The Coronavirus pandemic hurt many industries, and the food & beverage distribution industry was no exception. The third-largest employer in the US, the restaurant industry suffered catastrophically as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. As restaurants closed, food & beverage distributors had to drastically revamp their businesses. Now as lockdowns are ending, restaurants are reopening prompting industry participants to re-evaluate their software for food distributors. This article reviews some of the key capabilities you should look for in evaluating software for food distributors.
Single Source of Information
All distributors need ERP software to centralize their data and serve as the single source of information for their business. It is critical that information on orders, order fulfillment, inventory tracking, and purchasing, among other things, is always in sync. In addition, ERP software for food distributors must also be able to deal with perishable items, raising the bar for timeliness and accuracy of the information you get.
Inventory Management and Control
Knowing what you have at all times in the warehouse, as well as what is on purchase orders coming in and when, and what is on current orders and backorders, is a critical requirement for a distribution business. Your ERP software for food distributors should be able to track and provide all this information to you in real-time. In addition, the software should be able to help you manage the expiry dates of perishable items so that you can pick the closest to expiry first to minimize wastage.
Lot Traceability and Tracking
To comply with food safety and quality regulations, distributors must keep track of item lots, their chain of custody, and their expiry dates. Good software for food distributors must be able to record all this information including, the lot number, manufacturer, expiry date, weight, weight units, etc. when goods come in or go out. The system must also keep track of the lot-controlled items’ specific locations in the warehouse and which customer they were sold to. This information is critical when faced with a potential recall of food products. All this information is typically provided by the manufacturer in a compound barcode, your software should be able to be configured to read these compound barcodes in a single scan. If you do not repackage food items, you can just do a single scan and don’t have to re-weigh or record multiple pieces of information.
Another thing to look for in software for food distributors is its ability to manage your purchasing to ensure that you balance possible out-of-stocks against your investment in inventory. Out-of-stocks should be avoided as they can be costly and can cause you to lose customers. However, you also need to minimize the level of investment in your inventory. Less money invested in inventory means that your inventory is working harder for you increasing your ROI. Less inventory also reduces wastage from inventory that exceeds its sell-by date. You need to be able to rely on the software to keep track of safety stock, lead times, use rates, and review cycles to manage this balance for you.
Catch Weight Software for Food Distributors
Catch weight pricing is widely used in the food industry, and any software for food distributors needs to be able to handle this. Catch weight pricing is where a food item is purchased and sold in one unit of measure (e.g., Case of steaks) but priced by another usually weight (e.g., priced per pound). This is necessary to account for the natural variability in the size and weight of food items. Supporting catch weight means that your software for food distributors must be able to record both quantity and weight of the items on all orders, warehouse transfers, and purchases,
Any software for food distributors must be able to handle orders when they come in, then keep track of these orders through the fulfillment process to delivery of the ordered items to customers. You should be able to see orders by stage, and customers should automatically get updated at specific points in the process. The software for food distributors must be able to process orders from one order management stage to another either individually or together with other orders as a batch. This needs to be very efficient given the perishability of food items. You should be able to keep track of dates processed from one stage to another so food items’ freshness and quality can be maintained.
Once orders for food items get filled, they need to be able to be shipped quickly to ensure freshness and maintain quality. Your software for food distributors should be able to facilitate multi-carrier shipping that allows you access to multiple carriers including regional carriers. With multi-carrier shipping, you can rate shop between carriers and select the service that gives you the highest confidence of delivery within your window at the lowest cost.
When restaurants were closed as a result of the pandemic, many food & beverage distributors restructured their businesses to focus more on consumers and eCommerce. Your software should be able to link through APIs to eCommerce stores on established platforms like Magento. You should be able to create/update products in your software for food distributors and have these automatically pushed to your online stores. Orders placed in online stores should automatically be pushed to your software for food distributors to be fulfilled. All transactions should update inventory in the online stores automatically. Your software for food distributors should also deliver a self-service portal to your restaurant and other foodservice customers that want to place their own orders, track their orders, see statements and pay invoices online.
If you are looking for software for food distributors, contact us to learn about Accolent ERP. Accolent ERP is Cloud-based, fully functional, software for food distributors. It includes all of the key capabilities described above and more. Let us help you get your food distribution business on the right track.