As a supermarket owner or manager, your top priority is securing unhampered business growth while providing the best products and shopping experience for your customers. Like any business, supermarkets are susceptible to setbacks that can frustrate shoppers and result to a loss in revenue. Inventory may run out at the most inconvenient instances, while tragedies like cyclones and fires may lead to loss of products and inability to conduct business. A comprehensive ERP solution can help you overcome challenges like these and others you may encounter in overseeing your supermarket’s operations.
An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a suite of applications that helps streamline your business operations. ERP collects, collates and integrates information within your supermarket, allowing you to monitor and manage the various aspects of your operations and giving you insights into your key performance indicators (KPI). An ERP system delivers data in real time to provide you with superior visibility and give you the opportunity to respond to any relevant event in a timely manner.
Today’s ERP solutions are a far cry from their precursors in the 1960s and 1970s which featured limited inventory and balance monitoring functionalities. You’d find most ERP software to be very robust, offering a host of features that will work wonders for your supermarket.
- See how your supermarket performs in relation to your goals, allowing you to formulate better strategies to enhance sales and boost revenue, to name a few.
- Automate business processes such as orders and invoices while reducing the risk of errors to minimise delays and allow more accurate forecasts.
- Access information about the different aspects of your supermarket, from your inventory to your suppliers, in an easy-to-use database.
- Provide better, more efficient service to improve your relationship with your customers and facilitate customer retention.
That said, you need to find a solution that meets the needs and requirements of your supermarket so you get the best results. Here are ten considerations that you can look into when searching for the best ERP system for your business:
Your supermarket has needs that are unique from those of your competitors. A customised ERP will address your business’ specific requirements, enabling you to perfectly align the system with your processes and goals. Imagine having a highly trained assistant helping you manage your supermarket; that is how a customised ERP functions.
Providers like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and NetSuite offer systems that vendors can customise for your supermarket. You can speak to your vendor and discuss the extent of customisation you want to ensure that the system has all the features your business needs.
You can either get open source or licensed software. The former, being free, means big savings. It is, however, hard to come by free ERP that actually gives you the specific features you need.
For licensed ERP, you can negotiate pricing with the vendor to reduce costs. ERP software is a long-term investment, so planning ahead for future expenses will help you create a workable budget. Consider obtaining a future discount option from your vendor. This allows you to ask for specific prices or discounts for any purchase you might make in the future. This strategy lets you create accurate forecasts of software-related expenses.
Your ERP system will need regular maintenance to keep it updated and running at optimal speeds. Maintenance costs are decided by the ERP providers and are sometimes subject to price increases. A great way to save on maintenance or licensing fees is to ask your vendors about providing licenses for only a few select members of your staff, preferably your managers.
You may then ask the vendors if they have the capability to create a portal where other team members can perform system-related functions specific to their duties. For example, warehouse staff can use a portal to input inventory data even if they do not have access to the entire ERP system. This will help curb costs while reducing errors.
3. Stability and Scalability
The ideal ERP system must be able to grow with your supermarket. It must be stable and scalable enough to handle growing customer demand and changing product costs, as well as your business’ expansion into a bigger, better supermarket or even the addition of more branches. There are four areas where the scalability of the ERP system can be measured:
- Utilization – will your system have enough memory space to allow more products in your inventory?
- Platform – will your ERP system remain efficient even if you upgrade your computers?
- User count – will your system stay usable even when you grow your workforce and increase the number of its users?
- Functionality – will the system be amicable to increased workflow once your supermarket grows?
There are several ways by which you can implement your ERP system. If you want as little disruption to your business as possible, then phase-by-phase implementation is the way to go. This approach means that your business continues as usual even as the members of your staff are still transitioning into the new system.
Phased implementation takes time, but the waiting is well worth it. Implementing the entire system in one go might seem faster in principle, but it leaves little room for errors to be addressed immediately. Phased implementation takes several steps, with enough time between each segment for the vendors to perform tests and fix bugs and glitches along the way. Because of this, problems such as erroneous sales and inventory tracking are avoided.
You may enquire from your vendor about performing parallel-runs. This is an important step in comparing data between your new and old system, if you have one. Simulation may take time, so discussing your options with your vendor will ensure that it does not interrupt your business.
Under ideal circumstances, a single ERP system handles all aspects of your supermarket operations, from your suppliers and warehousing to inventory and financials. This is, of course, not always the case. Some supermarkets install select ERP modules for specific tasks while performing other tasks on existing software.
Therefore, your ERP system should be capable of integrating with the databases and systems that you already have in place. Your processes, operations and vital records depend heavily on the system’s capacity to integrate its functionalities even with other systems. This will avoid technical incompatibilities and other problems such as miscommunication with your warehouse or suppliers.
If you run a chain of supermarkets, you also have to think about integrating your new ERP system with the software used in your other store locations. Software incompatibilities can be costly, so keeping a close eye on how your new system performs relative to your existing software will help your business immensely.
User-friendliness is one of the first factors you may have to look into when choosing an ERP system. Some of your staff may not be very computer-savvy, so implementing an ERP system that contains easy-to-use features and simple interface will improve productivity and lessen the risk of mistakes. Additionally, ease-of-use will shorten training time as your staff will be more likely to master the system within a brief period.
A great way to make any ERP system user-friendly is the ability to operate on role-based permissions and reports. This means that members of the staff will only be able to access and manage sections of the system that are relevant to their tasks. This way, they will not have to learn features that they will end up not using anyway.
Support is vital because you do not know when something will go wrong with the system. Your vendor will most likely have a 24/7 support team that can render assistance any time of the day, ensuring that your business goes through little disruption even in the face of an ERP issue. Your maintenance agreement with them will define the scope of support they can offer to you and it may cover anything from your software to your hardware.
Little glitches may lead to loss of vital data or the impairment of the system’s capabilities. If you have an in-house support team, they can help diagnose the issue and determine whether or not an escalation to the vendor is in order. There is no need to worry as most types of ERP software today are in the cloud so issues can be resolved quickly even without your vendor’s support team going to your premises.
8. Disaster Recovery
Disasters, such as natural calamities, criminal activities and security attacks, can strike unexpectedly and lead to the destruction of your hardware. You must be able to retrieve vital records and data even after your hardware is damaged.
Recovering or rebuilding data can be a daunting and expensive task, and will potentially lead to many lost opportunities for revenue. Make sure that the system partly, if not completely, operates in the cloud. This means that your business data is stored outside your physical servers, allowing you to access them even after your physical servers have been compromised.
A good ERP software also generates back-ups of your files that are stored in secure servers outside your premises. These back-ups may be created manually or automatically on a regular basis. They may also be available for retrieval should the need arise.
As a supermarket owner, you will not always be in your place of business all the time and may have to go on vacation or a business trip. The same is true about your staff. An ERP system designed to accommodate mobile technology will give you and your managers a view of your supermarket’s operations from the convenience of a mobile device. If anything comes up, you can make a decision on time and relay it to the staff at your supermarket.
ERP on mobile may also improve customer experience. When asked about which products are in stock, your staff only needs to turn to the real-time inventory list or a similar feature provided by the system via their mobile device. This is not just a convenient time-saver, it also makes your staff appear more competent to your customers.
10. End-User Training
The advantages offered by your ERP system is maximised only in the hands of capable users. Your vendor may provide a team of specialists who will train your staff on the software and how its features can be used to benefit your supermarket. You can enquire from your vendor whether this training team will come from them or if they will refer you to a licensed third party focused on training for the system.
If you want to train your people without having to compromise your business hours, a good idea is to speak with your vendor or trainers and schedule the training in such a way that your staff will learn the system while business proceeds normally. This places a heavier emphasis on choosing easy-to-use systems as they shorten your training time dramatically.
Vaco Resources’ Gene Hammons describes the search for the ideal ERP system brilliantly by likening it to “a kind of puzzle, fitting all the pieces into a budget frame.” On one hand, the system must be well within your financial means. On the other hand, it must be fast, versatile, and must contribute to an efficient supermarket. It must allow you to respond accordingly and help you make decisions that will have a positive impact on your store, your staff and your shoppers. The search for the ideal ERP may not be fast, but the considerations above are a good start.
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