When it comes to running an efficient manufacturing business, implementing a manufacturing ERP software solution can make all the difference.
But even if you decide to invest in manufacturing ERP software to manage data and gain valuable insights into areas like finance and supply chain management, how do you know which solution to choose?
There are hundreds of ERP products available from vendors big and small, and while there are many great options to choose from, not every solution is right for every company.
You must consider factors like your area of manufacturing (i.e., process manufacturing, discrete manufacturing, bespoke manufacturing), company size, complexity, and more to see which solutions align with your needs.
To help you narrow down your options and make an effective decision, the software procurement experts at YourShortlist have authored this article to guide you through the essentials of assessing and selecting manufacturing ERP software.
What is manufacturing ERP software?
Successful manufacturing requires more than just a great product. You also need to make sure your operations run smoothly in order to stay efficient, compliant, on schedule, and profitable.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can provide a significant benefit in this regard.
ERP systems are used to plan and manage resources across an enterprise, usually through a suite of integrated applications. ERP systems can collect, store, manage, and interpret data for a variety of needs, from finance to inventory management to human resources (HR).
Many types of companies use ERP software and the wide range of vendors on the market offer a mix of generalized solutions and ones specialized to the requirements of specific industries.
Manufacturers may prefer to use an all-in-one ERP solution, or dedicated manufacturing ERP software. The choice ultimately comes down to their ERP requirements, the size of their business, budget, and specific features offered by the software.
- All-in-one ERP solutions can provide an accessible entry point for personnel using the system and are often compatible with manufacturing specific add-ons, modules, or integrations, as well as integrations with other aspects of the business, like customer relationship management (CRM).
- Manufacturing ERP software will have specific features and functionality that help in the planning and execution of manufacturing projects by tracking suppliers, materials, and production costs, as well as supporting relationships with customers.
Some examples of general or all-in-one ERP solutions include NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, and Sage Intacct.
Some manufacturing ERP software solutions include SYSPRO, Acumatica ERP, and Infor CloudSuite Industrial.
Why do I need manufacturing ERP software?
The bigger and more complex the company, the harder it can be to keep everything organised and ensure that leaders have the data insights that help them make the best decisions.
This is where ERP software provides the most value, especially for manufacturers that have unique needs like physical inventory management and equipment oversight, alongside traditional needs like accounting, payroll, and sales management.
A good ERP solution can provide manufacturers with a single, centralised, and integrated software system, which can create benefits like:
- Streamlined manufacturing processes, such as by reducing redundancies
- Improved operational workflows, such as through more data sharing across departments
- Reduced costs, such as by identifying supply chain inefficiencies or inventory waste
- Stronger compliance, such as through more consistent documentation of inventory and manufacturing processes
The reality is that if you want to remain agile and competitive within the manufacturing industry, an ERP solution is necessary.
Other reasons why you might require an ERP solution
- Your current data processing software no longer supports your needs, and you require a single system to handle the large volumes of data across each department, streamline your workflows, and ensure your systems integrate with one another.
- Your current systems are too complicated or disparate to handle efficiently, making daily data processing and communication between departments costly and inefficient to manage.
- You’re struggling to keep up with customer demand, keep track of inventory, find customer-specific information, or include recent sales in your analyses, and need to seamlessly organize the pertinent information into a central, easily accessible location.
- Manually inputting data into accounting systems can be tiresome and you find it time consuming to generate reports, input data, and consolidate data across multiple systems.
- Tasks and processes are taking increasingly longer, but integrating multiple solutions isn’t a cheap endeavour and you must consider licensing fees, operations and labour costs, and additional training. You need an all-in-one suite that will work right out the box and ensure your different business functions mesh.
Implementing manufacturing ERP software is an effective way of centralising all your business processes into a unified hub where you’ll be able to access all the information and data you need in order to run your company.
Further Benefits & Capabilities
Inventory Management features
Manufacturing ERP software with inventory management capabilities can provide you with a real-time overview on the availability, location, and status of required products or materials.
Having real-time visibility on the status of your inventory makes it easier to identify shortages and supply requirements early on before they become issues.
Manufacturing ERP software automates this process to ensure you are never without the goods you need to fulfil orders on time and within budget.
Features for Production and Capacity Planning
Manufacturing ERP software can help manage production and material requirements planning, providing continuous 360° visibility of your entire production platform to optimise processes and the allocation of resources.
The software can assess what resources are required to meet sales projections, flagging any item, personnel, or skill shortages well in advance to ensure they can be addressed to fulfil deliveries.
Increased visibility and automation
Through an ERP system, all core functions across the organisation can be connected. This includes manufacturing operations, finance, sales, supply chain and inventory.
Real-time reporting and analytics features provide visibility and insight on your operation, while several functions can be made more efficient through automations, such as:
- Works orders
- Production planning
- Shop floor control
- Inventory updates
- Manufacturing specifications
- Bills of materials
- Job costing
Improved customer service
Data from manufacturing operations can be connected to customer information through a CRM system, either integrated with or added as a module to your ERP software.
This can provide real-time insight into customer activities to assist in the provision of customer service and ensure customers are kept happy before, during, and after the sale and delivery of their order.
What to look for when selecting manufacturing ERP software
ERP systems can have many benefits but also tend to be significant investments, so manufacturers should carefully deliberate over what would be best for their needs.
It can be easy to assume that flashy or big-brand software is the right way to go. While this approach works for some, the best ERP software for manufacturing can be highly specific to each organization and may even require a custom solution.
For one, manufacturers need to assess whether an ERP system is geared toward a specific area like process manufacturing or discrete manufacturing.
If a process manufacturer chose an ERP solution meant for discrete manufacturing, then they might lose more niche capabilities like being able to convert different units of measurement.
Keep in mind that software demos often only use a small quantity of company data and workflows, so you may need to dig deeper to assess the functionality of different systems, seeing how they align with key factors such as:
- Company size
- Business processes
- Organisational complexity
- Desired outcomes
Another important factor to keep in mind when looking for the best manufacturing ERP software for your needs is your desired deployment model.
Cloud-based ERP solutions typically allow for quick implementation and have a lower total cost of ownership, which can be appealing to many emerging businesses.
Smaller manufacturers might also appreciate tapping into the IT resources of a cloud provider, rather than hosting everything themselves.
Conversely, some larger, more complex, and/or data-sensitive industries might prefer on-premises deployment.
A large aerospace manufacturer, for example, may need or want to control more of its data for legal and/or proprietary reasons.
Manufacturers also need to assess whether they need customised ERP software, for instance, if you manufacture a niche product that requires unique workflows that don’t align with how existing solutions are set up. In that case, an on-premises solution might be the way to go.
However, you may find that a cloud ERP system has enough room for customisation, even if you don’t have quite the same level of control as you do with on-premises options.
Also keep in mind that manufacturers with multiple locations might need to take a more specialised approach, known as two-tier ERP.
This involves a company’s main location using a Tier 1 ERP software that is highly customisable, with functionality to run a large enterprise. Meanwhile, subsidiaries or smaller business units would use a less intensive Tier 2 solution that better suits their needs. Each of these software solutions would then be integrated to allow information to flow automatically from Tier 2 to Tier 1.
Before you look for a manufacturing ERP software vendor, carefully consider these key requirements to determine the criteria for which you will decide on your longlist of options.
- Cost: Is the solution provided by the vendor within your budget?
- Return on Investment: Is the solution likely to provide a return on investment based on your key performance indicators or cost-saving from a previous system?
- Minimal Disruption: Will the software implementation be efficient, or will it disrupt day-to-day business?
- Functionality: Does the software functionality support and improve your current business processes?
- Reputation: Upon researching the vendor or solution, does it appear to be able to deliver as claimed?
- Expansion: Is the solution able to scale and expand alongside your business?
- Support: Is the software provider able to supply support during and post-implementation?
5 Options for Manufacturing ERP Software
With so many options to choose from and factors to consider, it can be a labyrinth to traverse ERP recommendations on your own.
A one size fits all-approach doesn’t always suffice when it comes to choosing manufacturing ERP software, and the right choice of vendor will depend on your specific needs and the functions provided by the specific software they have on offer.
Thankfully, YourShortlist is here to help you in your search.
We’ve created a micro-list of 5 popular ERP solutions that are ideally suited for implementation within a manufacturing business.
1. Infor CloudSuite Industrial
- Advanced Planning and Scheduling
- Product Configuration
- High level of personalization and customization
- Field Service Management
- Quality Control System
- Workflow features
Infor CloudSuite Industrial an ERP solution of choice for more than 5,000 manufacturers worldwide. From repetitive to bespoke manufacturing, CloudSuite Industrial enables the processes needed to accelerate production and meet customer demand more quickly. Available on-premises with a perpetual license, or through SaaS hosted and subscription models, including optional application managed services.
2. IFS Applications
- Sales, manufacturing, distribution, and finance management
- Powerful and varied interfaces
- Third-party CRM integrations
- Built-in reporting and analytics tools
- Adaptable permissions and access
IFS Applications is presented by the vendor as an agile application suite that offers ERP, enterprise asset management (EAM), and enterprise project management. The platform supports several manufacturing modes and can act as a support function for ERP and EAM or as a logistics solution in demanding environments like aviation and defence.
3. Epicor Kinetic
- Inventory, order, and supply chain management
- Accounting (General ledger and configurable)
- MRP scheduling
- Business activity query builder
- Easy setup and user-friendly interface
- Customizable, accessible, and scalable
Epicor Kinetic is a modular ERP solution system able to solve a breadth of common business needs, lower management costs, streamline company processes, and improve customer responsiveness. It is designed to be an end-to-end single software solution for small to medium businesses, and can be deployed on-premises, on a private server, or in the cloud as a SaaS solution.
- Payroll, inventory, and order management
- Accounting (General ledger and configurable)
- Role-based user permissions and user-level audit trail
- Custom reports and interface
- Document management and reporting
SYSPRO is a flexible manufacturing ERP software designed to simplify and streamline critical business functions like handling production schedules and processes. SYSPRO is modular and allows for scalability, with extensive customization, reporting capabilities, and a high level of data security.
5. Acumatica ERP
- Payroll, inventory, and order management
- Accounting (General ledger, subledger, financial process, and configurable)
- Warehouse management and CRM
- Automated invoice processing
- All-in-one ERP solution with modules/Suites in Project Accounting, Distribution Management, and Customer Management.
Acumatica ERP is a cloud-based solution providing a range of applications and editions that can accommodate specific business needs like Manufacturing. Features include a Work Order Management module for requisitions, purchase orders, and sales orders that work alongside Inventory Management and Field Service modules.
How to choose the best manufacturing ERP software
While there are many options on the market, your decision on manufacturing ERP software will depend on whether the system deploys effectively into your working model and integrates with any existing business management software you may be using.
Some criteria may vary, but when assessing whether manufacturing ERP software will mesh with your business and provide value, consider these key questions.
Is there industry precedent for the solution?
Learn from your peers and competition on widely used manufacturing ERP software and whether different solutions can deliver as promised.
Reviews or testimonials can provide proof of functionality and help flag any potential issues that will affect implementation for your business.
If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask the ERP provider if the software has a successful track record of implementation within manufacturing.
The best manufacturing ERP software solutions will have specific features that provide value across your organisation and your supply chain.
Will it provide a return on investment?
Consider specific functions or processes where you want to reduce long-term costs and increase efficiency the most. These areas are where an ERP solution will be most valuable.
You should then consider the system’s specific long-term savings on hardware, software, or workload costs, and ensure that the benefits make implementation worthwhile.
Will the solution provide longevity?
Software implementation is costly, time-consuming, and disruptive, so when you choose an ERP provider you are effectively trusting them to continue supporting their software solution for many years to come to avoid repeat implementation projects.
Issues can arise even if the software is updated infrequently, as this can set you back in terms of new quality-of-life features or functionality and make the software less effective than more agile, advanced solutions.
A lack of updates can also put your ERP infrastructure and data at risk from security breaches, cyberattacks, or compliance failures.
Thoroughly research your chosen software vendor, their customer base, and financial position to determine if they can work with your business for the long haul and keep their software futureproofed.
What functionality is on offer?
Manufacturing ERP software should provide functionality that supports and improves your current business processes.
A key aspect of manufacturing ERP software is a user-friendly interface, with ease of setup and access for all users within your business, providing intuitive functionality that can be explained or taught with minimal hassle.
Your chosen ERP solution should be able to effectively expand and grow alongside your business, with regular updates or new modules to keep the platform functionality current and efficient.
We hope this list has given you some ideas on how to choose manufacturing ERP software. But the easiest way to find the shortlist of ERP platforms and vendors that suit your business is to speak to one of the software procurement experts at YourShortlist.
Your ERP Needs. YourShortlist.
As a key decision maker, you’ll have to do your homework before choosing the right manufacturing ERP software for your business.
Rather than spend time and money vetting hundreds of potential options, speak to someone who can tell you exactly what’s on the market that meets your requirements.
At YourShortlist, our goal is to make technology procurement simple, transparent, and cost-effective by matching businesses with the right software providers.
We’re all about helping our members understand, choose, and implement the solutions that will pay dividends and facilitate successful growth. We manage a wide database of over 680 software partners providing solutions in ERP, CRM, cyber security, cloud migration, finance, IT, HR, and more.
With the help of YourShortlist, IT buyers across the globe have made better-informed decisions on new software, infrastructure, and managed services to improve their business.
Our non-chargeable service includes:
- Independent buying advice on manufacturing ERP software
- A bespoke shortlist of specially selected partners experienced in implementing manufacturing ERP software
- Partner background information
- Free call-backs from partners with no obligation to purchase
If you’re searching for new manufacturing ERP software, then speak to a member of our team today to discuss your requirements and begin the journey towards a free, no-obligation shortlist tailored to your business; YourShortlist
Book a meeting with our team or call us on +44 (0) 20 4532 5532 and we can work to match you with the software partner you need.