What is Food Distribution Software?
The wholesale food distribution industry presents a variety of unique challenges, particularly regarding transportation and storage requirements. Meat and poultry distributors face concerns that are entirely different from those encountered by produce or seafood distributors, and full-line foodservice distributors may face virtually all of those concerns. For this reason, individuals in the meat and poultry industry need to evaluate specialized meat distribution software while those in the produce industry need to evaluate production distribution software.
Wholesale distribution software for the industry helps reduce lead times, track pricing and develop more efficient route planning, thereby improving operations in warehousing and delivery processes for foodservice wholesalers.
Common Features & Functionality
Food distribution software is a specialized form of warehousing and transportation management system. Specific features include:
|Order Entry||Order entry initiates the entire sales cycle, so the system should be able to store past customer orders and display them through sorting filters. This helps users review customer history and automatically prepare “standard orders” made by customers on a regular basis.|
|Catch Weight Management||Since weight and quantities vary tremendously, a food distribution program needs the ability to track the weights of meat and produce throughout the delivery and distributor cycle and tie those to the ordering and accounting systems.|
|Inventory Control||A food inventory management system includes lot tracking, which can integrate with barcode scanning or radio frequency identification (RFID) implementations to note when and where certain items were delivered, which will be particularly useful during a recall.|
|Delivery Management||Delivery management modules offer intelligent routing procedures that result in faster delivery times. Distributors also need to incorporate special transportation requirements, including refrigeration and handling care.|
As part of a broader enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite, top food distribution software can also oversee the general ledger and accounts receivable, providing real-time reports of order entry, purchasing and pricing levels.
Evaluating Food & Beverage Distributor Software
Like most industries, food distribution has been directly affected by globalization and economies of scale, not to mention environmental concerns. So although international exporting and importing in today's advanced systems is easier than it ever has been, a trend toward “locally sourced” operations has encouraged more organizations to shift into these arenas. Food distributor software provides businesses with the advanced functionality needed to manage the specific complications of international distributor networks – as well as more effectively reorganize through decentralization and the growth of regional food hubs.
Regional operations can particularly benefit from the ability of automated systems to help with increasingly complex tasks. Since these systems are expensive and the market is highly competitive, new products are seeking to capture business from smaller sources, offering specific functionality at more affordable prices.
Specific questions to ask when evaluating food distribution ERP software include:
- Do you need an on-premise client/server deployment, or are you looking for a Cloud deployment?
- Will you need a system that offers reverse logistics for returns management?
- Can the system manage the unique regulatory compliance for your particular market?
- If your organization distributes to manufacturers, will the system provide the necessary kitting and assembly functionality?
- NECS - NECS released an update to their wholesale food distribution software, entrée version 3.6.7, on February 14, 2012. The new release features improved search functionality to make it easier to find items according to the item number used by the manufacturer. Version 3.6.7 also includes inventory updates such as the ability to print only invoices for special order items that are released at a custom price. Another update is the Electronic Order Pad, an iPad app that gives Sales Reps access to their food distribution order entry software so they can log customer orders directly from the field.
- Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) - In 2011, Congress signed into law FSMA, the first major update to U.S. food safety laws in decades. FSMA stipulates, among other things, that distributors must be able to trace food from place of origin to point of consumption with some form of food traceability software in an effort to improve the safety of our food and the ability of distributors to conduct recalls. The new law makes it more important for distributors to invest in traceability functionality, which is a common feature included in the best food distribution software.
- Mobile traceability apps - Two notable mobile apps have emerged to give consumers access to traceability information previously confined to an enterprise system: SAP's Recalls+ and (Microsoft reseller) Junction Solution's ClearTHRU. Both of the apps can send automated alerts directly from a company's food and beverage distribution ERP software to let consumers know whether a particular item is currently under recall so they're up to date on the latest recall information.