The fresh produce sector is often labeled as "traditional", but this is unfair. The sector is increasingly adopting technology to streamline operations, as we at Consentio can testify from the increasing demand for our digital solutions.
Digitization is an opportunity, not a threat. It gives you an opportunity to review your business and ask ‘how can we improve?’ As such, it opens up new opportunities for companies and their employees.
Consolidation, standardization and globalization are all impacting the sector and creating ‘drivers for change’, as are the demands for safety, traceability, innovation and freshness. Combine this with increasing regulation, personnel shortages and it is no wonder that fresh produce companies are looking at technology and digitization in a new light.
And it is not just the bigger companies who are impacted by this. Organizations operating on a local scale or with smaller volumes also have everything to gain from digitizing their operations.
However, simply digitizing what you do now is missing an opportunity. Introducing digital technology will impact people and processes, so it is a great opportunity to consciously improve your business processes and so improve your competitive edge. The digital revolution can also be seen as an opportunity to improve day-to-day working conditions and enhance skills.
Almost all medium-sized and large ‘produce’ companies use an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, i.e. integrated management software that centralizes and controls operational and financial functions, as well as documenting the life of the company. However, even with an ERP system, the taking of orders is very often handled manually using many different communication tools including phone, fax, SMS, WhatsApp, email etc. The final order is ultimately being typed into the ERP system - which in itself introduces errors. In such a world, it can be very difficult to track ‘what has been said to whom and when’.
As well as orders, there are sometimes order forecasts being sent in advance for confirmation the next day. This also generates manual work as sales staff must check the orders line by line to identify orders that may have changed. All in all, the order taking function is a tiring manual task which, almost by definition, is slow and prone to error.
Automating these tasks sounds like (and is!) a brilliant idea! Save time, reduce errors and accelerate order velocity with the ERP system always being up to date. However, even with simple easy-to-use technology, it must be implemented correctly, as it will impact both the business processes and the employees.
The project requires preparation and involvement from the staff concerned who should be involved from the outset to ensure they have‘buy-in’. Acceptance, understanding and motivation are essential for the continuity of an organization whose activity relies on its staff. Increasingly, knowing how to manage change is a skill all businesses and produce companies need to master. It is so vital that larger produce companies employ specialist consulting firms that have made it their specialty. Consentio, by offering high-performance digital solutions, is part of the sector's digital revolution, and we are fully aware of the challenges this can create within companies.
Jonathan Goumon, Business Development Manager at Consentio, comments: "A system - no matter how well thought-out and adapted to your needs - will only work if it is accepted and even acclaimed by the team. If the team believes in it, and it is ‘their solution, then the system will fly! Our mission is to support our customers in this transformation. And that's where our knowledge of industry comes into its own: at Consentio, we have a detailed understanding of the issues that produce companies are facing, and how our solutions are able to respond. We are also very familiar with the day-to-day lives of sales teams, and the questions and concerns that they are likely to raise when facing changes in working practices”.
The Consentio team offers customized training and daily support to its customers during the implementation of a digitization project. The support then continues with the company's own developments. Jonathan continues: "Working with the Consentio platform should result in an increase in the effectiveness of the teams, which will in turn translate into an improvement in your customer service levels. Having a realistic project roadmap for the implementation and ambassadors who support the tool internally, are the keys to a successful implementation. "
One outcome of the digital revolution will be to reshape the purchasing and sales professions making them more rewarding, more creative, and so increasing job satisfaction. And as we all know, staff are in short supply and the younger generations have been born into technology and use it in all aspects of their lives. With all these influences, how much longer can the sector continue to operate with outdated 'traditional 'methods?
Jean-Baptiste, from Ame Haslé, testifies: "Before, I used to spend whole mornings updating files in 5 different programs, processing orders received by telephone, e-mail, audio messages, text or even photos of sketchy annotations that I had to know how to decipher... purely reactive work, often done in a hurry and with the fear of forgetting or making mistakes, which then had to rectify in the afternoon. Today, I've reduced the time I spend on these tasks to a minimum, and I devote myself to the real needs of my customers and suppliers. I see my job differently, my real added value, and that gives me a great feeling."
The implementation of intelligent systems gives buyers and sellers more time to work on the things that are really important. You are no longer ‘chasing your tail’! And this ‘time to think’ is an essential ingredient for developing impactful projects and relationships that will make a real contribution in the future. "This is particularly important when managing change, because while the evolution of business lines may be obvious to some, it also raises questions, especially among more mature teams who have always operated in the 'old-fashioned' way. It may take a little time, but the day will come when everyone in the organization will be benefiting from a well-tailored digital solution” concludes Jonathan.
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