This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.
Fresh produce has unique enterprise resource planning (ERP) requirements. Even a seemingly simple goods-receiving process, such as receiving a ton of potatoes, is incredibly complex. Those potatoes need to be washed and graded for size and quality before you know what you can sell to supermarkets or manufacturers, and for how much. And working out how to pay for those potatoes – in bulk, after grading or after you know what price you’ll get for them, for example – needs to be done accurately and immediately.
Sensitive produce such as soft fruits, which can perish within hours, add more complexity. If the pallet of strawberries you were about to load for delivery to the supermarket has perished, you need to know immediately where you can get the same quantity of fruit with the same accreditation standard – or lose out on the sale.
The bottom line is, a fresh produce ERP system needs to operate completely in real time. It needs to link to grading machines, sensors, handheld mobile devices and any other equipment so it can collect the data immediately it’s available. And because rural internet can be patchy, it needs to work seamlessly online and offline, so operatives can collect the data irrespective of whether it’s being squirted back to the ERP system.
Yet more pressure is piled on by market conditions such as wafer-thin margins, labour shortages and increasing food safety legislation. End-to-end traceability has become essential as regulation intensifies, and automated price management is a must to protect margins as states introduce tax on fresh produce or supermarkets add surcharges for suppliers wanting prompt payment.
This complex and shifting spectrum of requirements demands a future-proof ERP system with end-to-end traceability baked in, as well as a rebate engine that enables the immediate roll-out of price changes the instant an adjustment is made.
At LINKFRESH we specialise in meeting those needs, building on the Microsoft Dynamics platform to provide functionality for fresh produce companies such as grower accounting, traceability, consignments, farming and quality control. Microsoft invests more than US$100m in Dynamics every year, enabling us to provide a future-fresh system that will stay up to date with every new technology release.
Fresh produce ERP is not going to get any simpler and its challenges affect companies of all sizes. But for hundreds of companies, from SMEs in the UK, US, Europe, South Africa and Australasia to world-leading enterprises including Dole, Total Produce and Westfalia, our seamless, real-time, future-fresh system is helping them meet those challenges head-on.
Bryan Barsness is vice president of sales, North America at LINKFRESH