All along the food supply chain, companies are adopting sophisticated inventory management programs to improve their efficiencies and boost their bottom lines —and commissaries are no exception.

Many retailers are exploring fresh production within commissaries, central kitchens and other offsite facilities to address some of their labor challenges and product quality standards, said Joe Smirlies, senior vice president of product management of Toronto-based Invafresh. And they’re using “grocery-centric” inventory management products created by Invafresh and other companies to help them.

“Utilizing non-grocery centric solutions undervalues the benefits of a highly heterogeneous and integrated solution that Invafresh offers,” Smirlies said. “We offer commissaries direct access to instore insights, especially with consumer demand and inventory positions for all products produced by these facilities.”

In addition, the Invafresh platform seamlessly transforms instore needs into large scale multi-store production plans and source ingredient replenishment requirements for one or many commissaries or other offsite facilities used by retailers, he added.

In the past year, Invafresh has made a number of improvements to its suite of inventory management solutions, Smirlies said.

Most notably, the platform now has additional tools for more intelligent based cycle counting that drives operators to the most critical and sensitive items while considering the limitation of available labor on a day to day basis.

The platform has also extended the view of instore fresh inventories for use in fresh buyer and warehouse workflows, such as intelligent warehouse allocations and aggregated forecasts that includes fresh demand from all transformational sources, whether it be by recipe, cut-test or direct to consumer sale.

“From our perspective, enhancing the retailer’s ability, while making it easier, to manage fresh inventory more effectively drives greater adoption while increasing the quality and accuracy of production plans and recommended backroom orders in both push and pull replenishment models,” Smirlies said.

Invafresh’s customers tell the company they love the ease of use of the Invafresh application and the ability to teach others how to use it quickly, said Russ Newall, Invafresh’s vice president of customer success.

“By following a few easy operating procedures, they can be producing for the current day’s demand within a matter of minutes,” he said.

In addition, merchandisers appreciate the ability of Invafresh’s production planning system to ensure that the products they want on the shelf are there when they need them. 

“The ability to guarantee that the full assortment of products are on the shelf every day at the right time is one of the key benefits of production planning,” Newall said. “Customers appreciate knowing that their product will be available when they come into the store.”

The flexibility of Invafresh’s solutions and the ability to support both mobile and PC based applications are other things that separate the company from its competitors, he added, pointing out that many retailers are now introducing paperless mobile technology to every store associate to further improve efficiency and modernize their operations.

That helps increase labor efficiency, which Newall said is particularly important now, when so many companies are having trouble finding workers.

Smirlies agreed.

“Fundamentally, our solution changes the roles of the instore fresh labor force. Finding talented managers is an ongoing struggle. We recognize that making operators into good inventory managers versus good production/replenishment managers, where experience and process sophistication challenges even the most qualified operators, opens opportunities to tap into a less experienced and transient workforce.”

It's easier, he added, to teach someone to count than to teach them to create quality orders and production plans. 

In the food industry of today, it’s not enough to just be a software company, Newall said. Invafresh’s customer success team understands the challenges of fresh and works closely with its stakeholders to further drive value from their software by providing actionable insights to its merchant, operations and IT teams.  

Invafresh’s inventory management solutions make ordering easy, Newall said. The recommended orders are displayed for review on mobile devices, meaning that backroom products can be ordered in just a few minutes.

Looking ahead to 2022, Invafresh looks forward to continuing to advance its cloud solutions, functionality and services to meet the changing needs of its global grocer customers, said Tim Spencer, the company’s CEO and president.

“Our goal is always to develop new versions that will enhance the user experience and help perform instore tasks more efficiently, whether the user is a store associate or a C-level executive,” he said. “It’s this mindset paired with our incredible team of ‘freshologists’ that allowed Invafresh to grow and to see continued success.”