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A Practical Guide to Building Your Business Case for Food Manufacturing Software


Food Industry Solutions

A Practical Guide to Building Your Business Case for Food Manufacturing Software

31 Jan 2024

John McCurdy
A food manufacturing professional uses software on a tablet while inspecting ingredients.

Did you know that the global food tech market is estimated to grow to $342.52 billion USD by 2027? Or that the food processing automation market is expected to reach $35.93 billion USD by 2029?

The trend is clear: Food and beverage companies are moving forward with their digital transformation journeys and investing heavily in technology solutions. That said, organizations have varying levels of "digital maturity" depending on business priorities, technology budgets, existing infrastructure, company culture and other factors.

When it comes to considering your business's circumstances and current food manufacturing software ecosystem, you can almost certainly identify some missing pieces that could round out your tech stack or a system that needs an update. You may be confident that a new solution could lead to a significant improvement in results, but that requires getting your entire team on board and committed to investing both the time and resources, including finances, to deploy it.

So, to help you build a business case for the food manufacturing software that your company needs, we’ve detailed a series of steps that will walk you through the process. Generally, it’s best to approach the journey in sequential fashion, but if you’ve already initiated your project, feel free to jump to a specific step to understand the key considerations that are most relevant for your situation.

1. Identify Your Problems To Solve and Objectives To Meet

Considering how complex food and beverage manufacturing is today, your organization is likely dealing with some problem areas. For example, if your business specializes in meat, poultry, seafood or dairy, you could be looking for a better way to handle the "catch weight" (or variable weight) of your products, as that’s challenging to manage with manual means.

Alternatively, you might be concerned about the ramifications of a potential recall of your products—including what it would cost to withdraw and destroy the affected items, as well as the damage to your brand’s reputation—and thus in search of tools for food safety. Whatever the case may be, such “pain points” could be signs you need to supplement or revamp your food manufacturing software setup.

This step is all about looking internally; thoroughly understanding your processes and the ways in which they’re flawed; and then defining what “better” looks like. When it comes to establishing your objectives, you don’t necessarily need to quantify your goals—you may feel like you’re not even sure what’s possible—but make sure you at least describe them clearly and imagine your ideal end state.

You cannot secure buy-in from executives, capital expenditure sign-off or full project backing without thoroughly demonstrating the business need for the new food manufacturing software and what problem you aim to solve with it. This is the foundation of your business case—if you can back it up with statistics to show inefficiencies or a decline in profitability, even better.

2. Determine Which Food Manufacturing Software Solutions Support Your Goals

Next up is determining how you will address your problems and achieve your objectives, and seeing as how you’re taking on digital transformation, that means finding the right solution (or set of solutions). There’s a reason that term has become a popular stand-in for system or software—when you successfully implement a solution you need, it can “solve” your problems.

Here are some of the top food industry software options to consider:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) - Most manufacturing software tech stacks begin with an ERP, as these systems serve as a “single source of truth” across the organization and offer tools for many different functional areas. A good food ERP offers features to manage traceability, quality, supply chain management, inventory control, allergen management and much more.

  • Product lifecycle management (PLM) - Updating your existing products and launching new offerings are critical efforts if you want to meet consumers’ increasingly high expectations and keep your brand relevant—especially in the food and beverage industry, where dietary preferences and needs are so varied. The features of an industry-specific PLM solution will have you covered on formulation, testing, project management and packaging, to name a few.

  • Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) - Operational efficiency is key for meeting ambitious production targets during peak seasons and consuming perishables before they go bad. OEE ensures that factory floor performance—including that of both your machinery and staff—is closely tracked while facilitating continuous improvement.

  • Enterprise asset management (EAM) - Alongside your people, your assemblage of manufacturing equipment is among your most valuable assets. That’s why deploying an EAM and its preventive maintenance and work order management features can be so crucial to long-term success.

  • Route planning – If your food and beverage company also engages in the distribution of your products, you’ll want to look into route planning software. This solution can save considerable time by automatically creating optimal routes that minimize fuel consumption, wear and tear on your vehicles while improving delivery efficiency and customer experience.

  • Electronic data interchange (EDI) - When transacting with your trading partners is time-consuming and error-prone, your bottom line can suffer. That’s where an EDI solution comes in—it standardizes and accelerates transactions, and it’s a requirement for many larger retailers.

  • Business intelligence (BI) - You know how valuable data is, but are you getting the most out of the multitude of facts and figures that your company collects? BI software tracks many critically important KPIs for food and beverage manufacturers and helps produce actionable insights.

Keep in mind that you should give preference to systems that were designed specifically for food and beverage businesses. In other words, it’s not good enough to find any ERP off the shelf—you need food ERP software, built from the ground up with companies like yours in mind, packed with functionalities that facilitate your processes and equip you for the unique challenges of the industry.

With this step completed, your business case now has both a convincing “problem” and a powerful “solution.” There's still work to be done, though, as you must account for other factors which can lead to stalls in sign-off, delays in implementation or outright rejection of your proposal. To help prevent such issues and ensure smoother sailing for your project, there are more steps to complete.

3. Overcome Barriers and Manage Change Effectively

Fear of and resistance to change are natural human emotions. Some members of your staff, including leaders you need to convince, may act on them to push back against the idea of introducing a new system. Whether they don’t see the value of the software, worry that the shift will have too much of an impact on daily operations or have some other issue, they’ll certainly make their voices heard.

Clearly demonstrating how you will combat these barriers as you move through the proposed project is vital to obtain executive buy-in. Knowing that you’ve already thought about potential issues and are prepared to tackle them will boost your leadership’s confidence in the plan, increase the likelihood it’s accepted and make your job easier once you get into the implementation stage.

When it comes to staff adoption and change management, you can best combat such protestations, trepidations and hesitance with clear communication regarding the process. Inform them fully of what will be required of team members, the training they’ll receive and the benefits that they’ll be able to enjoy once the software is deployed. That should help them see their efforts will be rewarded.

It’s worth nothing that, in the food and beverage industry, tradition is often valuable. The same delicious recipes are often used for many years, multiple generations of families work for the same firm and certain brands have long-standing reputations for quality. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the way things have “always been done” is the best—remind everyone in your organization of that truth.

4. Understand Your Costs and How To Track Return

Now it’s time to get a firm grasp on all of your costs to implement new software, as that’s sure to be something your decision-makers will have questions about. Make sure that you account for the funds you’ll need to:

  • Purchase the system

  • Maintain licenses

  • Add more users over time

  • Buy required hardware

  • Hire extra IT staff

  • Pay for consultations

  • Cover all tasks while reallocating staff

You also need to determine how you’ll measure your return. The simple calculation for return on investment (ROI) is the net income that your software helps produce divided by your costs multiplied by 100. But in order for that to give you a truly accurate figure, you must consider all the ways the solution boosts your bottom line, like reducing waste, saving time, avoiding regulatory fines and more.

It's unlikely that you’ll know your ROI for at least several months past the go-live date, but don’t forget that, as long as the system is in place and helping your company achieve results while delivering benefits that alternatives don’t offer, your return is growing. And if you choose an advanced food manufacturing software suite, you can future-proof your company, making further investments less necessary.

5. Propose Your Implementation Method, Timeline and Project Team

A critical question to answer before going any further is whether you’ll implement your chosen system (or suite of solutions) on-premise or via the cloud on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. What is the “right” choice will depend on your business. The former offers you the assurance of having your own servers in-house, while the latter can provide better cybersecurity, data protection and more.

Then, when it comes to the roadmap or timeline, create a rough outline with specific milestones. You don't need to plan every step of your implementation when presenting your business case, but having a good idea of what has to be accomplished, in order and with an estimation for completion time, will help leadership understand the scope of the undertaking.

Also consider who you’ll need for the core project team. You’ll want to involve leaders, but also a variety of other individuals from various departments and at various levels in the organization to spread responsibility and buy-in. And remember to plan out how responsibilities will be reallocated while those closely involved with the initiative are given other tasks that reduce their time for regular activities.

6. Plan for Your Future Technology Needs

This last step in building your business case will again have you looking internally. You’ll want to determine whether or not you need to preserve the systems you had in place previously—and if you do want to keep them around, you may want to consider integrating them with your new solutions. At the same time, you need to look forward, to what your company may need in the future.

That’s because, when presenting a business case to your company’s leadership, considering only one solution in isolation can be a critical mistake. Without the full picture of where your tech stack is now and how it might need to be supplemented down the road, your executives cannot make a confident, fully informed decision—and they might be surprised when another solution is required later.

Let’s say you choose to put a food and beverage industry-specific ERP in place first, as you know you need a multi-purpose platform to unify your data, improve visibility across the organization and provide robust industry tools. But after your ERP implementation, will you likely need to add PLM software for new product development, or EAM to better maintain your equipment?

Consider each of the possibilities and run a pulse-check on multiple departments to identify where your greatest gaps in functionality and performance are. Also get a sense for what your business’s technology budget will be in the coming months and years, and how you might be able to build out an ecosystem of interconnected systems to round out your digital infrastructure and further transform.

One Last Key to Success: Work With a Trusted Provider

Given all of the above, it should be clear to you now why there's such a big push for digital transformation in the food industry, and now you’ve got a plan for building your business case. When you get the go-ahead, you’ll then probably be tasked with yet another difficult proposition—choosing the right solution (or solutions) for your circumstances, from a software vendor you can trust.

As you’re narrowing down your options, make sure you’re only including software built specifically for your market, made by a provider with a strong track record of serving the industry. Of the vendors of software used in the food industry, you only want to consider those that can “speak your language.”

You also want a provider who can act as more than just a vendor, and instead a partner with whom you can work to mutual benefit for years down the road. The true standouts will be willing to provide guidance during implementation and punctual support backed by excellent product knowledge.

Lastly, you should take note of providers that can offer multiple solutions that integrate to form a robust suite of software for food businesses. Working with just one organization for all of your technology needs simplifies communication and ensures better cohesion between the pieces of your setup.

Now, if you think finding all that in one software company is a stretch, that’s certainly understandable—but we have a pleasant surprise in store. Aptean checks all of these boxes and more, as we also come with industry recognitions, including Frost and Sullivan’s Customer Value Leadership Award in North American ERP Software for the Food and Beverage Industry.

If you’re ready to learn more about Aptean's food and beverage software, check out our range of solutions in more detail now. When it’s time to start sending out requests for proposals, our food ERP RFP FAQs should come in handy. And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions.

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Ice cream cone with chocolate sauce.