To help you choose the right solution for your business, we found and ranked the best food manufacturing ERP systems in the market today.
1 Food Connex ERP - Best Overall
Why We Chose It: We loved Food Connex ERP’s design, which clearly caters to the nuanced needs of food distributors and processors. This made moving from task to task during day-to-day operations much smoother. Every feature seemed purpose-built, ensuring that common bottlenecks were swiftly dealt with, customer interactions were enhanced, and any room for errors was narrowed down.
What’s commendable about Food Connex is its adaptability. Whether you’re in distribution, production, or both, this software offers features that intuitively adjust to the business model. The real-time inventory insights and advanced lot control system are top-notch. And the mobile order entries? They could be a pivotal asset for many businesses out there. While testing, I observed that using Food Connex could lead to noticeable reductions in wastage and a potential increase in profits.
2 Aptean Food & Beverage ERP - Best for Large Enterprises
Why We Chose It: Aptean Food & Beverage ERP stands out as the premier choice for large-scale food and beverage operations. Its tailored approach encompasses the diverse needs of the food sector, from fresh produce to meats and bakeries. With its industry-specific functionalities, businesses can manage intricate attributes such as breed, cut, age, and more. Its emphasis on cost details, from raw materials to haulage and labor, means businesses get a deeper insight into their finances.
Furthermore, it’s not just about monitoring but effective management. Aptean’s advanced sales order processing features ensure orders are always prioritized, and its multi-currency support is ideal for businesses with global ambitions. Its unique architecture ensures businesses are always on the cutting edge, with regular updates to stay ahead of industry demands.
3 iNECTA Food - Most Comprehensive
Why We Chose It: iNECTA offers an all-in-one solution specifically tailored for food producers and distributors, bringing together every facet of food and beverage operations under a single software hub. This is particularly beneficial for sectors ranging from organic, dairy, seafood, fine foods, to beverage manufacturing.
What sets iNECTA apart is its emphasis on addressing the unique needs of the food industry. From ingredient tracking—which is crucial in an era of increased allergies and specialized diets—to robust food safety and compliance measures, it ensures a proactive approach to maintaining brand reputation. Real-time traceability capabilities, from raw materials to finished products, offer complete supply chain visibility. Additionally, its focus on cost control provides businesses with the tools to optimize their operations and manage production complexity effectively.
4 Katana - Best for Small Businesses
Why We Chose It: Katana offers traceability features and a cloud-based infrastructure that is designed especially for the food and beverage industry. This ensures that manufacturers maintain rigorous industry compliance, from raw materials to finished products, by providing essential features like batch and expiry date tracking.
Its integrative capabilities connect with popular e-commerce and accounting tools, streamlining business processes and offering a holistic overview of operations. The software also boasts real-time stock tracking, accurate costing mechanisms, and comprehensive material requirements planning.
In food manufacturing, these features will ensure safety and quality–allowing you to make informed decisions. We liked how easy it was to get onboarded with Katana, which should let small businesses get fully operational in under a week. This level of simplicity and efficiency is why it’s a top option for small businesses.
5 Batchmaster ERP - Best for Compliance
Why We Chose It: BatchMaster’s ERP solution caters to a wide spectrum, from bakeries and beverages to dairy and sauces. It’s designed to streamline and scale up operations while assuring FDA compliance. The platform stands out with its emphasis on quality control, product consistency, and fluctuating ingredient price management.
Moreover, it’s about efficiency in execution. With its capability to integrate with leading financial systems like QuickBooks and Sage, businesses can enjoy seamless financial oversight. And for those with a global reach, its cloud-hosted architecture ensures consistent accessibility. Regular feature updates guarantee that businesses keep pace with evolving market needs.
Food manufacturers face unique challenges regarding food spoilage and regulatory compliance. Moving ingredients and products rapidly through the supply chain is vital to maintaining profitability. Food manufacturing software relieves many of the challenges of an unforgiving industry.
This guide will help you select food manufacturing software suited to your business:
What Is Food Manufacturing Software?
Food Manufacturing Software is a comprehensive digital solution designed specifically for the food industry. It offers a wide range of tools that streamline and automate various facets of food production, distribution, and management. These systems are designed to ensure that businesses can efficiently handle their production processes, track inventory, manage quality, and ensure compliance with food safety regulations. Given the unique challenges of the food industry - from perishability to regulatory requirements - these systems are tailored to offer functionalities that help businesses operate more efficiently and remain compliant.
Features of Food Manufacturing Software
- Front Office Suite: This includes a customer relationship management (CRM) system, helping businesses manage customer interactions and analyze data. Modules in this suite can include:
- Accounting and Financials: Track and report costs, measure the profitability of various products, and manage the financial aspects of food manufacturing.
- Sales: Manage sales quotes, track customer campaigns, and oversee discounts and promotions.
- Purchasing: Organize raw material procurement from certified vendors and align with production plans.
- Maintenance: Schedule regular maintenance for production lines and warehouse equipment to ensure optimal operation.
- Distribution: Handle store replenishments, manage inbound and outbound activities, and oversee inter-warehouse transfers.
- Product Development Tools: Advanced programming aids in the quick introduction of new products, ensuring they meet targeted nutritional and financial specifications.
- Inventory Control: Provides accurate demand planning and production scheduling to optimize raw material procurement and finished goods production.
- Production Automation: Automates various production processes, including dynamic recipe adjustments and batch job scheduling, to streamline operations.
- Quality and Compliance: Ensures compliance with industry regulations concerning nutritional labeling, allergen declarations, lot traceability, and recalls.
Traceability in Food Manufacturing
Traceability in food manufacturing software lets you track ingredients or food products that are intended for human consumption. The ingredients and products are tracked throughout the entire production cycle from primary production to processing and packaging to retail distribution and consumer purchasing.
Traceability allows you to respond quickly and recall or get rid of affected inventory if an issue arises. The earlier in the supply chain an issue is noticed and taken care of, the better. Contaminated products reaching the end consumer will cause health problems and tarnish your brand reputation.
Many regulatory agencies require traceability to improve food safety. Some compliances food manufacturers need to keep in mind include:
- 2002 Bioterrorism Act - Tracking every product batch and match ingredients with their individual batch number.
- Current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP) - Keep thorough records of sanitation, staff qualifications, and equipment verification to minimize contamination or errors in the manufacturing process.
- Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) - Track and monitor food storage, handling, and preparation processes to reduce hazard risks and take corrective action as needed.
- FDA 21 CFR Part 11 - Ensure electronic records are authentic and secure with digital electronic signatures, validation scripts, audit trails, and additional security features.
Benefits of Food Manufacturing Software
- Meet regulatory compliance standards: Food manufacturing software keeps all your data stored and well-organized, and automates reporting, so you can prove regulatory compliance.
- Ensure product consistency with recipe management: Recipes are stored within the software system to ensure the right ingredients and quantities are being used. Food manufacturing software also has batch scaling to ensure the product quality is consistent when you need to make more or less of the product.
- Increased profitability with reduced waste: Food manufacturing software helps you cut down on waste by planning for demand and keeping track of the ingredients you currently have in your inventory, so you don’t have to worry about overstocking or ordering ingredients at the wrong time.
- Improved supply chain management processes: Demand forecasting functionalities in food manufacturing software give you a deeper look into current and past trends. Being able to plan purchasing and production based on demand forecasts helps you more accurately determine supply and demand, increasing your ROI.
- Manage recalled ingredients or products: Organized, detailed records of your ingredients and products within the food manufacturing software system will allow you to quickly narrow down items that need to be recalled. A recall can be needed if the packaging is mislabeled, allergens aren’t declared, or products were cross-contaminated or spoiled. You need to be able to notify affected customers of the particular product or ingredient that is affected, where it came from, and where it was distributed as soon as you find the issue.
What Does Your Business Need?
Depending on the size of your business, you’ll want to prioritize certain features over others:
Small to Medium Businesses
Small and medium-sized businesses should look for software that has compliance management to ensure your business stays within state and federal regulations. Recipe management functionalities are also helpful for small and medium businesses to keep food quality consistent. Your food manufacturing system should also integrate easily with QuickBooks or another existing accounting system. If cost is a concern, some cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) food manufacturing software has a lower up-front cost and a low monthly subscription fee.
A comprehensive food manufacturing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution will be ideal for large businesses. Functionalities to look for include demand forecasting, compliance management, food traceability, ingredient inventory control, recipe management, and QC testing. Some ERP solutions popular among the food and beverage industry include Microsoft Dynamics GP and BatchMaster ERP.
There are solutions developed with food manufacturers in mind that are built on top of existing ERP solutions - for example, JustFoodERP is built on top of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. A solution built onto a Microsoft product will often have familiar features like Outlook, Excel, or Word. There are also more “generic” ERP solutions that are marketed toward food manufacturers because they are specialized in the field and have implemented their products successfully in that environment. For example, BatchMaster is an ERP designed for process manufacturing that includes functionalities to help with research and development, QC, packaging, formulation, compliance, and traceability.
Common Pain Points
Constantly changing consumer trends: Diets and health trends constantly change with each passing year. Consumers are more health-conscious now than ever - they want to know where their food is coming from, are focusing on organic produce, and look for healthier alternatives like using spices to color food instead of dyes. There has also been a shift from fat-free foods to natural foods with high levels of saturated fats like natural oils, full-fat dairy products, and grass-fed meat. Keeping up with consumer trends is especially important for food manufacturers. Your food manufacturing software needs to have demand forecasting capabilities, so you can plan production around consumer trends. The software solution can also keep track of where ingredients and products came from, giving consumers more transparency about their food.
Keeping up with strict regulations: Federal and state regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are constantly updating regulations. Keeping in compliance with regulations is vital to keep your business up and running, as well as ensure your food products are safe for consumers. Food manufacturing software handles reporting and keeps track of regulations to ensure you meet compliance requirements.
Labor shortage: According to Food Engineering’s article, “Digitizing the food and beverage work environment”, food manufacturers see staffing issues as one of their biggest challenges. More baby boomers are retiring and as automation becomes more common, it’s becoming more difficult to find workers who are qualified to operate the equipment.
Food & Beverage Industry Trends
Automation in food manufacturing: Food Engineering’s “State of Food Manufacturing Survey” found that 22% of respondents installed an advanced automation system. Food manufacturers are looking into automation software and hardware to cut down on costs as demand increases.
Focus on health: More consumers are focusing on “mindful eating”. According to Research and Markets, organic food & beverages market is projected to grow at CAGR of 14.8% by 2022. Consumers look for product packaging with “free from” claims (like “free from additives or artificial sweeteners”) and healthy snack alternatives. Non-dairy and plant-based meat alternatives are also becoming more popular. Consumers are also more concerned with where their food is coming from, as well as sustainability - it is becoming more important for consumers that manufacturing processes are minimizing environmental impact.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law to shift focus to preventing foodborne illnesses instead of just responding to incidents. The FSMA addresses food safety among different points along the global supply chain. Most businesses needed to be compliant with preventative controls for human food by September 2018. However, extensions allowed for qualifying businesses to push some compliance dates to January 2020. For more information on compliance dates, visit fda.gov.