KANSAS CITY - The last year has only proved the importance of tightly managing the inventory commissaries, central kitchens, and other third-party kitchens have on hand. As the pandemic continues to alter the speed of the food chain and consumer preferences, third party kitchens are gong to want to ensure their inventory management is integrated with all parts of their planning system, said Mike Edgett, vice president of product marketing for Atlanta, Ga.-based Sage Software.

“From an inventory management perspective the question is going to be do [production facilities and distributors] have the tools in place to give them good visibility of the inventory?” said Edgett. “Your inventory management has to be aligned to be able to look at your supply management.”

It’s helpful to have an inventory management system that is capable of keeping track of not only what’s in stock but  includes features such as shelf-life, traceability and quality management. For larger commissaries and central kitchens, it is also beneficial to have software that’s able to keep up with where supplier and retailer inventory is at in the food chain.

For facilities looking to improve their inventory management function, Edgett encourages companies to first dig deep into the inventory management software they already have in place.

“Before they go out and buy a new system, they need to understand what they already have, because too often they’re not taking advantage of the capabilities that may have already been built into their solution,” Edgett said. “Where we see companies struggle is when they’ve bought an inventory management solution that doesn’t understand the nuances of the food industry.”

The right inventory management software will help facilities manage four key areas:

  • Achieving compliance while managing costs – Production facilities need to invest in efficient and accurate tracking along the supply chain that can ensure meeting food safety regulations.
  • Preparing for possible recalls – The financial risk from recalls can be catastrophic. The right technology can help facilities plan and manage potential ingredient or product recalls.
  • Maintaining consistency – As supply, demand and the marketplace continue to change, retailers are still expecting consistency from commissary and central-kitchen-made products. Proper inventory management can help facilities stay in control, keep costs down and retain flexibility.
  • Accountability – With the increased demand for sustainability, businesses need to be held accountable for their impact on the supply chain. Inventory Management can provide real-time data that helps cut down on waste and lost sales.

Taking stock of current practices

Effective inventory management is purpose driven, noted Asavin Wattanajantra, Sage’s global business content creator.

“Understand what each link in the chain does – this allows you to focus on the specific aspects of your system that need improving,” Wattanajantra said. “Consult with other members of your team to identify potential problem areas and start there.”

Wattanajantra pointed to seven key areas facilities should focus on to improve inventory management function:

  • Minimize overproduction by increasing visibility and controls to align production, purchasing, and logistics.
  • Avoid too much inventory with demand planning and modeling tools to support just-in-time production.
  • Eliminate waiting by providing staff with the access they need to streamline decisions and approvals with automation.
  • Solve transport problems by timing production and logistics, avoiding moving goods from one place to another needlessly.
  • Prevent over-processing and focus on actions that only create value – such as the creation of a bill of materials.
  • Stop unnecessary motion by providing data that ensures your machinery is working in the most efficient, productive, and effective way.
  • Put controls in place to wipe out defects, acknowledge where the deviations are, and stop them at the source.

Solutions tailored to fit

Sage Software has several different solutions that Edgett recommends based on the complexity of individual companies. Sage’s inventory management software can be tailored to fit the many unique requirements of the food and beverage industry.

Sage Software offers three main solutions:

  • Sage 100 – built for security and compliance, Sage 100 is highly customizable and made for companies that need to scale their operations to automate processes, connect employees, and gain business insight. The software can help users simplify financials, take control of business, save time with automation, and improve report accuracy.
  • Sage 300cloud – all-in-one business management software. Sage 300cloud is for companies who need software that manages their finances, operations and inventory in multiple languages and currencies. Ideal for businesses with operations across several cities and countries, the software gives users visibility across their entire company.
  • Sage Business Cloud, Sage X3 - From procurement to production, warehousing, e-commerce and sales, and financial and people management, Sage X3 helps businesses gain a faster, simpler, and more flexible way to manage the entire business at a lower cost, on a global scale.

“It really fundamentally comes down to understanding where your problems are, and then we can figure out the best solution,” said Edgett. “In some cases, you may have a situation where kitchens and commissaries are having issues with having to throw out products because it’s out of code or the quality is going bad so that becomes an issue of focusing more on how can we help you do better at managing your inventory in that way?”

Unleashed Software, TradeGecko join new parent companies

Inventory management companies Unleashed Software and TradeGecko both joined new companies in the last quarter of 2020. Unleashed Software was acquired by The Access Group in November 2020, and TradeGecko joined Intuit under the new name of QucikBooks Commerce.

Unleashed’s parent company The Access Group helps more than 35,000 customers across commercial and not-for-profit sectors become more productive and efficient.

“Joining Access gives Unleashed a new level of expertise in the provision of integrated software solutions, an acceleration of our product development and gives our customers the opportunity to explore a wider range of ERP and business management solutions from a single provider,” said Gareth Berry, chief executive officer of Unleashed. “We set out over a decade ago to give businesses the freedom to better make, manage and move products — We believe that Good Products Matter and have championed consumer choice by building the best software with a great team to support our customers to achieve their business potential.”

Intuit partners with seven million small business worldwide. Under the new partnership with Intuit, TradeGecko integrated with QuickBooks’ suite of financial, payment, reporting and accounting tools that will help product sellers run and grow their business, all in one powerful platform under the new name of QuickBooks Commerce.

“In 2012, Bradley, Carl and I founded TradeGecko with the mission to enable entrepreneurs to build the business of their dreams. We’ve been able to serve thousands of customers in over 100 countries, processing over $13.9 billion in USD,” said Cameron Priest, co-founder and chief executive officer of QuickBooks Commerce. “All of this has been made possible with the support of our amazing customers and our incredible team of Geckos. With Intuit, we’re now able to take it to new heights.”