purchasing departments join the race

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At a time when major retailers are facing unprecedented challenges, there is no doubt that purchasing functions will play an increasingly strategic role in the future.

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As many industries – digital revolution and health crisis oblige – digital transformation is currently underway within procurement departments, with some differences. For example, in 2020, all sectors combined, 62% of purchasing departments had already implemented or were in the process of implementing a strategy in this area. But in the agri-food sector it was only 9%. However, within companies that have taken the plunge, 79% of decision makers see improvements in their business performance and organizational benefits after implementing a digital solution.

The advantages of such an approach, aimed at the future, are numerous: the increase in productivity, the smoothing of the purchasing cycle, the reduction of supplier risks or even the strengthening of the autonomy of the teams are regularly mentioned by experts as important assets that arising from digital transformation.

In addition to these performance levers, there is better contract compliance, regulatory constraints and, of course, significant simplification and cost reduction: in 2022, these will be the main motivations for 67% of agri-food companies engaged in a digitalization process .

The fruit and vegetable sector has many specific characteristics

After all, it is a sector with a wide range of specificities, which are not easy for the purchasing departments to manage.

First specificity: the characteristics of fresh produce orders can change every day. How to automate orders for products whose characteristics can change every day? This is one of the biggest challenges that the fresh produce sector has to face in order to imagine the digitization of processes: the availability of products, the differences in weight ordered versus received, all information related to the product, are only known after the purchase operation, making logistics management becomes complex and the repetition of tasks.

Another specificity is the disparate origin of the products. These are sold by a wide range of suppliers, from small local producers to large farmers. Its perishable and fragile nature also naturally complicates logistics. Some work habits and methods are very established. But the contribution of digital means significant efficiency gains for the associated processes. Referring to new products, improving local organic price comparisons between suppliers are all tasks that gain speed and reliability. The resulting time savings can be used for higher value-added tasks such as analyzing purchases or even identifying new needs.

Identify suitable technology solutions

If the industry is only at the beginning of its transformation, it seems inevitable. At a time when CSR obligations and food traceability are strong points for brand differentiation, accurate and rigorous control of countless parameters becomes essential. Cultivation methods, fishing areas, devices and equipment used, processing times at every stage of the chain are all characteristics that you need to know, update in real time and communicate easily and quickly.

A digitized product repository is needed to control these parameters from start to finish. With such a solution, suppliers can get on board to structure and standardize their products. The buyer thus benefits from complete visibility within a single tool that integrates all the attributes that must be known for each product.

The lack of e-purchasing tools adapted to the specifics of the fresh produce sector also explains the slowdown experienced by companies. Completely manual or partly digitized processing with software developed internally over time is largely the rule within organizations. But today, tailor-made solutions exist to meet the needs of the sector. Thanks to their interoperability, these tools have the advantage that they can be connected to all internal information systems. This evolution of the technological offering should accelerate the transformation of the sector.

At a time when CSR priorities and managing supply and price constraints are becoming major challenges, digital technology presents itself as a gift from heaven to lead companies into a new era of flow control, efficiency and guarantees. There is no doubt that purchasing functions will play an increasingly strategic role within organizations in the future.

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