Signum Solutions attended the #FDMBLive event!

As the strategic software partner for Food and Drink Means Business, Signum joined many other exhibitors, delegates and very special guests at the second FDMB Live event on Friday 27th September at the J36 conference centre in Cumbria.

Our exhibition stand was bustling with familiar and new faces, all eager to learn about ways ERP can help SMEs in the Food & Beverage industry grow. We were joined by an amazing group of exhibitors like Ellison Printing, Smoothie PR and Nowt Poncy, who not only had amazing stands but were on hand to offer delegates business tips and advice based around real life experiences. The day provided plenty of helpful information for delegates to get tucked into.

Alongside the exhibition, there were some amazing guest speakers who were on hand to not only share knowledge but to inspire the passion for growth amongst the delegates. We heard from the event organizer; Food and Drink Means Business’s Paul Caunce, Bidfood, Claire Brumby, Sugarwise’s Rend Plantings and many more.

As FDMB’s software partner, we were also invited to host an interactive workshop delving into The Software Conundrum. We discussed, debated and explored the costly mistakes that food & beverage companies can make and how you can avoid them.

The event was a sold-out success and all the attendees left inspired and excited for the future.

This event really did prove that Food and Drink companies in the North West really do Mean Business!

Watch our highlight reel here

ERP Software for SME’s

Choosing the right software for your business can be a daunting decision for you as a business owner, choosing a software that is easily customisable and tailormade to meet your exact business requirements is key.

So what is ERP software ?

Enterprise Resource Planning software otherwise known as ERP software is a software which collaborates all aspects of a business into one place.  The information which the ERP software collates is made easily available for you to see.

Using ERP software will connect different departments within a business in real-time which in turn increases efficiency within different departments and helps to make key decisions within the business.

ERP software is ideal for small to medium sized enterprises here are a few of the benefits below:

 

Customisable – ERP software is can be fully tailored to suit your business, and can be used for the following:

Pre sales CRM / Marketing

Post sales CRM

Inventory (SCM)

Financial accounting

Production, planning & Control

Project management

Technical expertise

Task management

Human resources & Payroll

Continuous Improvement

Growth Your ERP software will grow as your business does, it is easy to add new functions into your software which will save you and your staff time making everyday operations more streamlined and in turn this will increase your ongoing profits.

SAP Business One Advice

Sap Business One Advice

SAP Business One and 3 ways to improve efficiency and help you make better decisions for your company.

 

So, what is SAP Business One?

SAP Business One is a software designed specifically with SMEs in mind.
SAP Business One combines an array of your business’ functions including its sales, customer relations, inventory, operations and financials and all from a single application meaning that you can take an overview of all aspects of your business at a glance. Continue…

Country of Origin – Why provenance matters

Country of Origin - Why provenance matters

As consumers are becoming increasingly choosy about the provenance of various foodstuffs, country of origin labeling can have a considerable influence on their perceptions and purchasing decisions. For the growing number of shoppers who believe it’s important to know where our food comes from to make an informed choice, where for ethnocentric or ethical reasons, country of origin is among extrinsic “quality cues” they use to evaluate a product.

Continue…

How to nip the growing problem of organic food fraud in the bud

Business management software for food

When consumers pay a premium for certified organic produce and packaged foods, they should feel confident that they’re getting what they pay for: a product free from synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth regulators and genetically-modified organisms. There is also an underlying ethical assumption that those revenues are going to farmers engaged in sustainable agricultural practices that promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

Products sold as organic must, by law, follow certain standards – both European and national – and have to be regularly inspected and certified by approved bodies. At a global level, many countries have regulatory requirements similar to those in the EU and there are formal agreements covering trade in organic products between these countries

However, because organic and eco-labelled food products command a higher price, instances of food fraud, such as adulteration and mislabelling, are becoming more commonplace, resulting in consumers being misled and overcharged. What’s more, failure to enforce standards can cast a shadow over the term ‘organic’ itself, which should be synonymous with authenticity.

Staying competitive and relevant
The problem is amplified with imported products that involve intermediaries, some of whom are looking to make economic gains by deliberately mislabelling foods as organic and selling them at a premium. One example is the 2016/2017 shipment of over 16 metric tonnes of soybeans that found their way to California from Ukraine via Turkey.

What started out as conventionally-farmed, pesticide-treated soybeans under-went a remarkable transformation to ‘organic’, which saw the consignment’s value increase by US$4 million. This wasn’t a one off: two further shipments of corn and soybeans revealed similar findings. And because these imports were largely destined for animal feed, they would be likely to infiltrate the supply chain through a variety of foods including ‘organic’ eggs, dairy, meat and poultry.

Meanwhile, brands are finding themselves at risk. While consumers increasingly scrutinise labels for farm-to-fork provenance, not all retailers can verify organic products back to the point of origin due to a lack of upstream supply chain visibility.
While tier 1 and some of tier 2 suppliers may be known, the view of tier 3 and beyond is often obscured. Tackling the root of the problem

In April 2017, imports of organic products into the EU became subject to a new EU electronic certification system, to reduce potential fraud and provide more comprehensive statistical data on organic imports. As well as the goal of reducing organic food fraud, the addition of import certificates to the existing Trade Control & Expert System facilitates trade by enabling partners and competent authorities to easily obtain information on the movement of their consignments.

Forward-thinking companies, however, look beyond the ‘stick’ of regulation to the ‘carrot’ of consumer trust, and are actively seeking ways to reduce their susceptibility to organic food fraud and protect their brand. They need to account for every part of the production process, which means farming practices, distribution paths, storage procedures and product delivery must all be made visible to business managers.

External traceability is vital to validating the presence of attributes such as organic certification for the entire agro-food sector, which includes animal feeds. This requires all parties in the supply chain to systematically link the physical flow of materials and products with the flow of information about them.

However, many traceability systems today were only designed for internal purposes, providing an one-up, one-down view for the company using that system. Many companies, particularly those that do business with large retailers that impose strict standards, will quickly find themselves outgrowing manual methods or standalone software for batch/lot tracking. At this tipping point, an ERP solution that supports strong batch/lot traceability features becomes a must-have.

A fresh focus on traceability
With traceability-focused software, the product’s batch/lot number follows it from seed to table. By capturing the organic certification data as part of lot tracking, organic status can be tracked through the supply chain. For example, a bottle of certified organic wine should be traceable back to the exact vineyard from which its grapes were harvested.

An organic apple should be able to be traced back to the farm where it was grown, and it should even be possible to pinpoint the exact orchard from which it was picked.

This traceable chain of custody is what empowers consumers to trust certified organic brands. Shoppers are becoming increasingly savvy about what they eat and how it’s raised; wherever there is opportunity for differentiation by helping the consumer understand where their food is coming from, it should bear fruit in the form of customer loyalty based on confidence, not blind faith.

To find out more about how Signum Solutions and SAP Business One can help you achieve end-to-end trace ability to maintain the safety and integrity of your products, speak to one of our industry experts on 01244 676 900

How Blockchain is set to transform food safety and integrity

As consumers, our communication patterns, searches and online habits create a digital trail that means algorithms are getting to know many of us better than we know ourselves. Yet the trust and transparency challenges that confront the globalised food system – such as substitution, tampering, misrepresentation, illegal production and contamination – are still compounded by a lack of supply chain traceability.

The problem is, every company has its own way of working: inaccuracies are caused by traditional paper tracking and manual inspection systems; transactions are handled in siloed databases, resulting in opaque supply chains. When it comes to a recall, this can make the difference between identifying a few contaminated bags of spinach, and pulling the entire stock of spinach from hundreds of stores.

As one of 2017’s most talked-about technologies, Blockchain is being positioned as the way to “provide trust in an untrusted world” by transforming systems of record, with use cases ranging from carbon credits to diamonds. But what is it, how does it work, and how can it be applied to solve food supply chain management challenges?

What is Blockchain and how does it work

Blockchain was developed in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007/8 to deliver transparency, security and efficiency in managing transactions between multiple parties without involving banks. This gave rise to crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, which can be transmitted worldwide without friction: no intermediaries, regulation or the need to know or trust the parties involved – the so-called “trustless” system.

In the simplest terms, Blockchain is a way to structure data. It uses distributed ledger technology: a database that, rather than being stored in one place, is continuously synchronised and shared among all members of a peer-to-peer network for real-time data transparency.

When a digital transaction is carried out, it is grouped together in a cryptographically-protected block with other transactions that have occurred in the last ten minutes and sent out to the entire network.

Once validated by consensus, the block of transactions is timestamped and permanently added to a chain in chronological order. New blocks are linked to older blocks and contain a reference to the previous block (called a “hash, which is somewhat like a digital fingerprint).

A distributed database cannot be hacked, manipulated or disrupted in the same way as a traditional, centralised database with a user-controlled access system. The data is immutable: once it has been written to a Blockchain, nobody – not even a system administrator – can modify or tamper with it. The technology can work for almost any type of transaction involving value, such as money, goods, land ownership, work, medical information or even votes.

How can Blockchain be applied to the food industry?

Today’s supply chains have an inherent weakness: individual parties are using disparate digital systems, different technologies, and paper-based processes to bridge the gaps. This makes it inefficient to share the critical data that drives supply chain interactions, or to guarantee a high degree of rigour and accuracy.

Blockchain-infused traceability systems could deliver the transparency and trust that has eluded the food industry until now. With immutable data, it has the potential to give growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers access to reliable information on the origin and state of food.

Blockchain for agriculture – It will become feasible for farms to create digital records for individual animals to track the lifecycle from farm to fork, using technology such as RFID tags. This enables consumers to read the “digital history” of meat down to the individual animal, including who raised it, how it was raised, what it was fed and who processed it, simply by scanning a QR code on the packaging. As the lynchpin of our food supply, farmers typically have little visibility to the end consumer, and could stand to gain a new voice and new distribution opportunities through participation on Blockchain. There are also exciting possibilities for creating business value with new, previously unattainable data that could be made available through Blockchain, such as how much fertiliser or water was used, as evidence of sustainability assertions.

Blockchain for distributors – Distributors could provide more transparency to processors and buyers in terms of product type, farming practices, harvest data and Fair Trade or similar certifications. With the addition of appropriate sensor technology, valuable information could be provided to actors up the chain, such as the duration of the journey while a product is in transit, or the temperature and humidity of the truck it travels in, to demonstrate that the product is fir for use or sale on arrival.

Blockchain for food processors and producers – As food processors often struggle to validate the origin of their ingredients, Blockchain would enable the validation of information about input products without violating trust be-tween individual entities. For food producers, the nature of Blockchain would mean that any attempt to tamper with a product as it moves through the sup-ply chain could be immediately identified and prevented before it ever reaches a retailer.

Blockchain for retailers – As bricks and mortar stones are faced with in-creasing competition from online food providers such as Amazon, supermarkets often want to provide local produce as a differentiator. With Blockchain providing a web of trust, the information value provided by local farms could be bound to the claims made by grocers. This could effectively create a new model for providing local produce through a national chain, with the evidence of quality, transport and freshness that consumers insist on. Not only can this rich seam of information be used to create a point of sale educational opportunity, but it also bolsters the capacity for a digital recall in the event of a safety issue, such as food-borne illness. In the event that a potentially contaminated product somehow made it onto the shelves, stores could rapidly identify, isolate and remove only the affected items without the need for a costly whole-batch recall.

Blockchain for foodservice – Restaurants have a direct relationship with the ultimate consumer and a growing number are keen to emphasise the quality and sustainability of their food. It could prove a considerable competitive ad-vantage be able to authenticate their menus and justify a premium for local, organic or free range produce.

Blockchain offers many practical solutions to today’s impractical system, and should promote better communication between all parts of the food chain and, just as importantly, between producers and consumers.

Blockchain offers many practical solutions to today’s impractical system and should promote better communication between all parts of the food chain and just importantly, between producers and consumers.

The future is already here

The promise of Blockchain isn’t far-off utopian vision. US agricultural conglomerate, Cargill, has made an early foray into Blockchain, with a pilot through its Honeysuckle White brand. The initiative, launched ahead of 2017’s Thanksgiving celebrations, allowed consumers to trace their individual Thanksgiving turkey from the store where they bought it to the farm that raised it.

Walmart is currently piloting Blockchain technology to trace mangos, in their US stores, and has cut the time it took to provide gate-to-plate traceability to two seconds – a process which used to take weeks. Walmart is also among several companies embracing a new initiative in China focused on food safety and traceability with Blockchain as its technical foundation, following numerous high-profile fake food scandals in the world’s most populous country.

A consortium including Dole, Nestlé and Unilever is working to identify opportunities for the use of Blockchain to improve data integrity and trust between parties in “Big Food”. Meanwhile, technology vendors including IBM and Microsoft are collaborating with GS1, the global business communications standards organisation, to determine how the structure data stored or referenced by Blockchains for shared communications and interoperability through the use of standards.

So while Blockchain may seem like the buzzword of 2017 and will no doubt be the subject of much discussion, it has real potential to be a game-changer for food supply chains, helping the industry to achieve the holy trinity of trust, transparency and traceability.

To understand how Signum Solutions can help in your Blockchain journey, contact info@signum-solutions.co.uk

5 Ways to Promote Consumer Trust in the Food Industry

As a series of high-profile food scandals and scares have progressively eroded public confidence in recent years, consumer protection and the interests of the food industry should go hand-in-hand. Building and maintaining consumer trust is hard. But following a food safety incident or revelation of dubious practices, restoring consumer trust is harder still. The implications for missing the mark in terms of how the incident is handled can come at a high cost from both a revenue and brand perspective. 

While more and more manufacturers are explaining how they source and make products, a significant portion of shoppers remain wary. The human brain is wired to be sensitive to potential risks, therefore bad news spreads like wildfire, and the actions of a tiny minority of rogue suppliers can discredit the entire industry. The reality is that companies invest heavily in optimising food safety, yet very few consumers understand the challenges involved:

Accidental or deliberate contamination 

When our pantry is global, so are the chances of contamination. The majority of food recalls stem from operational deficiencies, and come at a high direct and indirect cost to firms. In undifferentiated markets, where consumers can’t distinguish between sellers of good product and contaminated product, this can result in consumer avoidance of the entire category.

Food fraud – when products are deliberately diluted, tampered with, mislabelled or otherwise misrepresented, or substituted with another product – is a highly lucrative business and often integrated with organised crime networks. But when economic times are tough, the opportunities to cut corners become harder to resist, even for otherwise legitimate businesses, as evidenced by the adulteration of food safety records by a major UK poultry supplier which made the headlines in late 2017. Food fraud also impacts on sustainability, nutrition, animal welfare and human rights, which are becoming increasingly important to consumers.

Food labelling

Food labelling is a huge area of contention: on one hand, consumers want more product information to make informed choices; on the other, they often distrust the accuracy of labels or are confused by them due to inconsistency or information overload.

Fundamentally, consumers’ needs are simple: they want to know they’re buying food that’s safe to eat, and doesn’t harm people or nature. In today’s digital world, relevant information needs to be made available to connected consumers at the time of purchase, particularly online where the shopper is at arm’s length from the physical product and packaging.

Greater supply chain complexity

No food safety system is perfect, but the greater the number of links in the supply chain, the more points available for penetration. Food supply chains are becoming longer and more complex, and therefore more prone to potential disruption. Most food retailers know all their first-tier suppliers, or have a good understanding of those suppliers with whom they have the highest spend, but a lack of insight into subsequent tiers or smaller suppliers means many can’t determine where ingredients are sourced from or how those ingredients are processed or handled.

Establishing the vulnerability of suppliers, especially those operating in higher risk jurisdictions, can be time-consuming unless companies implement ways to monitor and manage increased sourcing complexity. But without effective visibility into the supply chain, businesses can have significant blind spots in their enterprise risk management structure, leaving them exposed to potential legal, financial and reputational damage.

Shifting regulatory framework

The food industry has had to contend with a large number of new regulations and standards in recent years, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, together with numerous national programmes and industry initiatives that attempt to address the issue of food integrity and authenticity.

It’s therefore worth looking to the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors, which provide a leading indicator of what’s likely to come in the food industry. Several bills and directives have been introduced across the EU and US dealing with pharmacovigilance, such as the use of serial numbers and track-and-trace technologies to prevent counterfeit drugs entering the legal supply chain.

Given the impact of food on public health, it’s feasible to expect to see greater regulatory focus on implementing similar requirements in the food industry.

Amid this complex landscape, food businesses can respond to these risks and challenges effectively, and help to restore consumer confidence in the industry as a whole, by taking five fundamental steps:

Step #1: Promote a culture of safety and quality from the farm to the shop floor Forward-thinking companies develop a culture of food safety through education and communication to ensure staff are aware of the importance of good practices and the controls to be applied. They are also proactively identifying and managing potential risks by analysing data within and beyond their organisation on leading indicators such as customer complaints and media reports. There is a range of nationally and internationally recognised standards for certification relating to product quality, social and environmental sustainability and system and process certification. Voluntary participation in such schemes can enable organisations to provide various assurances as a competitive differentiator.

Step #2: Lead risk-resilient business culture and best practices from the topThe buck stops in the boardroom. Business leaders need greater over-sight of and engagement with food trust issues, and executive buy-in is essential to developing a culture that is relevant and responsive to both current and emerging concerns. Food businesses need not reinvent the wheel, but should instead look to adopt proven practices from similar, highly-regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, to start building transparency and trace-ability into their processes now, rather than waiting to be forced by evolving regulation.

Step #3: Continuously review supply chain risks and benchmark against best practicesBusinesses are held accountable for their supply chain actors’ performance, yet for many, supplier risk management is regarded as something of a tick-box exercise. Regardless of which point in the supply chain may be responsible for a food crisis, customers tend to blame the brand from which it was purchased.

So it’s vital to have end-to-end visibility of the supply chain and carry out regular reviews of suppliers’ food safety and quality standards. Taking a pro-active approach to supplier risk management can pay dividends in terms of product integrity, reducing compliance costs, and minimising the need for product recalls.

Step #4: Make considered investments in technology-enabled solutions – The key to transparency is to capture full and accurate data about product movement. Modern manufacturing, warehousing and traceability solutions are designed to help businesses improve standards, manage risks and provide consumers with better information about food products. Industry-specific solutions are purpose-built to support full compliance with food regulations and guidelines, such as GS1. Real-time visibility enables businesses to pinpoint inventory at any stage of the production or logistics process, and automate quality controls and monitoring from end to end, so any problems can be caught before products make it into consumers’ hands.

Step #5: Focus on consumer transparency and prepare to handle crisis events – If a crisis should occur despite all reasonable endeavours, food companies should be able to support near-surgical recall – getting the minimum amount of product off the shelves at maximum speed. This capability can be developed through scenario analysis, planning and drills, underpinned by robust product recall and crisis procedures. A swift response is also reliant on the availability of data in a suitable reporting format within minutes rather than hours, which can support both the crisis event itself, and open and honest consumer-facing communications after the fact.

As bargaining power in the food industry shifts towards the consumer, we will see the lines becoming increasingly blurred between food safety, health and well-ness, and corporate social responsibility. When risks are well managed, there are opportunities to deepen relationships with today’s connected and demanding consumers, and create the conditions for sustainable, profitable growth in the process.

To understand how Signum Solutions and SAP Business One Food and Beverage edition can support such initiatives as GSI contact us on 01244 676900

ProcessForce; Weight-based Recipes

ProcessForce, a process-oriented recipe-based ERP application provides you the flexibility to enter the data in the manner in which makes sense to you and your business.

In industries such as food and beverage, chemicals and life sciences, the raw materials and ingredients being consumed within the recipe or formulation may be based on a percentage of weight values rather than traditional quantity values.

These industries have a requirement, not just to be able to enter a percentage weight into a formulation, but for that formulation to calculate the total ingredient quantities, the total overall percentage and total weight values.

Where standard ERP solutions tend not to allow the input of percentage values when entering quantities in recipes, ProcessForce can also be configured to provide a warning to the user if the total weight is greater than 100% or more than 100% of the recipe size.

recipe management software

Would you like to define and enter your product recipes into your ERP system using % weight values? Does your current ERP solution force you to enter the recipe as basic quantity values, because the system uses a traditional engineering based bill of material format? If so, call us on 01244 676 900 and or complete the form below to discover how SAP Business One along with ProcessForce can solve your business issues.

To request a FREE demonstration with one of the most experienced and well established SAP Business One partners in the UK, please complete the form below.

Marlin Industries: Increasing Turnover by 100% with No Additional Staffing with SAP Business One®

Marlin chose the SAP Business One application because it offers the ability to control all production planning, material control and accounting functions in one place.

When the opportunity came up to evaluate other software solutions, they jumped on it and soon choose SAP Business One, implemented by Signum Solutions.

100% increase in turnover with no increase in accounting staff
Greater control of purchasing and providing historical data used to obtain advantageous pricing
>98% on-time delivery

Read the full business transformation story here

Customer Service Helpdesk Availability over Christmas/New Year

Over this holiday season our helpdesk will be closed on both 26th December and 2nd January.

You can contact your Signum support team between normal office hours of 9.00am and 17.30pm on 27th, 28th and 29th December.

In order for us to ensure your enquiry is dealt with swiftly during this festive period, we ask that any new tickets are logged at the following web address http://www.sapb1.co.uk/hd/ or alternatively by calling 01244 676 900, option 4.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all from the Signum Team.