In a world full of software solutions and digital tools promising to help you better run your food business, it can be hard to discern which system is right for your company. Fortunately, food-specific solutions that run on platforms created by companies you’re likely already familiar with (like Microsoft, for example) do exist, and make taking the leap into business software much more manageable.
In this blog, we take a look at the mighty Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central platform and how enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions designed specifically for the food industry utilize Dynamics 365 to connect departments and give you the insight, visibility and control you need to take your food business to the next level.
What is Dynamics 365 Business Central?
Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft’s ERP solution for small and medium-sized businesses, provides companies with increased financial visibility, supply chain optimization, advanced costing and reporting capabilities, and the best in data protection. Business Central was built in the cloud, which allows businesses to leverage data and information from Microsoft’s other cloud services, like Office 365 or Microsoft Azure. The Business Central Relationship Assistant tool, for example, provides insights on important events that happen in both the Dynamics 365 platform and your Office 365 Outlook account. The tool monitors your daily actions and communications and uses them to drive insights to help you better understand your business relationships and focus on optimizing your communications to keep your sales pipeline moving.
Business Central also comes with an exciting range of features and functionality including access to LinkedIn’s database of 500+million professionals, Microsoft Flow and Power Apps – which allow users to create and customize their solution without any code – and Power BI, Microsoft’s powerful business analytics service.
For food manufacturers and processors looking for a solution that fits their business best, these features are certainly important but don’t necessarily make running a food company easier or more efficient. Instead, solutions that leverage the Business Central platform and add food-specific functionality that address compliance, food safety, quality, recipe management and recalls, will provide you with the end-to-end visibility you need to successfully grow your business.
All the Features You Expect from Your ERP and More
Food manufacturing and processing is a complex business. Between ensuring your plant is staying compliant, accurately tracking inventory based on expiry dates, calculating variable weight and ensuring proper allergen management, you don’t have time to worry about the typical day-to-day tasks that make your business function. On top of all that, you certainly don’t have the capacity to deal with manual processes or disparate systems that create data silos and make running your business even more complicated.
That’s where an ERP solution built for the food industry comes in. Systems like Aptean JustFood ERP offer all the sales, purchasing, operations, accounting and inventory management features found in a platform like Business Central, but with hundreds of added food features that address everything from quality and production to recipe development and management.
Let’s take a look at the financial side of a typical food company as an example. To ensure your finance department is running optimally, you may consider implementing an ERP solution that comes equipped with core finance, sales, manufacturing and inventory features. Having all of your data from all of your departments in one system ensures that everyone in the company is on the same page and helps keep your data organized, accurate and actionable. But what about food-specific functionality like trade spend, item tracing and perishable inventory, all of which contain financially relevant data? Without visibility into these important parts of your food business, you’ll have a harder time predicting the future and managing your company proactively. Instead, an ERP that connects all of your general and food-specific data into one system will promote true business intelligence and drive operational efficiency across the entire business.
This industry-specific functionality can only be found in solutions built for the food industry; when selecting a generic ERP solution, adding the functionality you require to effectively run your business means costly and complex customizations. For example, in terms of allergen management, a food-specific solution like JustFood ERP will come equipped with the functionality needed to identify primary and sub allergens at the ingredient level, create allergen profiles for each recipe and track allergens back and forth through the production process. In order for a generic ERP to provide this type of functionality, hours of customization work or extensive add-ons would be required, inevitably increasing implementation costs and the potential for project timelines to drift.
A Solution That Grows With You
Implementing any new solution is always difficult, time-consuming and costly. And the more complicated your company gets as it grows, the greater those difficulties and costs are likely to be. Adding more facilities, additional business entities, more employees and expanded production volume all contribute to the cost and complexity of software implementation. If your company has ambitions to keep growing, it would be ideal to go through this process only once.
Platforms like Business Central promote scalability in the way they’re designed. Because Business Central made up of a number of plug-and-play applications, business owners can choose apps to implement as they grow. As your company evolves, so too should your ERP system. And because ERP setup costs are significant, to maximize your return on investment, it’s important to select a solution that is flexible and can scale as your business grows.
Additionally, industry-specific ERP solutions generate greater absolute returns over generic systems because of the food-specific features they offer. In order to properly manage the challenges associated with running a food business – food safety, protein deconstruction, allergens, strict regulations, etc. – a company needs software that is developed and implemented by people who thoroughly understand the food industry; vendors of generic solutions can’t just customize their systems to manage these complexities. In short, the more purpose-built functionality that is included, the less risk there is surrounding implementation timeframes, budgets, upgrades and data consistency.
Choosing a business solution to run your food company is complicated. Fortunately, industry-specific solutions built on powerful platforms help make the decision-making process simpler. JustFood ERP is enterprise-class ERP software with hundreds of food features added to address the complex nature of the food industry.
To learn more, reach out to us. We’d love to talk.