As you’ll likely already know, successful ERP implementations don’t happen overnight. They take careful planning and with the right preparation, you can make the process much easier than it might appear at first glance.
At Columbus, we’ve helped businesses like yours implement new technology for over 30 years. And in this blog, we speak to two of our food experts – Steve Weaver, Head of Architects and Chris Nichols, Food Business Consultant – to get their advice on successful ERP implementation.
- Establish a single version of the truth
- Understand your businesses requirements
- Choose an industry-specific solution
- Get the required range of functionalities
- Know the demands of your customers
Establish a single version of the truth
SW - “Being able to make decisions in real-time as the market changes is critical, especially in the food industry which can be variable in its demands and supply. So, having accurate information available quickly is key.”
CN - “Whatever activity you do within your business, you need to have access to key information at any one point in time. Whether you’re in the office, on the go or in front of a customer, having the ability to see how the business is doing across all units (from finance all the way through to production) is critical.”
Understand your businesses requirements
SW - “Businesses need to understand what they want their software to do, where their business is going and what their KPIs are going to be.
“If you get the requirements right at the front end then you’re going to get an industry-specific piece of software that you need. And that will change whether you’re working in food, direct to customer, wine, etc. There’s levels within the levels of industry-specific solutions.
“For me, it’s always worked better when we’ve addressed the industry specific requirements of the food industry because doing it off system is just painful for everyone.”
Choose an industry-specific solution
SW: “We’ve dealt with customers before who use generic ERP but what happens when they use a generic ERP is that they compromise.
“We’ve already spoken about having a single version of the truth – these businesses may have multiple versions because they have different external systems that are holding food-specific information.
“They may customise their existing system to add small food-specific elements because it’s easier for them to do rather than buy and implement a specific add on.
“But if you can build for the future and dedicate your business to getting the right industry solution then it will pay dividends.”
CN: “Traceability is the single biggest requirement that we come across from all of our customers. They want to be able to identify products all the way from raw materials through production and the sale of the finished product.
“What we’re also seeing is allergens becoming a hot topic of conversation. The incident with Pret A Manger is one of the key reasons why a specific industry solution for food is required.”
Get the required range of functionalities
SW: “Food is much more process driven, so there’s a lot more greyness in what is produced midway through inline production.
“Expiry control is key and it’s not just of the finished product. It’s also the raw material that goes into it – I’ve seen in the past expiry dates in hours which is a challenge.”
CN: “Most standard ERP solutions will provide some functionality around areas like traceability but the requirements of the food industry are so specific and change on a regular basis.
“What you need is the ability to track all the way from the source to where it’s been sold to and a food specific solution will give you that.”
Know the demands of your customers
CN: “We’re all becoming more conscious of the waste we produce. And when we’re buying something - well I do anyway - I often think about:
- How that product has been produced
- What that manufacture is doing in terms of their production process
- What they’re doing to reduce their environmental impact
“Because that has an impact on whether I’m going to buy that product or not.
“It’s not necessarily linked to an ERP solution but if a company can provide those details - and they would only get those details from an effective ERP solution - then it all comes back to changing consumer trends. Being able to understand what the consumer wants, when they want it and how it’s going to be delivered.”
Why you need to implement a food-specific solution
While a generic solution might enhance your data visibility and boost efficiency to some extent, it won’t be enough to handle the complexities of the food industry.
In our comparison sheet, we lay out how the unique behaviour of foodstuff makes standard ERP software unsuitable for the food industry.
Download it below.