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How Food Distribution Software Can Help Your Business Conquer Key Concerns

How Food Distribution Software Can Help Your Business Conquer Key Concerns

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How Food Distribution Software Can Help Your Business Conquer Key Concerns

Feb 2, 2022

Jack Payne
A food distribution worker reviews orders on a tablet.

There’s truly no such thing as a “dull moment” in the world of food distribution. As an industry professional, you know all too well how demanding each day is—your warehouse is in a constant state of activity, with orders being processed and dispatched non-stop, and the staff in the back office is no less busy managing other critical aspects of the business.

Such a fast-paced environment requires purpose-built technological solutions designed to keep you up to speed. Some of the most popular food distribution solutions include enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, warehouse management systems (WMS), routing and scheduling platforms and electronic proof of delivery services. There are other tools that suit specific needs as well, and each can help drive improvement for companies like yours.

But before you dive into the specifics on the various kinds of software on the market and what’s right for your organization, you’ll want to know how you stand to benefit from implementing any or all of these systems at your facilities. Here, we’ll examine some of the key challenges in food distribution and how solutions tailored to the industry can help your operations overcome them.

Challenges Addressed by Food Distribution Software

So, just what can food distribution software do? The question is more about what these platforms can’t do—if it’s an area of consideration for your business, there’s probably a solution suited to the task. Some cover a very specific function, whereas others are all-in-one, multi-purpose powerhouses that can act as the technological foundation for your operations, like ERP systems.

Let’s look at the key concerns that you’ll be able to tackle more effectively with the right software:

Establishing End-to-End Traceability

Traceability, which entails keeping a complete record of vital information on materials and products from one end of the supply chain to the other, is crucial in the food and beverage marketplace. It’s necessary for food safety, as it allows you to track the movement of goods and isolate contaminations, as well as gain visibility of important data.

Because food distributors frequently work with large volumes of items, true bidirectional traceability can be difficult to achieve, as there’s too much information to capture using manual means and too many different sources and destinations to keep things straight. ERP solutions shine here, as they can integrate with handheld barcode and QR code scanners to facilitate data collection and act as a “single source of truth” with a unified digital interface for your entire business.

Additional supply chain management features of ERP, like lot tracking, further boost traceability by providing an additional layer of granularity to your facts and figures. Meanwhile, the real-time updates that these systems offer ensure that your employees are always looking at the latest and most accurate information so that they can make decisions confidently and quickly.

Maintaining Complete Inventory Control

We mentioned before just how busy food distribution businesses’ warehouses are, with replenishments coming in and orders being picked for shipping continuously, and that underscores the need for excellent inventory control. To put it simply, you need to know what you have, where it is and what shape it’s in, as well as what you might be running low on.

Both ERP and WMS can help your company manage your inventory with efficiency and accuracy. Much like with traceability, these solutions’ automated data capture through handheld scanners relieves individual employees of the burden of manual record-keeping while also eliminating the risk of human error.

Another vital part of inventory control that your organization can master with the right software is expiration date management. By keeping these critical freshness dates in a fully digital and highly accessible system and enforcing a first-expiry, first-out (FEFO) picking method, an ERP or WMS can help reduce losses due to spoilage and ensure that what you deliver to clients is in peak condition.

One last component of a solid inventory control plan to mention would be the effective management of storage conditions for your products. You need to be able to set and monitor the temperature, humidity and other environmental factors remotely—especially if you deal in frozen and fresh products—and ERP systems accomplish this through integrations with smart thermometers and sensors.

Reacting to Changes in Demand with Agility

You likely know from experience how the seasonality of food products and changes in consumer tastes can affect demand for various products and categories. Accounting for those fluctuations is crucial in making sure you have sufficient inventory to cover orders while also not ending up with excess that will go to waste.

The forecasting and analytics tools of ERP make it easier to strike the right balance, as they can combine historical sales data with the additional variables of market shifts to align your stock optimally. The fully digital backend also makes matters of administration, like adding new suppliers for trendy products or shifting your purchasing to more reliable providers, much easier to accomplish.

Ensuring Excellent Customer Service

In large part, your reputation as a food distributor relies on providing an excellent customer experience. That means adhering to the delivery commitments you make, including time windows and other requirements that clients have—and that’s where routing and scheduling software comes in.

By accounting for both your static routes as well as late, emergency and off-day orders, an advanced routing and scheduling system can apply a hybrid approach to creating each day’s schedules. That will optimize your approach and make sure each and every stop is reached on time and according to specifications.

At the same time, dispatch smoothing makes sure the loading and departure of trucks proceeds without a hitch. And once they’re on the road, connected route planning helps track driver behavior via GPS and telematics, and de-briefs can be held at the end of the day to improve upon performance and ensure protocols are followed.

Of course, this is only part of good customer service—you also must ensure that the delivery itself is correct and complete according to item type and quantity. An ERP solution helps ensure accurate fulfillment by bringing customers’ orders directly into your digital interface without the need for manual logging, and then electronic proof of delivery software confirms that those exact goods are left with the recipient, keeping satisfaction consistently high.

Get the Edge with Aptean

We’ve discussed how different kinds of food distribution software can equip you with the features and functions you need for success in this dynamic marketplace, but it’s important to point out that not all systems will be comprehensive. Some may also be too generic for your specialized products and processes—just any old ERP off the shelf might not cut it.

When comparing your options, you should be on the lookout for offerings designed for food distribution businesses like yours. You want a platform from a provider that “speaks your language” and has packed their product with tools that are aligned with industry best practices, and the longer the vendor’s track record, the better.

Aptean checks all of these boxes, and we offer a full suite of solutions—including an award-winning food ERP, a routing and scheduling system that stands out from the pack and an efficiency-boosting electronic proof of delivery package. We also have decades of collective experience and thousands of successful implementations to date, with our clients coming from across the spectrum of food sectors.

We also offer cloud-based deployments of Aptean Food & Beverage ERP in addition to traditional on-premise installations for those companies looking for a more flexible approach to digital transformation, and we’re proud to say our dedicated IT teams and redundant servers deliver 99.9% uptime or better. What’s more, we act as a partner throughout the roll-out process and beyond, so you can leverage our knowledge to maximize results.

Ready to learn more about what makes Aptean’s food distribution software superior? Contact us today or request a personalized demo.

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