On May 1, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a recall of nearly 1,000 pounds of Hempstead Foodservice pork due to the products containing “hydrolyzed soy protein, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label”. The USDA recalls dozens of products a year, but sometimes, companies notice issues with their products and issue their own announcements proactively. How can these foodservice companies catch product problems and issue recalls before they’re mandated? Foodservice ERP software is one solution that alerts them to contamination issues.
Foodservice manufacturers have several balls to juggle to keep regulatory committees and consumers happy and healthy. How can you make sure that your foodservice processes are supported with a robust systems backbone? Start with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that is purpose-built for the foodservice industry.
Christian Winzeler, consulting principal at RSM US, thinks that the integration of functionality and data is what makes a foodservice ERP more advantageous than individual platforms:
“The big advantage of an integrated ERP system is that all parts connect and work together. One set of master data (e.g. products) is used across the organization in procurement, production, warehousing, and order fulfillment. Master planning takes a sales forecast and actual sales orders to generate needed purchase and production orders. Connected in one system, generating end-to-end visibility.”
In your search for the right foodservice ERP tool, look for these three key features that will help optimize your efficiency and increase accountability, helping your products move from the farmer’s field to your customers, then on to the dinner table:
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Foodservice ERP: Features to Consider
The food and beverage industry has entered into an era where your customers demand greater visibility and accountability from their suppliers than ever before. Specialized foodservice ERP tools help foodservice manufacturers provide detailed product information to their customers, giving them the ability to track where and how food products are processed at every step before they hit the shelves or table. Here are just a few consumer and vendor concerns that your foodservice ERP helps you to track through the product lifecycle:
Allergens: Does your product contain a common allergen? Is it possible that it came into contact with an allergen during production? Allergen visibility matters to many vendors and consumers, most frequently with gluten, dairy, seafood, and nut allergies.
Dietary restrictions: Many consumers follow strict dietary plans, so it’s important that you track and clearly label all ingredients in your products even before they make it to the grocery store. Grocers and other food distributors often divide their products so that consumers who are immunocompromised, voluntarily following a vegan or vegetarian diet, or upholding religious or personal beliefs can easily find and identify products that work for them. Production visibility gives your customers detailed ingredient and preparation knowledge, so you can provide them with the information to appropriately label, advertise, and sell their products to consumers who observe strict dietary guidelines.
Environmental concerns: Are all of the ingredients in your product USDA organic certified or following some other sustainability guidelines? Is your production facility or packaging following green best practices? Production visibility lets you know how your products affect the environment from farm to table, which gives you the data to share with distributors who directly sell your products to consumers.
This level of visibility in specialized foodservice ERP platforms is called end-to-end traceability and is one of the most important features of a foodservice ERP tool. Regardless of where your product falls in the manufacturing process, end-to-end traceability features give you the data to catch deviations from established food quality processes. Part of why end-to-end traceability works is because every phase of the production process is integrated into your ERP platform, meaning that all of your visibility statistics are pulled from the same master data set.
End-to-end traceability helps your internal teams understand how to optimize production, but more importantly, it holds your team accountable through data sources that accurately verify production quality for your customers.
Vendor Communication and Customer Relationship Management
Foodservice ERP systems improve your customer communication when they integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) tools. In the age of digital transformation, vendors, much like consumers, prefer to communicate via digital applications that they already use. When these communication platforms integrate with your foodservice ERP, you can easily start conversations and respond with accurate sales and supply data that nurtures customer relationships by easing communication methods.
Consideration 2: The software unites quality control features across manufacturing and supply chain management.
Foodservice ERP platforms need to track and manage compliance and safety measures in order to protect the end user’s health. This means that quality controls need to be established, monitored, and reported at every stage of the manufacturing and supply chain process, giving you the real-time visibility to monitor, assess, and adjust your distributed products based on predetermined shelf life and recipe control metrics.
Production visibility is key to quality control in the ERP. Unfortunately, it seems that detailed visibility is one of the biggest weaknesses across the food industry.
This is what Winzeler had to say about the top struggles he sees his foodservice clients facing:
“The biggest pain point can be described as ‘lack of visibility’. A lot of companies in the F&B space still operate in different disconnected environments and getting a full picture of where they stand is a huge challenge.”
With all of your systems united under one ERP platform, you can achieve higher visibility and quality control levels in production, labor, order fulfillment, and many other steps in your supply chain management protocols.
Product Recalls and Audits
Quality control features are crucial when you’re faced with a product recall or a supply chain audit. Disparate systems and processes make it difficult to track down and communicate any issues in your production pipeline. When you have a wholly integrated foodservice ERP platform, you’ll see where every product and/or contamination comes into your supply chain and can adjust processes and remove affected products from distribution accordingly.
Consideration 3: The software streamlines sophisticated distribution and process manufacturing features.
You can only guarantee the quality of your products if you fully control their distribution through process manufacturing and other sophisticated ERP features. Process manufacturing sometimes involves chemical transformations of your ingredients and materials, but it can also involve physical adjustments to modes of production that improve your processes. The best foodservice ERP platforms incorporate a few key features to optimize materials and subsequent experiences for both your employees and your vendor customers:
Process manufacturing at the storefront level
When you are a foodservice manufacturer, tracking product quality becomes even more complex once it reaches a vendor’s storefront. Your foodservice ERP tool needs strong process manufacturing features like distribution scheduling, quality analysis, and production control to ensure the quality of your products at all consumer fronts. Process manufacturing features protect both you and the vendor from product and supply inconsistencies.
E-commerce and user data
Do you directly sell your products to businesses and/or consumers? Your foodservice ERP platform should incorporate strong e-commerce features, such as user-friendly website portals and real-time data analytics delivery, either natively or through interoperable applications. A solid e-commerce platform makes the user experience run smoothly while providing you with the purchasing data you need to forecast future production needs.
Choosing Your ERP Solution
Are you a food and beverage manufacturer with production needs that aren’t met by a baseline ERP system? There are multiple foodservice software options on the market, with custom ERP tools and specialized consulting firms like RSM US, so it’s difficult to choose the best fit for your business.
Plenty of tools exist to walk you through big software selections like a foodservice ERP. Check out this ERP Software Product Selection Tool from TechnologyAdvice, and find the ERP platform that gives you custom-tailored, real-time data at every step of the food production cycle.
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