LINKFresh Inc., with U.S. headquarters in Ventura, CA, was specifically developed to provide a simple approach to information technology in the food industry, where typically knowledge of IT is less developed than in some other industries, such as banking. LINKFresh is a standalone company that is a wholly owned North American subsidiary of Anglia Business Solutions in Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Carl Iversen, vice president of product development, is a 30-year-plus veteran of supply chain systems and technology in the food sector and beverage industries. He explained to The Produce News what LINKFresh is and how it works.
“The goal of LINKFresh is to take the complexity of numerous software packages such as financial management, sales, purchasing, warehouse and operations and provide one integrated package,” said Mr. Iversen.
“Enterprise resource planning systems can be a complex and big undertaking because they implement several packages in one, and traditionally were limited to larger corporate businesses,” he added.
The advent of Windows in the early 1990s made it easier to create ERP systems that would be suitable for small- to medium-size enterprises. Mr. Iversen said that Microsoft has put itself at the forefront of this development by creating the Microsoft Dynamics range of products, providing a single, easy-to-use software platform.
“Thenature of businesses in the world dictates a demand for many different systems,” he explained. “Banking is different from pharmaceuticals, and the food sector is different from project management, as examples. Microsoft Dynamics is a generic product that provides core functionality suitable for most industries out of the box. However, Microsoft recognized that they are not specialists in these areas, and so they developed the Microsoft Partner Network, which allows companies like LINKFresh to develop industry-specific platforms based upon Microsoft Dynamics.”
As a specialist platform for the food sector, LINKFresh has specific models for different categories in foods, including fresh produce, meat, egg and dairy, and can break those down even further into individual item categories.
Procurement on consignment from grower-producers with grower returns and produce traceability are fundamental to the sector, and Mr. Iversen said it is precisely these industry specifics that LINKFresh has been developed to meet.
“The software can be scaled to encompass just the sales and marketing aspects, or it can include the entire supply chain from grower to packer and distributor, or any number of relevant aspects,” he said. “And it supports the inter-company relations for larger group companies.”
Based on the look and feel of the Microsoft Office platform, LINKFresh is a user-friendly application structured around the way end users work. It provides simple, easy-to-follow processes, such as taking varieties of salad leaf to make mixed-bagged salads, or even ready-meals.
Ultimately, the LINKFresh product suite aims to provide functional software to food industry businesses across a very broad spectrum.
“In terms of modules, the types of tools we’re bringing are integrated forecasting and planning, providing the ability to forecast from the field or at harvest, through sales’ forecasts and demand for finished goods and raw materials,” said Mr. Iversen.
“The ability to trace where product came from and where it went is key within the food sector,” he continued. “LINKFresh provides full and instant traceability on all products. In a normal paper-based scenario today, it could take many days to gather all of the paperwork. With LINKFresh, that same trace can take as little as a few minutes.”
The principle, he added, is that utilizing the system to its fullest ability can have a dramatic affect on operational efficiency.
“LINKFresh customers report a boost of one to two percent increase in their customer satisfaction indexes,” said Mr. Iversen. “While that doesn’t sound like much, it could be the difference between you and your competition. Customers report an overall 20 percent or more increase in operational performance with LINKFresh.”