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The Age-Old Debate: Best of Breed or ERP Suites in the Food Industry


Let’s start with a real-world story to illustrate the difficulties often faced by food processors:  Company X gets an ERP package thinking it’s a great foundation with which to run their business. They’re right in many ways. It has many valuable features that are particularly useful in the office – accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, costing engines, etc. It’s a great start, but things begin to fall apart as soon as they try to stretch the ERP for use in operations. They run in to problems­—the user interface is difficult for factory staff to use, they run into unit of measure conversion issues, production scheduling or other food factory specific challenges are not easily handled. Customizing the ERP to accommodate these unique challenges is both expensive and time consuming, so the company continues on, doing the best they can. Eventually it becomes so difficult that they abandon use of the ERP on the shop floor and revert to Excel and manual based systems. Man-hours are consumed, doubling data entry so plant information makes its way to the ERP. It’s great that the ERP is able to receive that data, but unfortunately the information is no longer real-time, there is an increase in manual errors, and the ERP is functioning well for only a portion of the operation. Best of Breed is an approach that allows companies to keep and enhance what they love about their ERP and still have a well-functioning system for the factory. Not only that, but the ERP will now be more valuable as it has real-time data from the plant available for calculations and analysis.

As the story illustrates, manufacturing and distribution is a complex endeavor no matter what the product. It’s especially tricky when your product is food. The food industry is unique and diverse, often fast-paced, fluid and highly regulated. These rigorous demands present challenges that traditional “command and control” ERP systems are incapable of addressing.

What is ERP?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is like a toolbox full of the most commonly used tools- screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, a wrench. They all work well together and meet a lot of needs…but if you need a specialized tool, you’re out of luck. Let’s say you need to chop wood.  You have that hammer, a screwdriver, pliers and a wrench. They are really useful, but they just can’t chop wood.

When accounting-centric solutions are adopted to manage the entire organization, food operations, specifically production, are left trying to chop wood with a screwdriver. This often results in a loss of competitive edge or being forced to hire programmers specifically to customize and support their solution. Either way, while meeting the needs of the front office, manufacturers end up with plant solutions that are cumbersome, hinder the efficiency of operations, and are expensive to maintain.

Best of Breed

Best of Breed is your axe. If your company has specific needs that are difficult or impossible for a single ERP to address, consider Best of Breed software.

The Best of Breed approach will allow your accounting software to focus on what it was designed to do and avoid forcing it into a role it was never intended to fill. Implementation of Best of Breed software on the operations end will meet the rigorous needs of your factory floor. The ERP and Best of Breed software integrate and work well together—you get the very best for each purpose rather than relying on one system that wasn’t designed to meet your every need.

Advantages of Best of Breed Software

  • Simple User Interface for Plant Floor. People in an office need a different interface than people with gloves, who often don’t speak English, who just started this new job, or who are moving as fast as they can. Best of Breed allows different users the experience they need to enhance and enable their job rather than burden it.
  • Keep what you love about your ERP. Best of Breed software will seamlessly integrate with your ERP, allowing you to keep what you love while addressing the most critical and riskiest parts of your plant operations—such as procurement, processing, inventory control, weighing, and labeling.
  • Eliminate side-spreadsheets to manage unique process needs. No more man-hours spent trying to manage spreadsheets that fill in gaps where ERP falls short.  Best of Breed processing software is specifically designed to manage those gaps AND keep information real-time.
  • Stay Flexible as you Grow. Having a focused, Best of Breed approach means that the software solution can stay ahead of the curve on industry changes as well as enables the owner of the software to go outside for another Best of Breed platform if the new business requires it–you are not locked into only one path for your software needs.

On the Rise

The Best of Breed approach is a trend that an increasing number of food processors are embracing, including companies like Trident Seafoods, Peterson Farms, Happy Apples, and Iowa Pacific Processors.

This approach allows these operations to maintain their flexibility, gives the plant workers the best possible tools, and lets the company choose a simpler accounting package to track financials. It also allows for a flexible approach to system upgrades, modular application maintenance, and a wide variety of options.

ParityFactory is one option for a Best of Breed solution that can provide critical components of the plant operations.  Contact us to learn more.


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