Firstly – ask yourself: Do I really need an ERP system?
The idea to purchase an ERP system to dramatically improve the way your business works is not one that is usually thought up overnight. Ideas of ways to improve processes or remove time consuming, erroneous tasks are what usually leads to the hope that there is an ERP system out there that can make things easier, less risky and in the long-term a great deal more cost and time effective.
Ideally, this ERP system needs to have the obvious features: not be too expensive to buy, host or implement; not be too difficult to learn and use; not be restrictive in terms of functionality needed for your business, or in terms of being able to deal with future company growth.
These features perhaps are not the best place to start for a food business though. As part of an industry that relies on compliance and traceability to survive, the first thing that you need to do is to look at what should be easier and faster to accomplish in your business. Then, list the specific features of an ERP that you need to achieve your ideals (such as integrated stock control, inventory management and sales so that you can track ingredients from origin to final customer) and from these, the benefits that you would hope to achieve.
Take a look at the current ERP system in your business, if you have one, and identify any opportunities for operational improvement. This will form a basis for identifying areas for future growth, which in an ever-changing and evolving industry, is something you’ll need to make sure you have ticked off of your list when looking at ERP system features.
Once you have decided on your core requirements, make sure that the ERP systems you look at have solutions for these and can provide immediate business benefit.
How? On top of checking ERP system features against your list of core requirements, there are some factors that should also be important in your food ERP decision making process:
Firstly, ensure that the solutions you’re looking at are up-to-date. It’s a competitive marketplace so most solutions are likely to feature the latest technology – it is these that you need to look at so that you can avoid future costs when something like going mobile with sales orders, becomes a necessity.
2. Food industry specific
Make sure that the solution is one that has been created with the food industry in mind. This way, you’re far more likely to find that your food business requirements are met without the need to make enhancements to the base product, which can be expensive to create and to maintain – especially if a bespoke version becomes out of date and needs to be re-written if the software is upgraded.
3. Choose an experienced partner
Does the software vendor have experience in the food industry and really understand the ins and outs of food businesses? They should be able to tell you what will and won’t work for a food business and know about the changing challenges that the food industry is facing. In addition to this, check for plenty of examples of how their solution is already benefiting other food businesses like yours.
4. Easy to use
Is the solution user-friendly? One of the best things about an ERP system is that it should cater for all of your business processes and the best ones will do that altogether, in one centralised system. This however also means that all of your business area employees may need to know how to use it – which creates the necessity for the software to be universally accessible, intuitive and easy to understand.
Is the solute suitable for a global business? Even if that’s not you at the minute, it might be one day and the last thing you’ll need at that point of your business growth is to have to go through another ERP implementation overhaul when you could be making waves overseas. It is essential for growing businesses to have an ERP system that will grow with them.
6. Calculate the value
No ERP system is likely to be 100% perfect but if you can get 80% of what you identified in your requirements as standard, then you’ve cracked it. Make sure you’ve considered value aspects such as problem solving, faster processing, how it will aid new business whilst keeping track of purchasing and inventory before weighing up the project costs, based on return on investment.
7. Making friends
When you choose an ERP vendor to partner with, you’ll hope that they can support you with the ERP system for many years to come (especially if you’ve made sure to pick a solution that is scalable). You are going to have to work closely together for at least several weeks, if not months to begin with, to ensure that you get exactly what you want and need out of your ERP project. Consider it in relation to hiring a member of staff – can you really see yourself working with them long-term? Do they have a positive track record in your industry and have they got good references? As with any product or service, success is measured by what the customers think and so, so if food businesses similar to yours have succeeded with a partner that you like, the chances are you will too!
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