ERP to underpin food traceability market

FoodTraceabilty (1)

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment. Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.


As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.


Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.


Expansive solutions


Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.


ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.


With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.


So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.


Efficiency improvements


Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.


In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.


This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.


Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

ERP adding value to Smart Farming

smart-farming image

South Africa’s agricultural sector contributed more than R80 billion to the country’s GDP while the value of its production was approximately R273 billion in 2016/17. Even without factoring in the indirect role it plays in growing the economy, the industry is a significant one. It has therefore become imperative to leverage the likes of enterprise resource planning (ERP) to integrate technological innovation for improved efficiencies and reduced costs.


In the connected society where digital has permeated every facet of people’s lives, the potential for agriculture is significant. The concept of Smart Farming is increasingly used to describe how technology is adopted to increase the quantity and quality of farming products. For example, by being able to precisely measure variations within a field and adopt the strategy accordingly, farmers can increase the effectiveness of pesticides and fertilisers.


But even though Smart Farming talks to the level of technology integration, it is much more than that. It enables the development of a more agile sector that has the software and systems in place to pull meaningful data. Data has long been likened to be the equivalent of oil in the digital age. For farmers, the ability to capture, analyse, and gain insights from it in as real-time a manner as possible, can be the difference between success and failure.


Process overhaul


Whether it is agriculture or mining, healthcare or education, big business or start-up growth, data is the lifeblood of any organisation. Certainly, the entry points and how it is collected might differ, but fundamentally, no entity can survive without having data at its disposal.


The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and the like are representing a significant shift in the inherent data collection and management processes of a business. Although some might think that local farmers do not need any of this, the reality is quite different.


Take the water situation in the country as an example. It can take up to 15 000 litres of water to bring one kilogram of beef to market, more than 3 000 litres for a kilogram of rice, and 140 litres for just one cup of coffee. Now imagine being able to use IoT technology (connected devices) to more effectively manage the use of water, fertilisers, and pesticides thanks to real-time monitoring. This can be done through the assistance of sensors (measuring everything from light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, and so on) that can automate the irrigation system and manage it accordingly.


So, even though farming is no stranger to technology, this more precise (and smarter) way of doing things, is going to be essential for survival. This is not only due to environmental issues but business ones as well. The cost of not optimising resources is simply too significant to ignore.


This points to a significant change in thinking of existing systems and processes to capture and manage data.


Integrating ERP


All the technology innovation in the world means very little if it is not accurately managed with data linked to all the necessary systems and components. This is where ERP has an essential role to play. It is a critical link to the data, the systems and processes, and the insights that can be derived for farmers and others in the agricultural sector to optimise their way of doing things.


Think of it as the means to get an integrated overview, through a dashboard, of all the vital elements in the agricultural value chain. And, unlike legacy systems, ERP today can be cloud-based and available on any device from any location, making it the ideal mobile platform for farmers to access intelligent data while out in the field.


Furthermore, the insights gained from ERP can enable the farm (or related business) to respond more organically to environmental challenges, adjust the systems accordingly, and grow into more cost-efficient businesses. However, ERP is more than just a once-off solution. It should be viewed as a long-term strategic approach that provides the foundation for the Smart Farm of the future.


Image source : We speakIOT

It’s time to get SMART


We can’t get around it, and why should we, the world around us is becoming smarter. Things and, more importantly, consumers are becoming more connected and making more immediate demands.

So, what can you do to ensure your business stays on par with or, better yet, ahead of this industry curve? Simple, you embrace Smart Manufacturing.

The market is becoming more cut-throat by the day, which means you can no longer afford to wait for trends; you need to be the one setting them. Not even to mention the implications of having to recall your product. How can you prevent these issues from causing havoc in your business? Smart Manufacturing.

How can Smart Manufacturing future-proof your business?

By using technology to connect all systems, operations and departments you build a smart manufacturing network for your business. This network provides access to real-time data as well as analysed data that all the decision makers can have access to when needed.

The whole principle behind Smart Manufacturing is to make business run smoother, quicker and more transparently.

A Smart Manufacturing network is capable of collecting shop floor data, as it happens, from personnel and machines to translate it into actionable information to guide business. Real-time data that is processed and analysed correctly enables companies to cut out the broken telephone syndrome, as everyone will have a clear view of what’s happening where.

Moreover, you’ll enjoy insight into how you can further develop products and the manufacturing process, where you can optimise and what can be cut altogether. So, instead of staying alongside the trends, you’ll be in a position to identify industry gaps before your competition, disrupting the game entirely and stepping into the lead.

As the data collected is so accurate in a Smart Manufacturing network, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where something went wrong and where that batch went. You’ll be able to recall the exact defected products and have the evidence on your side that what you send to market is of the highest quality; hence, avoiding a PR nightmare.

Better yet, this kind of system can even indicate when something might potentially go wrong, based on either human error or machine malfunction. You will also be notified when machinery needs services or to do maintenance. Practising preventative manufacturing creates a safer and streamlined working environment.

In addition to Smart Manufacturing software, such as Epicor, you can also use stock-taking drones that record shop floor data. Relying on technology to reduce the menial and repetitive tasks, such as stock take, that your staff needs to complete, you’ll be able to free them up to do additional and more satisfying work; hence, building a stronger workforce.

One of the key aspects to survive and profit in an economy that’s under pressure and in a competitive market is to use accurately interpreted shop floor data that forms part of a Smart Manufacturing network. So, stop wasting precious time and get smart.