How ERP could transform the fresh produce supply chain


With health conscious consumers driving escalating demand for fresh goods, and increasingly punitive food safety regulations, the spotlight is now on supply chains to perform with greater efficiency to deliver consistently fresh, high-quality goods.

ERP systems, designed specifically for the fresh produce industry, seek to help businesses respond to a range of contemporary challenges; including supply chain optimization.

By embedding technology into supply chain activities, ERP solutions make a seamless whole out of previously disparate parts; empowering businesses with management and record-keeping tools, as well as traceability modules, and real-time inventory data.

By embracing “DigitalAg” and implementing a digital, data-driven overhaul of supply chain practices fresh produce businesses can reduce their overheads, improve returns, and strengthen their relationships with buyers. But how exactly could ERP transform the fresh produce supply chain?

A digital upgrade

With technology, businesses are able to harness supply chain data to drive efficiency into every corner of their operation. An ERP system enables this by capturing supply chain data, and then providing fresh produce businesses with actionable insights, available in an easily-accessible digital format.

Fresh produce flows


Fresh produce has quite a journey before it ends up on the shelves in supermarkets. It travels from production, through to pack-out houses, distribution centres, shipping, and eventually it ends up with the retailer. Integrated technology makes it possible to cut the length of this journey down, while maintaining cold chains effectively.

An ERP system features transport, logistics and routing options to help ensure the produce is following efficient routes and arrives with the retailer with plenty of sell-by-date. By reducing transport silos in this way, ERP improves lead times significantly while reducing any unnecessary overheads. This helps businesses to maximise potential sales and minimise transport costs.

ERP systems are also compatible with technologies such as Smashtag, which enables businesses to monitor cold chains with greater accuracy. As a consequence, temperature limits can be monitored by suppliers – thereby, prolonging shelf-life and ensuring the produce arrives in pristine condition.

Information flows


With an ERP system, vital information is captured and made accessible on a smartphone or laptop. This gives businesses quick access to traceability data, consignment details, lot numbers, and batch amounts; as well as inspection documents, any tariff information, and shipping details.

With a centralised data system, businesses have a comprehensive understanding of their supply chain operation, which means they can manage improvements more effectively and with less risk. This might involve closing gaps in the supply chain, identifying bottlenecks, reducing unnecessary overheads, managing inventory and stock movements more effectively, or re-allocating resources.

Importantly, ERP helps ensure goods are fully traceable by putting all traceability data in one place. This means if there is an outbreak or food scare; with ERP, fresh produce businesses will be fully prepared.

Financial flows


The highly variable quality of produce intake, supply and demand fluctuations, consumer preferences, retailer promotions and even the weather can all impact the bottom line of a fresh produce organisation. An ERP system, that’s designed to understand these nuances of the fresh produce industry will includes features that seamlessly track and manage all costs associated with “field to fork” food production, including farming costs, production costs, packaging costs, labour costs, grower return payments, 3rd party services and transportation costs. This ensures that the true profitability or otherwise on the cost of production can be monitored and measured, identifying the best and worst performing aspects of the business.

More generally speaking, ERP enables businesses to forecast and plan demand with more accuracy. This means raw materials intake, inventories and production can be forecast and planned to meet expected demand, thereby avoiding over or under production and ensuring that supply chains are kept lean and profit margins high.

ERP systems improve supply chain efficiency; reducing costs, and maximising sales for fresh produce businesses. With additional insight and control over operations, it is possible to significantly reduce the risks and costs associated with supply chains - improving lead times, and reducing overheads. By offering increased transparency, and traceability; ERP systems are helping to ensure fresh produce gets to the supermarket on time, and in good condition - ushering in a new era for supply chain efficiency.

Free download  GS1 Traceability Checklist for Fresh Produce Download