ERP for meatpacking companies. 6 functions that really matter

6 Minutes

Many industries have very specific requirements when it comes to ERP systems. This is particularly true for the food industry and primarily the meat industry. But on what basis do you decide to choose one or the other? The following benchmarks addressing also future requirements will help you make a choice.

1. Flexible data capture at the source

ERP Software assists in structuring processes and streamlining workflows. This will not be possible without capturing data, ideally right at its source. It is only in this way that maximum efficiency improvements can be achieved in production, at the warehouse, and in logistics.

In the meat industry, you will need data acquisition hardware that is adapted to the manufacturing methods and that can cope with varying conditions like ambient temperature, humidity, or water. If stationary PC terminals are used for data capture, which are typically placed alongside the production processes in cutting, batch processing, or packing, you should make sure your equipment has the necessary IP code. For the warehouse and logistics areas, hand-held devices are available that have been specifically designed for stocktaking, item or order picking, and shipping entries.

The data from these terminals needs to be directly updated in the ERP system so that errors and delays from manual transfers are virtually eliminated and media-disruptions are non-existent. Additionally, the PC workstations and the ERP system in use should enable a direct integration of scales, scanners, and printers to allow easy and error-free data capture. 

2. Mobile access, anywhere

What has become a daily routine in many industries, posed a new challenge for the food industry during the coronavirus pandemic: working from home and remote access to an ERP system. An ERP system should always be internet-based and allow access from anywhere – you only need an appropriate device and an internet connection. The data generated is saved in the cloud in real time and can be accessed and shared remotely, including archived documents. Various plans, purchasing, and sales, as well as item, customer, and supplier data is managed independently of the location. All employees can access this information anytime, anywhere, whether they are working in the field or from home. Real-time data updates make all business relations transparent and substantially improve the communication within the operation. 

3. A clear overview of production planning

Production planning is the heart of manufacturing companies and one aspect of operational management. Its main objective is to achieve maximum continuity and reliability in production, while flexibly responding to changes and ensuring optimum use of production resources. Your ERP system therefore should meet several requirements for efficient production planning:

Bills of materials and job schedules, which are easy to create and coordinate, build the basic framework of production planning. They can have a multilevel structure and they are schedulable, in line with the production processes. The orders entered in the ERP system, which can be planned with or without a direct reference to customers, lead on to material requirements planning. The ERP system needs to assist you in deploying raw materials, auxiliary supplies, and operating materials with maximum efficiency while providing real-time information on quantity, quality, and availability. A scheduling board visualizes the production plans with a timeline and varying horizons (for example, day or week views) and indicates the availability of human resources and machines. Production orders can be rescheduled on other machines via drag and drop and automatically optimized in accordance with predefined production processes (start with organic products and end with allergens).

Modern ERP systems come with integrated calculation functions based on bills of materials. These features will allow you to perform price calculations and draw conclusions for further process optimization.



4. Machine integration through MES 

Irrespective of the final product, the production processes in the meat industry are heavily based on machines and equipment. With the emergence of Industry 4.0, we have seen an in increase in the use of machines and comprehensive systems as individual machines were combined into lines, and in the accumulation of data gained from these lines. For companies with a high use of machines and equipment, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES or production control system) have become essential.

The MES should be an integral part of the ERP system. It visualizes machine data, automatic data capture, and resource planning. Based on this information, it enables planning, management, and control of production processes in real time. A comprehensive ERP system, including MES, enables businesses in the meat industry to take direct action in case of an incident and to prevent breakdowns and unplanned downtime in production. The key performance indicators supplied by MES ensure uninterrupted process flows and include equipment availability and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

5. Predictive maintenance – keeping your equipment running

With their products, equipment manufacturers make a continuous contribution to the necessary automation of the meat industry. Besides the OPC UA interface, they are developing other standardized interfaces that harmonize the hitherto heterogeneous data processing. These interfaces also provide for the required transparency and facilitate the automated transfer of data to ERP systems. The integration of equipment and the portrayal of metrics in an ERP system provide the means for preventive, KPI-based maintenance.

The current strategy mix in the food industry still emphasizes reactive and preventive measures, which leads to increased machine downtime and production breakdown. Predictive maintenance enhances process reliability, reduces costs by reducing the downtime of the equipment, and helps to improve wear-out reserve levels. This inevitably increases the importance of predictive maintenance as part of the MRO strategy mix. Goals like reducing emergency repairs, shortening repair times, and improving the maintenance task completion ratio will be achievable. 

6. Optimization through reporting and KPI

Classic ERP systems assist with the creation of reports as a basis for short-term improvements in the business processes. This is particularly useful for small and mid-sized businesses as they can achieve high gains at low costs. Whatever the perspective is – whether materials, man, machine, capital, energy, or the interaction thereof –, process planning and control is an essential factor for operations to work efficiently. ERP systems determine measures that are built/derived from defined real-time data and that can be adapted to the requirements of single departments, production stages, or other individual areas.

The advantages of reporting and KPIs are evident. The cost of production can be reduced while the product quality is improved. The scheduling of resources is less time consuming, costs are minimized, and customer retention is enhanced because orders are planned and processed in an optimal manner. All of this is possible when the analytical methods of an ERP system are integrated into aggregate reports and measures of the business strategy. 

The ultimate in ERP software comes from a provider with meat industry expertise

The food industry, and especially the meat industry, has specific requirements for ERP software. Besides legal requirements and standards, transparent and flexible data capture alongside the supply chain must be possible. Subareas like receiving, cutting and production, packing, as well as picking and shipping need to be represented in the software. Integrated quality management is also a must. ERP software for the food industry covers all of these applications, plus numerous other functions to assist with all specific requirements, like compliance with cold chains or observing expiry dates.

So, for businesses in the food industry, having an ERP partner with experience in that sector is important. Industry-oriented ERP providers know their customers, and they are familiar with the difficulties and challenges that need to be considered in the implementation and operation of the software. Already during the on-site inspection, experience and industry expertise will help to choose the positions where data needs to be captured, and which modules should be used at the company. An experienced ERP software vendor speaks your language, gives advice on the implementation of key functions to meet your requirements and optimize your business processes, and contributes services to sustainably improve your business in the long term.