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8 Steps for a Successful Produce ERP Software Implementation

8 Steps for a Successful Produce ERP Software Implementation

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8 Steps for a Successful Produce ERP Software Implementation

Jul 20, 2021

Jack Payne
Ripe strawberries on the vine.

Growth—it’s a word that resonates with all fresh produce businesses. Obviously, the more literal meaning of the term is very relevant, as organizations like yours always want to offer the wholesome, nutritious fruits and vegetables that consumers demand. But you also want to expand your operations and “grow” as a company. And as opposed to the fairly straightforward practice of planting seeds and nurturing plants, approaches for achieving results on this front are varied and complex.

One popular strategy for pushing forward and becoming more competitive is to embrace the technological tools that are now available in the fresh produce industry. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are among the most indispensable solutions in this category, as they can have a transformative effect with the unified database and robust analytics that they provide.

That comes with some caveats, though. First, a generic ERP platform is unlikely to give your business all of the advantages it needs, as you need tools to deal with specific challenges like consignment tracking, traceability, fresh food inventory management, demand forecasting and more. Thus, what you’re looking for is a produce-specific ERP that is purpose-built with functionalities that serve your sector.

What’s more, you need to have an organized and methodical approach when it comes to implementing your solution to ensure you get the maximum ROI. Here, we’ll examine the steps necessary for a successful deployment of your produce ERP software so that you’re prepared when you embark on your digital transformation journey.

1. Define the Purpose of the Implementation for Everyone

It’s human nature to prefer proven methods over the unfamiliar—after all, the saying “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is a classic cliché. With that in mind, you can expect that your employees will be asking why your business’s existing systems need to be replaced with produce ERP software. It’s your responsibility to satisfactorily answer that question with a detailed explanation of the benefits it will deliver and how the new system will support your company’s strategy.

Make sure everyone—from the factory floor to the board room—understands the advantages that the new platform offers. Remind them that while the implementation will require them to learn new interfaces and procedures, it’s being undertaken to make their jobs easier, not more difficult. And the right technology will have an easy to use interface, making the adjustment that much easier.

The best part? Not only will this put your staff at ease, but it will also make your implementation and integration smoother, reducing time to ROI. Everyone wins.

2. Establish Clear and Quantifiable Objectives

This step is important not only for the sake of setting your “finish line,” but also to ensure that you can accurately assess your progress toward your goals. Otherwise, you run the risk of the implementation never really reaching an end point.

Think about the realistic, achievable results that your business can reach with a produce ERP system in place and track your progress with milestones along the way. Maintain your momentum by celebrating the successes and recognizing achievements of individuals and teams.

3.  Identify Your Critical Processes

Assess your day-to-day operations and pinpoint what processes and tasks are most crucial for improving productivity and profitability. Even if your business seems to be humming along at a good pace, you still likely have pain points and bottlenecks in your procedures and outcomes, and you need to understand how your produce ERP solution will address them.

When you can demonstrate to your staff that critical problems will be rectified by the new system, their enthusiasm and dedication for the implementation should be ensured.

4. Get Buy-In from Top to Bottom

It’s absolutely vital that everyone in the organization believes in your shared mission—your leadership team can’t deploy a produce ERP system by themselves, after all. Educate all of your staff on their responsibilities in the implementation process and how their work toward a shared goal will result in their day-to-day responsibilities being less cumbersome and easier to perform flawlessly via automation, integration with connected devices, and on-screen prompts and reminders.

ERP solutions can have truly transformative impacts on food and beverage businesses, making them more efficient and agile in a competitive marketplace. This project represents an investment in the future that your entire company shares, so encourage employees to focus on the benefits that will help them work more effectively.

5. Start the Journey Off on the Right Foot

You should mark the beginning of the implementation with an event, either virtual or in-person, in which you cover the following:

  1. Discuss the benefits of implementing a produce ERP solution

  2. Lay out the timeframes for the various phases of the project

  3. Stress how vital it is for all involved that the implementation is a success

  4. Give the process a catchy name for internal use that reminds employees of its importance

  5. Schedule a weekly meeting to report on progress, updating relevant parties and key stakeholders

  6. Communicate via company-wide newsletters or memos, marking milestones and upcoming objectives

Getting everyone on the same page with a good kick-off meeting will set things in motion in a positive way.

6. Partner with a Provider that Knows Your Industry

We mentioned how critical it is that you select a produce industry-specific ERP system, so it follows that your solutions provider would know your sector well in order to design a competent offering. Still, you need to ensure that the vendor really understands your challenges and fits well with your organization on a cultural level.

A long track record of serving businesses similar to yours is a good sign that a provider can act as a partner during your implementation process and beyond. Remember that when you choose an ERP platform from a vendor you can trust, you’ll be able to leverage their knowledge, best practices and experience during the deployment and hopefully avoid the issues that can arise with organization-wide changes.

7. Put Your Best People on the Project

Seeing as how the implementation process will require a significant dedication of time, money and energy, you’ll want to maximize your chances of success by leveraging the skills of your best and brightest team members. They likely have a lot on their plates without the additional responsibility of leading an implementation process, so support them by back-filling their day-to-day roles or even bringing in temporary help if necessary.

Try to make sure that different departments within your business are represented on the project team, as that will convey to everyone that leadership cares about their viewpoints and concerns. Encourage them to come to members of the project team with questions about the process so that they remain engaged and informed.

8. Appoint a Professional ERP Project Manager

While all employees will be invested and involved, you’ll still need someone to spearhead this process. If someone in-house has experience with ERP solutions as well as leadership ability, they should be considered for this critical role; otherwise, you might need to look outside of the organization.

It can be useful to contact existing clients of your provider, as well as other fresh produce peers, to hear about their experiences with ERP project managers. This is the shortlist of qualifications you’re looking for:

  • In-depth knowledge of the fresh produce sector 

  • ERP implementation experience 

  • Understanding of the solution being implemented

  • Excellent communication and people skills

  • An approach that is both friendly and confident to keep things moving forward

Following Through and Focusing on the Future

These eight steps represent a huge undertaking on the part of any business, but if you go in prepared and rely on the strength of your leaders and provider, you’ll see a substantial return on investment—both monetarily and in other intangible ways, such as employee engagement and retention.

Aptean offers produce ERP software built on decades of industry experience and delivers serious results for businesses just like yours. If you want to hear more about the difference Aptean Food & Beverage ERP can make for your fresh produce business, contact us.

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