Production Costing and More Data-Driven Icicle ERP Features for Food Manufacturers: 2022 Round-up
The past couple of years have been plagued with major supply chain disruptions for food manufacturers, but we know that every problem is also another opportunity to grow Icicle ERP and meet our users’ needs in new and innovative ways. One of the biggest releases that excited us from 2022 was Production Costing, which leverages Icicle’s proprietary automation technology to generate real-time costing data and protect profit margins, even in the face of the unexpected.
Innovations like Production Costing are the reason Icicle ERP was recognized as one of Food Logistics’ Top Software & Technology Providers for the second year in a row. Since our last feature round-up, Icicle has expanded to deliver many new features for food and beverage manufacturers, from big automation improvements with predictive algorithms (like Production Costing) to integrations with QuickBooks Online to support and quality of life improvements like our new Help Widget and expanded support for Traditional Chinese characters. To celebrate a great year, take a look through some of the highlights of Icicle ERP’s development in 2022.
Production Costing Features for Real-Time Cost Analysis
Amidst persisting supply chain disruptions that lead to unpredictable supply and operation costs, Icicle started off 2022 by providing users with heightened cost analysis functions. Rooted in Icicle’s powerful automated data management and collection features, the new Projected Costing Pane gathers real-time information from all other areas of Icicle to calculate expected material and labour costs for each unique production run and batch size.
The new Projected Costing Pane builds upon a slew of costing features we’ve released since 2020 to give our users the best insights into their operations and efficiency. In 2022, we added even more accuracy and detail by showing cost data (in actual numbers and as percentages) for all ingredients, materials, and packaging in any formula. That means that Icicle users see what aspects of production are contributing the most to overall costs at a glance. We also added other details to optimize production costing features, like a new cost field for receiving staff and automatic currency conversions (based on daily exchange rates) to ensure that any inventory you purchase in another currency is always accurately calculated to protect profitability.
Costing data is also invaluable during the sales process itself, helping you set competitive but profitable rates on your products. Icicle ERP now shows product costing information (again, based on real-time data) directly from the Sales Order Interface so your Sales team can quickly access important information during sales negotiations – all in one place. Sales staff can also use Icicle’s new pricing and price list features to set different prices for larger (or smaller) volume sales, which they can use to incentivize customers to buy more to increase value, and easily clone price lists to reduce manual input.
Accounting and Sales Features for Your Optimal Pricing Strategy
One of our highly-requested feature releases (after Production Costing) was a fully customizable API integration with QuickBooks Online. Users can now automatically transfer all information generated in Icicle to Quickbooks Online, even granular information like inventory-level tracking. This integration marks Icicle ERP’s full foray into accounting features, bridging the gap between all aspects of your food business.
The QuickBooks Online integration was quickly followed by new features to create bills and invoices directly from a purchase or sales order, containing information with all of the associated freight costs and taxes. Icicle can sync this data with QuickBooks Online or other accounting software and maintain updated records for you To ensure that only complete inventory information (and the associated costs) is synchronized, we added a “Finalize” button to the Receiving interface that lets authorized users verify the information before it is updated in your accounting records.
To help your sales team work to maximize profit, we’ve enhanced our Sales Order Interface to foster better communication between the inventory and sales departments with a handy reference for current inventory that users can see when they create a sales order. The interface only displays items that have not yet been allocated to other customers in order to prevent the possibility of overselling inventory. We’ve also added a Sales Order Cloning feature which lets users copy previously made sales orders and edit them as needed. Once orders are made, sales team members can monitor which lot codes were shipped from that sales order directly from the Sales Order Page dropdown menu, improving efficiency with customer communications.
Inventory Management and Purchasing Suggestions to Minimize Waste and Maximize Profit Margins
Better communication is essential to production efficiency, especially when it comes to inventory management (and traceability). In July of 2022, we revised our inventory management system so that once items are allocated for future products or sales orders, Icicle will only display the remaining inventory levels.
The Production Run Allocation feature improves communication between the inventory, production, and sales departments to ensure that production doesn’t begin without the right quantities of ingredients on hand, and to ensure that dual products (products used both as raw material and sold directly to customers) are not oversold.
To monitor inventory levels and make sure that there is adequate stock to begin production, we improved our dynamic Purchasing Suggestions Interface (profiled here in our post about navigating supplier lead times) that displays which items are low in stock, the current inventory levels of the item, how much has been ordered, and how much more is needed to meet the threshold inventory level. These suggestions, which draw on all your account data to generate smart suggestions based on lead times, shelf life, and more, help Icicle ERP users ensure that ingredients are ordered in time to meet targets. Now, whenever you want to create a Purchase Order for a low-in-stock item, you can make it directly from the Purchasing Suggestions Interface in just one click or tap.
Once it’s time to pick the ingredients needed for production, the Suggested Raw Materials Interface speeds up the process by generating a list of raw materials needed for production, organized according to best-before dates with Icicle’s powerful Expiration Management capabilities. Icicle users can even now set shelf life notifications that alert you when items are about to expire, helping users minimize stale inventory, and maximize shelf life and profitability. Users can also set specific shelf life commitments for products and for particular customers (and adjust prices accordingly) to meet customer requirements or open avenues for new revenue.
Efficient Supply Chain Management with Data-Driven Logistics Features
Icicle’s new Inbound and Outbound Shipping Notices let your logistics team know the status of scheduled shipments so they can plan and prioritize certain days and time for shipping and receiving. This especially streamlines communication between sales and warehouse departments so that sales staff can accurately convey shipping estimates to customers, while the warehouse staff can efficiently schedule workers to meet demand. Being able to plan shipments gives you the crucial advantage over time, especially when facing supply chain disruptions that heighten the risk of food safety issues like temperature abuse.
Icicle ERP’s robust warehouse management system leverages your data to generate many kinds of valuable insights besides production costing., Most recently the new Shipping Report feature that provides users with customizable reports about all shipments that have gone out over a certain time( to a particular facility or to a certain customer). In 2022, we also added Picking Metrics that monitor picking rates in the warehouse so users can review the weak points in their picking operations to improve operational efficiency.
Earlier in the year, we continued to improve our Racking interface, which now works even faster than before (we turbocharged Icicle’s Racking and Picking capabilities in 2021). Warehouse staff not only benefit from a slew of mobile-friendly and scannable features that improve day-to-day workflows, most recently, they can also print labels for items or lot codes directly from the Inventory page, saving time when following tight picking or shipment schedules.
Versatile Production Scheduling and Tracking for Any Kind of Production
Supply chain disruptions can lead to all sorts of challenges for food and beverage manufacturers, like being forced to look for new suppliers, perform one-off productions, or make variants of their usual formulas. Icicle’s Transform feature (also known as Freeform Production) lets users maintain accurate traceability records for one-off products like emergency precursor items or a custom order. We’ve also integrated Icicle’s Label Generator with the Transform feature to create scannable GS1 barcodes for these one-off products, seamlessly integrating them into the flow of your traceability line.
To ensure product quality and protect against food fraud, when making variations to formulas, Icicle uses formula quantities, batch size data, and the inventory consumed during production to display a colour-coded percentage score that indicates if ingredient quantities are out of your preset ranges. This feature can be used to detect unauthorized substitutions or changes and helps to maintain your traceability line through granular inventory tracking that tracks all changes to quantities used in production.
To further streamline the documentation for all kinds of production – one-off, variant, new products, or your standard varieties – we’ve extended our Product Inheritance feature from ingredients and materials to include packaging as well. This feature lets you add specific variations to a parent product and copy all of the standardized information to add to your traceability chain, allowing you to skip all of the redundancies of record keeping and data entry of items coming from the same parent product.
While experimenting with new formulas, companies can now make the formulas invisible to all employees except those who are authorized via the Super Secret Formulas feature. Icicle’s permission controls not only extend across all departments in your business, but restrict access to only our essential database administrators so you can be confident that your trade secrets are secure.
Bulletproof Food Safety and Quality Control
Continuing the theme of versatility and security, our last batch of Icicle ERP features from 2022 helps you ensure food safety and quality control across all kinds of situations. In July, we boosted our production planning and traceability systems by enabling users to assign production runs to specific production lines – a new level of traceability data that is searchable and incorporated into your Icicle production reporting and analytics tools. We’ve also made it possible to require that an authorized user verify a production run before any of the items produced appear in your inventory management system, providing an extra layer of traceability protection by preventing unverified products from entering the supply chain.
Our notification features increase the efficiency in communication between the production and quality assurance teams to protect safety and quality. Icicle now alerts QA staff when inventory items are moved into QC hold for testing and when destruction reports are created. These notifications ensure that quality checks and other verification steps are completed promptly to keep on production schedule. (QA staff can also easily search through QC checks by date, lot code, name or internal ID.) On a similar vein, deletion notifications, which came out in April 2022, alert managers and other authorized users whenever items are deleted in their Icicle account, helping them monitor any errors in documentation.
Last but not least, we’ve revamped our Training Records List so you can select or search by trainee, by procedure (associated with a training requirement), or by date range to quickly produce the information you need on trainees, types of training, approval status, and more. Training records are also now visible in the new Training Records Matrix view, which clearly indicates which trainees have been trained on which procedures (or not!) as well as which procedures a given employee has been trained on (or not).
Not only do these new features make it easier to maintain compliance across departments, it significantly streamlines the onboarding process for new employees by automatically generating a list of required training for their role. From the app, you can schedule training directly and record any previously completed training.
Looking for more ways that Icicle’s ERP centralizes data across different departments and brings your business together to overcome supply chain disruptions? Read more about what customers enjoy about Icicle, as a Food Logistics Top Software Provider for the second year in a row. If you have any feature requests you can submit them to our development team here, and if you are not yet an Icicle user, request a free demo today!