioritize, but what about when it comes to the vendor of your solution? What sets the upper-echelon providers apart from the rest of the pack?

First and foremost, you want to make sure your vendor has in-depth experience and knowledge of the food distribution industry. Only with a firm understanding of industry best practices would they be able to design tools to tackle your toughest challenges like traceability, inventory management, expiration date tracking, demand forecasting and supply chain visibility.

Secondly, you need to know that their technology and support is sound and reliable. Learn everything you can about the foundation under their software and how it holds up in practice—after all, the description might read great on paper but the system might be lacking when it comes to execution. Ask the right questions of their team and consider contacting their current clients for their perspective as well.

Lastly, take note of what they offer in terms of assistance with implementation. If you’ve never deployed an ERP platform before at your business, you’ll need guidance in order to lay out a roadmap, effectively train your employees and complete the roll-out.

Aptean can check all these boxes. We have decades of collective expertise that we’ve leveraged in the design of our food distribution ERP software. With our product built on the framework of Microsoft Dynamics 365, updates are a breeze and integrations a snap. And we pride ourselves on acting as a partner for all of our customers, walking them through the steps in the process and providing reliable IT support for any troubleshooting necessary.

So, ready to learn more about what Aptean Food & Beverage ERP can do for your food distribution company? Contact us today, or schedule a personalized demo.

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