Whether you know it or not, your food business is swimming in data. From handwritten checklists to spreadsheets, post-it notes on workstations, to sophisticated databases, there’s information everywhere.
The trick is to make your data useful. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that we recommend deploying an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to help manage your data. Once your data has been collected and is in a repository that’s part of an ERP system, you can put it to work. Analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are just the start. You can benefit from business insights and process improvements that will streamline your processes, improve partner and vendor management and ultimately deliver competitive advantages in the marketplace.
Here’s how to do it.
E-R-P. It’s easy as 1-2-3
First of all, choose an ERP system. If you run a food business, we recommend Aptean’s Foodware 365 because it’s based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and has been custom-built for food industry organisations. That means it’s robust, has extensive capabilities and is supported by the industry leader.
Then you can start feeding it data. Get everyone onto digital devices (including phones, tablets and cameras) and make sure you’re capturing process data from production plant, delivery vehicles and more.
Second, ensure your data feeds are happening in real-time. It’s hard to plan for tomorrow when you’ve only got data from last month. The aforementioned digital devices are your ally here.
Third, ensure your data repositories are safe, secure and accessible. We recommend cloud-based services as they save you the costs, risks and inconveniences of hosting data infrastructure on-premises.
Finally, train your staff, so they understand how to use your system – how to enter data for line and production staff, and how to generate and interpret reports for management and operational planners.
Keep it simple
We’re skimming over the complexities here, but you get the picture. As with any process, planning is critical.
Every food business is different, so work closely with your software vendor before deployment to customise your solution. This work might be as simple as setting up the reports and dashboards you need. Or it might be as complex as adapting or coding new modules and capabilities.
Either way, you want your system to be as complete as possible before you roll it out. Speaking of which, running a pilot program before a company-wide deployment can save you much hassle.
Whether you roll the system out to a single site or across a single process or line of products, you’ll get valuable insights. You can iron out any bugs, adjust settings and create new reports as needed. You’ll also give the team working with the software practical knowledge they can share with the rest of the business once the broader rollout gets underway.
Speaking of which, staff training and support are critical to a successful deployment. Nobody likes to be surprised by a new piece of software, and training will boost takeup (and hence the software’s return on investment). Your vendor may be able to assist here, for example, with demonstrations, online knowledge bases and other resources.
Once your system is in place, let it run and gather data for at least a few weeks before making any changes. You want to give its analytics engine a sufficiently large data pool to discern meaningful patterns and generate high-quality insights.
Finally, commit to regular – at least annual – reviews for staff and software alike. You’ll want to keep your team’s skills and knowledge up to date, and you’ll want to be sure the software is still doing what you need it to do.
After all, businesses evolve in response to markets, consumer tastes, government regulations and more. It’s critical to ensure your ERP solution keeps pace – contact us today and we’ll show you how.