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4 Focus Areas for Fresh Produce Businesses and How ERP Software Facilitates Success


Explore Fresh Produce ERP

4 Focus Areas for Fresh Produce Businesses and How ERP Software Facilitates Success

21 Nov 2023

John McCurdy
Fresh carrots held by a farmer.

Research conducted by the International Fresh Produce Association revealed that a considerable majority of consumers worldwide ate the same amount or more fruits and vegetables in 2022. In other words, the appetite of the market is healthy—but with that opportunity comes fierce competition, which will only compound the challenges of succeeding in this sector.

As a professional in the industry, you know that fresh fruits and vegetables can be especially tough to work with due to their seasonality, perishability, unique properties and wide range of shapes and sizes. What’s more, the supply chains of produce processors and distributors are often long and sprawling given that some varieties can only be grown in the optimal conditions of specific regions.

Attempting to account for all these different factors with paper-based records or outdated legacy software is at best inefficient and error-prone. At worst, it exposes your business to risk in the form of undetected contamination of products, shrinking profit margins, insufficient stock levels, excessive waste or other ramifications of mismanagement.

Thankfully, there’s purpose-built technology for fresh produce companies that offers the functionalities required for such a complex space, and it comes in the form of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. This foundational solution acts as a unified and fully digital platform for your whole organisation while also providing specialised features for the distinct considerations of your vertical.

To elaborate on this subject, we’ve identified four focus areas for fresh produce businesses that can be bolstered with ERP software. By the time we reach the conclusion, you’ll have a good understanding of just how transformative these systems can be for a business like yours.

1. Establishing Bidirectional Traceability To Ensure Food Safety

Simply put, the importance of traceability in the fresh produce industry can’t be overstated. In most regions, it’s mandated by government regulations, and it’s also an expectation of modern consumers. Even more importantly, it’s absolutely vital for food safety, which is an area that companies in your industry can’t neglect with the number of widespread and expensive recalls in recent years.

ERP software for fresh produce organisations offers lot and sublot management capabilities that allow you to monitor the movement of your lots bidirectionally and drill down with item-level granularity. The advanced attributes features of the solution are a perfect complement to the aforementioned, as they facilitate linking detailed traceability data to lots and sublots.

Advanced fresh produce ERP systems like Aptean Food & Beverage ERP also have functionalities to handle producer certifications, which help you manage the many different certificates, like those of the Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute or any of the national organic programs. With these increasingly being seen as a selling point for brands, it’s critical to have those tools at your disposal.

2. Bolstering Quality Management To Boost Brand Loyalty

While it’s not easily defined and involves a number of elements—including taste, freshness, consistency and appearance—quality is no doubt the major determining factor in customer satisfaction in fresh produce. Whether a physical defect deters the consumer immediately or they’re disappointed biting into a tasty-looking item only to find that something’s off, their evaluation of your brand will suffer.

Luckily, the quality control features of produce ERP software enable you to define your quality triggers, automatically prompt quality checks and place any goods that fail on hold right away. The inspection status and status management capabilities go hand-in-hand with those functionalities, as they allow users to set and update the status and results of quality checks from the floor in real-time.

The non-conformance management tools of ERP solutions built specifically for fresh produce companies help you track and deal with customer complaints, digitally documenting them and scheduling follow-up actions to address the issue and prevent it from happening again. That’s extremely important, as quality will boost loyalty—and the more loyal shoppers are to your brand, the more consistent is your revenue.

3. Tackling the Complexities of Produce Transactions To Promote Profitability

The tricky matters of costing and pricing are even more complicated in the world of fresh produce, as rates will vary depending upon many criteria, all of which must be reflected in the final calculations. And beyond that, the terms between growers, processors, manufacturers and their customers vary widely, and managing non-standard agreements can necessitate costly modifications to generic software.

But a bespoke fresh produce ERP solution will have you covered with capabilities developed to alleviate these pain points, like grower accounting and grower return features. These allow you to automatically calculate grower settlements and utilise flexible cost assignments to cover the intricacies of produce costing, and they also support prepayment and varied commission settings.

In addition, ERPs tailored to the fresh produce sector can help your business implement grade-out/pack-out methodology, which allows for prices to be automatically calculated while accounting for attributes like size, color, shape and appearance. And the advanced pricing features of advanced systems allow you to create hierarchical pricing structures that protect your profit margins while offering compelling rates.

4. Excelling in Inventory Management To Increase Sustainability

Balancing supply and demand is much more challenging when the goods you’re dealing with have a limited shelf life. The risk of losing your investment when a lot spoils is likely motivation enough for you to really get a handle on your inventory, but the fact that excess waste will drag down your progress toward greater sustainability makes this an even more pressing imperative.

Fortunately, the trading board provided by fresh produce ERP platforms enables you to leverage real-time expected and available inventory insights across all of your locations so that you can assign the right lots to the right orders at the right time. And expiration date management features track all of your goods’ freshness windows and send alerts when ranges are closing, helping you to avoid spoilage.

You can also consider integrating your ERP solution with advanced route optimisation software—like Aptean Routing & Scheduling Paragon Edition—to help you lower your carbon footprint. These systems can automatically generate optimised routes designed to minimise fuel consumption and maximise efficiency while also offering strategic route planning features that enable scenario modeling.

Aptean: All Your Software Needs From One Trusted Partner

We don’t need to repeat all the reasons that the fresh produce industry is unique and highly complex—that's your reality as a professional in the space. But as we’ve explained above, ERP software that’s purpose-built for the sector can help you excel despite these challenges by putting the tools you need at your fingertips and acting as a centralised “single source of truth” for your whole organisation.

Aptean Food & Beverage ERP stands above its competitors thanks in part to having all the features discussed in this piece plus many more. It’s also available via flexible cloud deployment on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which offers greater scalability, enhanced cybersecurity, stronger data protection and broader accessibility.

On top of that, our solution is comprised of industry-specific technologies built on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central platform, which gives it a user-friendly interface and familiar feel. But beyond all these factors, consider also what sets us apart as a provider of software solutions—our approach as a partner for every customer and an outstanding track record serving our target markets.

Aptean’s complete business solution ecosystem extends beyond ERP and route optimisation software too, with overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), enterprise asset management (EAM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems available for an even more comprehensive tech stack. We’re proud to support our clients in this era of digital transformation and are committed to a better tomorrow.

Check out our whitepaper Effectively Managing Supply and Demand in the Fresh Produce Sector: Conquering 8 Key Challenges With Industry-Specific Software for more on the power of modern solutions for fresh produce businesses. Feel free to contact us with any inquiries.

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If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, we’d love to help.

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