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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.
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.
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:
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