With consumers becoming more conscious about the food that they consume (from the origins of the ingredients to potential allergens and risks of contamination), the food supply chain is under a brighter spotlight than ever before. To ensure consumers always receive food that meets their expectations, food distributors, like yourself, need to gain full visibility over supply chains.
Here’s a quick guide to improving supply chain management.
- Only work with suppliers you trust
- Carefully select subcontractors
- Ensure labelling compliance
- Ensure imported food meets quality standards
- Enhance inventory management
- Implement accurate tracking technology
- Ensure deliveries happen on time
Only work with suppliers you trust
Unless your business has its own local supply, you’ll need to work with high-quality suppliers - ones that you can trust. You should already have a process in place to thoroughly audit your prospective suppliers and check that your existing suppliers are still abiding by regulatory standards.
If you perform these checks in-house (as opposed to outsourcing the work to a third-party company), you could improve efficiency and accuracy by investing in the right technology.
For example, a food-specific ERP solution will simplify your task of managing your suppliers/vendors and manufacturers by allowing you to:
- Manage domestic and international supplier data in one place
- Easily monitor contracts, check your suppliers are compliant with local regulations and that their vendor quality assessments and certifications are up-to-date
Carefully select subcontractors
Some of your suppliers may occasionally subcontract work if they, for example, experience production issues that lead to them not being able to meet their contract with you. Although everything might go smoothly, it’s still an additional complication to your supply chain and can potentially cause issues further down the line (e.g. if communication is sporadic or the subcontractor can’t fulfil their contract with your supplier and has to subcontract further).
Sometimes such situations can’t be avoided but by maintaining open communication with your suppliers, you can at least better mitigate the risks associated with potential complications.
Ensure labelling compliance
Whether you’re a manufacturer as well as a distributor or just a distributor, complying with labelling requirements will be a priority. If you’re a manufacturer, failing to comply with requirements can lead to harsh penalties like a hefty fine, or worse a hit to your reputation. If you’re just a distributor, merely being connected to a manufacturer that’s involved in a ‘scandal’ can impact your reputation too.
So, it’s vital to ensure labelling requirements are met, whether it’s your business’ responsibility or not.
Technology, like a food-specific ERP solution, can help. Here are some examples of features you should look out for:
- Country of origin tracking and labelling - being able to track and label products based on their country of origin
- Integrated Automated Data Collection (ADC) - this provides ease when creating labels e.g. being able to print labels even as items move around the production floor
- Allergen management - ability to link allergens to lower level Bill of Materials (BOMs) and these to roll-up to the end-product so any information on the presence of allergens in raw materials appears on the finished product
Ensure imported food meets quality standards
Some of your products may be imported - perhaps because the ingredients are more readily available in certain regions or the prices are more competitive. Whatever your reasons are, the more food you import, the more food will need to be quality checked to ensure they were produced in conditions that meet the UK’s safety regulations.
And don’t forget the fact that your consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the origins of the food they choose to buy.
Again, a food-specific ERP solution can help. Look for a quality management feature. This can help manufacturers and distributors maintain a consistently efficient way to assess and record quality metrics in your operations. This includes vendor ratings and role-based inspections.
Enhance inventory management
Safety and quality are top priorities for any food business. For distributors, due to the nature of food products from a perishability aspect and risk of contamination, it’s important to ensure your products are stored in optimum conditions whilst they’re in a warehouse or being transported.
You need an effective inventory management solution that addresses these needs.
Having the right ERP solution enables you to:
- Manage the inventory based on visibility of lots, expiry dates, labels and brands
- Picking routines based on parameters, such as FIFO and FEFO, minimises the risks of products or ingredients going ‘out of date’ and enables guarantees of freshness to customers
- Manage storage locations using tools, such as bin or zone management, to control what can be stored where
Implement accurate tracking technology
A report by food safety certification experts Lloyds Register found 72% of shoppers in the UK expected their supermarkets, shops or restaurants to know the exact ingredients in all of their food products.
Clearly, the industry needs an effective traceability process to accurately track all of their products right down to the precise ingredients (that may have come from different countries), and isolate and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers. This need will only continue to grow as the world’s population increases.
Technology can help with this. For example:
- Lot tracking allows products to be tracked from the moment they’re scanned as they enter your warehouse to their end destination
- An ERP solution allows you to integrate your data (even from third-party sources) into one system so you can access a complete, accurate view across your entire food production journey
This gives you deeper insights into the information you need to improve traceability and food safety.
Ensure deliveries happen on time
Today’s consumers have much higher expectations than they used to. Take on-time shipments, for example - they’re extremely vital. Why? Well, retailers need to get products onto their shelves as fast and efficiently as possible to meet customer demands. Consumers don’t appreciate low stock or empty shelves and those situations can lead them to shop elsewhere.
So, we could even go as far as to say whether or not shipments are on-time can make or break your relationship with retailers.
The right food-specific ERP should come with a Delivery Trip Management feature to help you set up trips more easily, manage orders, equipment, drivers, picking and loading, and more.
The ultimate guide to choosing an ERP solution for food distributors
By this point, you might have realised - if you’re a food distributor, an off-the-shelf ERP solution isn’t enough. It might give you the benefits of a centralised, integrated system but generic ERP solutions can’t cater to your food-specific needs.
You need something that’s designed with the sector in mind. But how do you pick such a solution? In our guide below, we cover the 15 features you should look for when choosing your specialist ERP solution.