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Must-Have Features in a Food Industry ERP
Must-Have Features in a Food Industry ERP
Jul 27, 2022Jack Payne
Today’s food and beverage businesses require advanced technological tools to move at the speed that the marketplace demands. In recent years, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have become the gold standard to unlock the agility and actionable insights that you need to compete.
Of course, it’s not so simple as grabbing any old ERP platform off the proverbial shelf and expecting results. As a food and beverage industry professional, you need to be on the hunt for a true food industry ERP—one that comes with functionalities suited to your very specific processes out of the box—so that you can avoid costly customizations and cumbersome workarounds that could delay your return on investment (ROI).
Let’s examine some of the most important features of food and beverage ERP solutions so that you’ve got all the relevant information as you consider the available options.
Real-Time Inventory and Stock Management
It may seem obvious, but knowing what you have on-hand and being able to rely on the fact that your figures are always up-to-date is a serious advantage in the food and beverage world. After all, running out of a critical ingredient at the wrong time can be a nightmare and put a real damper on your ability to achieve plan fulfillment and follow through with delivery commitments.
ERP systems designed for food and beverage manufacturers harness the power of integration and automation to ensure that your stock levels are accurately reflected in the interface. They also make finding what you’re looking for much easier, as they capture more information than just quantity—you can know where a specific lot is, when it was received, when it expires and more with an advanced solution like Aptean Food & Beverage ERP.
Another useful feature of inventory management software is automatic reordering of ingredients when stock falls below the threshold that you set. That way, your business will never be without the materials necessary to run your lines and fulfill orders.
Shelf Life and Expiration Management
Shelf life and expiration management goes hand-in-hand with inventory control, as it’s your procedures when it comes to picking quantities of stock for use in production that matter most in this regard. Your ERP should help you implement a first-expiry, first-out (FEFO) method, as that model is proven to reduce waste and help you get the most out of what you purchase.
Also, knowing that spoiled ingredients represent a food safety risk, your system should employ alerts when certain lots are reaching the end of their window of viability so that they can either be used quickly—if time allows—or simply removed from inventory so they don’t end up in your finished goods. That should lead to better customer experiences, as they’ll be able to enjoy totally fresh and fit-to-eat food.
Recipe and Formula Management
The recipes behind your products are vital to your success, so you need sophisticated recipe management tools to ensure precision of ingredient levels, timing, mixing procedures, cooking processes and more. In certain sectors of the food and beverage industry, formulas can become quite complex, but a real food industry ERP will be able to handle the nuances and granular details of even your most challenging configurations.
Automatic unit conversion is a huge time-saver when it comes to adjusting and tracking amounts making it a must-have feature in a food manufacturing ERP solution. You should also look for the ability to integrate with smart sensors, as you need to closely monitor characteristics like temperature, consistency and fill level to ensure your products meet your own standards for excellence.
Closely related to recipe management is quality control, which we all know is vital for customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Any food industry ERP worth considering should come packed with features that help streamline the quality assurance process, ensuring that everything that rolls of your production lines will delight customers.
By allowing you to set your own quality triggers, a solid ERP solution can help you monitor for and catch deviations from internal standards to make sure that no deficient items slip through the cracks and make their way to end consumers. You can also create any number of inspection statuses that will help keep all members of your staff informed on what's already been confirmed and what still needs to be checked, keeping product quality consistent and customers satisfied.
Traceability and Recall Readiness
Complete traceability forward and back along your supply chain is a must in today’s food and beverage manufacturing landscape. Not only is it important for consumer confidence in the transparency of your products, but it’s also critical for food safety.
No business wants to face an emergency recall situation, but with the right food industry ERP on your side, what could otherwise be catastrophic is much more manageable. You need a solution that captures all of the vital data associated with your ingredient lots so that you can identify:
where your problematic materials came from
what products they’ve been used in at your facilities
what other lines they may have come into contact with
where the affected products are headed.
Purpose-built platforms like Aptean’s food manufacturing ERP also make completing the necessary withdrawal paperwork and communications easier, as a workflow can be established beforehand and certain steps can be automated. It can also automatically schedule your own audits, making sure they are conducted routinely and properly—simplifying another preventative measure.
On the subject of traceability, keep in mind that extra care will be necessary if your business uses any ingredients with allergy concerns, especially those that appear on the lists of problematic materials published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and UK government. As long as any of those foods are in your inventory, they must be kept segregated from other ingredients, and the surfaces with which they come into contact must be tracked.
Food industry-specific ERP systems have functionalities dedicated to these critically important matters, helping you ensure that you protect sensitive end consumers and avoid negative publicity. And considering undeclared allergens are consistently the leading cause of product withdrawals, sound allergen management can also help save your business money, reducing the chances that you’ll have to pull products from shelves at your expense.
Because food safety is such a critical matter, regulations and standards for food and beverage manufacturers are becoming ever more stringent. In the U.S., the Proposed Rule for Food Traceability will soon add to the existing provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2021, and the European Union recently established a new definition of the “food safety culture” that all food and beverage businesses are required to follow.
As such, it’s vital that you’re aware of what regulations are applicable to the sectors your business operates in, as well as how to best ensure that you follow all necessary procedures. Food industry ERP solutions make this so much easier, as the best among them—including Aptean Food & Beverage ERP—have measures built in to ensure compliance and automate your checks and audits.
Whether your priority is conforming to HACCP, SQF, BRCGS, ISO, FSSC or cGMP standards or simply satisfying the requirements of the government or regulatory body that your organization reports to, an industry-specific ERP should have the tools to effectively manage and meet all compliance requirements. That gives you watertight confidence and peace of mind, without laborious workarounds, time-consuming manual processes or costly customizations.
Catch Weight Management
Primarily a concern in the meat, seafood and poultry industries—where it’s frequently referred to as "catch weight"—variable weight of products can be difficult to track without the right technology. Food industry ERP are thankfully equipped with the functionalities necessary to effectively monitor and account for this factor.
By using data-rich labels and connected devices like barcode and QR scanners, the granular information of many different distinct product weights can be collected and maintained in your unified database. The data remains tied to the product as it moves along the supply chain, so it’s effectively accounted for when it comes to quotes and margins as well.
This feature in particular shows just how big of a difference it makes to have a purposefully designed ERP system. With a generic offering, your options would be limited, and you might have to resort to manual record-keeping—but a thoughtfully engineered solution specific to the food and beverage industry heads off those headaches before they occur, allowing your company to keep pushing forward and making progress.
Selecting a Superior Solution
When it comes to narrowing down your options in an ERP selection process, keep in mind these vital features and note the key differentiators between the various offerings and vendors. Not all are created the same, and considering you only want to spend time and money in an involved implementation once, it’s important to make the right choice.
Make sure you identify your key processes—those that are most central in your success—and compare how well-suited each of your candidates is given your operations. Also, when you’re evaluating food and beverage ERP solutions, ensure that the system you select can scale with your business, as you’re making a long-term investment with this deployment.
Additional features, like business intelligence (BI), robust data analytics, cloud hosting options and integration with product lifecycle management (PLM) software should also be considered when you’re shopping the offerings on the market. Also keep in mind the cultural fit between the provider company and your own—you’ll want a partner that can guide your implementation and provide best practices advice for optimal results.
Food Manufacturing Metrics That Matter
Food manufacturers rely on data to make decisions regarding their organization’s operations. Data provides visibility into process efficiency—however, not all data should be weighed equally. How do you know which metrics to prioritize for decision making?