Renmans Group counts on Simac PHI DATA for the digitization of inventories and traceability of food products

Changing legislation and the desire to simplify existing processes prompted the Renmans group to equip its butcheries with two new applications, for inventory and for product traceability, respectively. For both apps, they turned to Simac PHI DATA, which also supplied the Zebra handhelds for easy use by employees.

Simplify processes, improve regulatory compliance

Taking inventory is an important activity in a butcher shop. On the one hand, there is monthly financial inventory for accounting purposes; on the other hand, weekly inventories are also made, which form the basis for orders from the stores to the distribution center. Inventories that are done manually, for example by writing down the quantities on a sheet, take several hours. Renmans wanted to simplify and speed up this process by digitizing it. 

On the other hand, there is also increasing pressure from government agencies concerned about food safety. They want butcheries to be able to trace exactly which products are used in prepared meals and preparations: which meat was used, where did it come from, which spices were added, when were the preparations made,…. All that data is now digitally maintained at Renmans butcheries.

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Custom software built by Simac PHI DATA

For both digitization projects, Renmans turned to Simac PHI DATA, a long-standing partner for scanners and label printers, among other things. Its own internal IT department drew up a comprehensive analysis for both the Inventory App (for taking inventory) and the TraceAbility App (for tracking all ingredients in preparations), and Simac PHI DATA developed the customized applications. “Above all, we wanted the applications to be easy to use,” says Yves Hutsebaut, Information Systems Manager at Brabhold. “There is off-the-shelf software that can take care of this as well, but it usually offers too many functionalities that are not used anyway, but interfere with user-friendliness. In the end, it was more advantageous to have custom software built by Simac PHI DATA than to buy a standard package of which we only needed 20% of the functionality.” Besides being easy to use, the apps also needed to be able to function when used offline. “When you need to take inventory in a fridge, the Wi-Fi coverage is not always optimal and sometimes not available at all,” said Hutsebaut. 

Simac PHI DATA wrote not only the apps fully customized for the butcher shops, but also the integration with the underlying ERP system so that data can be easily exchanged via web services (for the TraceAbility App) and via web services and FTP transfer (for the inventory).

Pilot phase leads to choice of Zebra handhelds

In addition, Simac PHI DATA also gave recommendations for the handheld terminals used in butcher shops to scan meat products. In a pilot phase, two different devices were tested in about 30 branches. In the end, the Zebra TC7X series emerged as the winner, in part because it features a ‘pistol grip’ that can be easily attached to the handheld. Again, it was chosen for its ease of use. “The handy thing is that you can also just leave that pistol grip in place when the handheld is placed in a cradle for charging,” said Hutsebaut. “Both the devices themselves and the software are very easy to use. We didn’t have to do any real training, a few lines of explanation were enough to get everyone going.”

To manage the devices, Simac PHI DATA implemented Soti’s Mobile Device Management tool ‛MobiControl’. This is primarily used for remote access on the handhelds. “If someone in a butcher shop has a problem with their device, we can centrally take over the screen and solve the problem remotely.” For commissioning new devices, Simac PHI DATA developed a configuration application so that, for example, a new branch can very quickly fully configure a PDA without much parameterization.

Faster, and with fewer errors

The digitization project with the Inventory App and the TraceAbility App offers several advantages:

  • Time savings: monthly inventory used to easily take two to three hours. A charcuterie assortment easily consisted of 100 to 150 references. That process has now been reduced to an average of less than an hour. 
  • Better compliance procedures: the company auditor only allows butcher shops to start their monthly inventory after an agreed time. By working with an app, this starting time can be enforced. This guarantees a more accurate monthly inventory.
  • Fewer errors: before digitization, everything was noted down on paper, forwarded by fax or mail to the central accounting department, where all the data had to be re-entered.
  • Faster reporting: because nothing has to be entered manually, the total inventory can be closed several days faster. There used to be easily fifteen to twenty pages of inventory per branch, which obviously takes a lot of time to transcribe. 
  • Better control of expiration date: the application notifies if a product has only 2 days left to be sold. This allows products to go into quick sale earlier, resulting in less food being lost.
  • Compliance: Renmans can now meet legal obligations for traceability and food safety. 

“I am delighted with Simac PHI DATA,” Hutsebaut concluded. “They gave us good advice and the software was written exactly as specified in our analysis.”

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