ERP Manufacturing Insights

Find The Best Manufacturing ERP Systems for 2023

Manufacturing erp

Which Manufacturing ERP Systems Best Fit Your Business?

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system specifically designed for manufacturing can revolutionize manufacturing operations. Choosing the right Manufacturing ERP can significantly benefit manufacturing businesses of any size, leading to significant growth and success. Our guide will help you find the best manufacturing ERP system to transform your business and drive innovative growth.

What is manufacturing ERP software?

Manufacturing enterprise resource planning software is designed to offer a single unified platform that brings together every key function of a manufacturing business. This critical manufacturing management software provides business intelligence and interfaces with core business processes such as financial management, inventory control, warehouse management, production planning, production scheduling, shop floor control, and more. Manufacturing ERP integrates many of the most critical manufacturing processes into a single package. It allows management and employees to view essential data and perform crucial functions through a single software system. Manufacturing ERP software has additional features and functions specific to manufacturers’ needs and caters to manufacturing industries such as metal, automotive, food, or textile manufacturing. ERP manufacturing software systems offer a complete business management platform that can have a massive positive impact on small and midsize businesses implementing manufacturing ERP for the first time, as well as any large manufacturing company implementing a new system that better suits its core business processes.

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Selecting the best ERP system for your manufacturing processes can be transformative.

Which ERP system is best for the manufacturing industry?

An enterprise resource planning system is a substantial investment for any business. Best practices demand that the process of selecting the best manufacturing software solution be rigorous and thorough. So many factors are in play when choosing a manufacturing ERP system that it can be daunting to choose the best one to handle your business operations. The history of business is full of cautionary tales of businesses that suffered severe damage from poorly-implemented manufacturing ERP software — the kind of self-inflicted wound from which it can be challenging to recover.

With all that in mind, there’s help available for manufacturing companies that must make an intelligent choice for manufacturing management software. Whether a business is beginning the decision process on its first ERP software solution or wants to move on from a previous one, this guide will help outline the relevant factors and provide a framework for making a sound choice. This guide, in combination with our ERP comparison tool, will help you compare ERP features and find the best manufacturing software for your manufacturing industry, including the latest cloud manufacturing ERP software systems.

How an ERP System Benefits Manufacturing Businesses

Manufacturing ERP systems offer an extensive range of benefits, including:

  • Automation: One of the significant benefits of ERP software is its capacity to automate some of the most time- and labor-consuming business process functions. Day-to-day tasks such as data entry and the filing and flagging of routine documentation (such as quality control records) can all be increasingly automated by a powerful ERP system.
  • Data: ERP software allows the consolidation of many different types of business data onto a single platform. Everything from invoices to customer data to quality control testing data can be integrated, stored, and analyzed using an ERP platform.
  • Analytics: ERP software packages can also develop insights from the data an organization captures during its day-to-day business operations, including manufacturing operations management.
  • Compliance: Compliance with federal, state, and local laws is essential for any business, and ERP software gives businesses the tools to build compliance into their everyday processes through automation, documentation, and quality assurance.
  • Variety: Numerous types of manufacturing and distribution ERP software are available to today’s buyers, and many are designed with the needs of specific businesses in mind.
  • Compatibility: Because they consolidate many essential functions onto a single platform, ERP software can help reduce compatibility issues and eliminate the need to purchase many different software apps to perform new tasks.
Erp manufacturing benefits

To capture these benefits, manufacturing companies must be able to select the right Manufacturing ERP software solution. First, a business should determine which ERP options are recommended for its size.

How Business Size Affects Manufacturing ERP System Selection

Buyers evaluating a manufacturing ERP system will find that the size of their business is a key factor in determining which manufacturing solution will be a good fit. Although the boundaries of these definitions are somewhat malleable, they help manufacturing companies establish the general outline of what they want to look for in an ERP software solution:

  • Small Business: Businesses with one to 100 employees. Small manufacturing companies often don’t have a dedicated IT department.
  • Medium Business: Businesses with 100 to 500 employees. Medium manufacturing companies may or may not have a dedicated IT department, although they almost always have IT specialists.
  • Large Business: Businesses with over 500 employees. A large manufacturing company almost always has dedicated IT departments.

Determining the size of a business is important because certain ERP products are better for SMBs, while others are designed for the larger end of the spectrum. SAP Business One, for example, is a widely-used option for SMBs, while other options, such as Oracle ERP, offer high-level scalability that allows them to accommodate networks of hundreds or thousands of unique users. Small business ERP solutions are often designed so that they don’t require an IT department to be implemented effectively, while enterprise-scale ERP may require more IT manpower from the client’s end.

How Business Industry Sector Affects Manufacturing ERP Software Selection

It’s also critical to note that some ERP suites are more suited to specific businesses in certain sectors. Businesses should be aware of which products are more industry-specific and which are suitable for many different types of businesses. This is an important consideration when searching for a manufacturing ERP solution.

In the manufacturing sector, with all its diversity of business models, its extreme technical complexity, and its capital-intensive nature, choosing the right ERP product can be particularly make-or-break. The right manufacturing ERP system can be a miracle, and the wrong one can bring a whole business to a halt. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the many different models of ERP manufacturing software available for different types of manufacturing companies.

Discrete manufacturing erp
Discrete Manufacturing ERP software is for businesses with a blueprint-based manufacturing process.

Global Shop Solutions, for example, is a discrete manufacturing ERP suite that’s designed for a business in need of shop floor control, with a blueprint-based manufacturing process such as a machine shop or assembly line. Its key features include bill of materials management, CNC machining support, CAD integration, and other options that significantly simplify shop floor operations. Click here for more details about discrete manufacturing.

Process manufacturing
Process Manufacturing ERP is for businesses with formula-based manufacturing

BatchMaster, by contrast, is a process manufacturing ERP solution designed for formula-based manufacturing, such as the food and beverage manufacturing industry. BatchMaster offers exceptionally robust options for recipe management, lot traceability, quality management, and compliance documentation, as well as other key functions of process manufacturing. A detailed comparison of process manufacturing solutions is available here.

Other Manufacturing ERP software solutions, such as those produced by SAP and Oracle, are usable in various industries. These manufacturing ERP solutions are designed with the utmost flexibility, and businesses can often customize these software packages to their needs by working with the vendor.

Top Manufacturing ERP System Features

Every business will prioritize different features in its ERP platform evaluation based on its business processes, manufacturing processes, and core business functions. However, there is a range of standard features that are frequently included in ERP software systems and are beneficial to all manufacturing operations, such as:

  • Accounting & Financial Management: An ERP system makes it easier for businesses to keep detailed and accurate accounting records. Accounts payable and receivable can often be automatically tracked and synced, and tax bookkeeping can be done automatically, reducing the risk of human error.
  • Payroll: Businesses must be able to consistently meet their payroll obligations and make sure that payroll is always properly authorized and disbursed. Manufacturing and distribution ERP software typically offers automated payroll functions that track overtime and ensure timely payment for employees.
  • Inventory Management: Inventory management is critical for manufacturers and distributors, and manufacturing ERP and distribution ERP software is designed to facilitate easy inventory management. An ERP system can provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, allowing the company to track the movement of raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods. Many ERP systems make it easy to seamlessly integrate inventory management and tracking technologies such as RFID inventory tracking.
  • Project Management: An ERP system can provide advanced project management features that enable businesses to plan and track production, materials, and costs from start to finish. It can also provide visibility into performance issues, allowing users to assess problems quickly and take corrective measures. It is equipped with features such as budgeting, scheduling, resource utilization tracking, risk management, and improvement planning which allows businesses to stay on top of the progress of their projects. A powerful project management module can help companies coordinate resources more effectively and boost productivity.
  • Asset Management: Manufacturing companies and distributors must also carefully manage assets such as factory equipment and vehicle fleets. Manufacturing ERP systems use asset management to track the status, location, and history of a business’s most important assets.
  • Predictive Analytics: Today’s businesses use sophisticated predictive analytics algorithms to anticipate future fluctuations in supply and demand based on past data. ERP can provide the rich data and flexible analysis tools required for useful predictive analytics and business intelligence.
  • Permissions: A flexible and responsive permissions system allows system administrators to give employees access to the data they need when they need it while still maintaining security and creating special access privileges for higher-level employees.
  • Customer Relations: Customer relationship management (CRM) features are another common element of ERP system suites. CRM tools allow manufacturers and distributors to track customer relationships and optimize order fulfillment.
  • Supply Chain Management: Supply chain planning is vital for any 21st-century business, so many ERP suites include supply chain management functions. These tools allow procurement, warehousing, and logistics functions to be streamlined for greater supply chain efficiency. Robust supply chain management features have become especially important due to the supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic.
  • Modular Architecture: Many ERP suites offer the option to modify and expand their systems by adding ERP modules. This capacity is particularly key for businesses with expansion plans and startups that may need to pivot as they grow and technologies evolve, such as robotics playing a role in the future of manufacturing.
  • Human Resources: ERP systems now frequently include human resources modules that allow businesses to track and manage their labor allocation, employee benefits, and staff training.
  • IoT Integration: The Internet of Things (IoT) has given businesses a wide range of new capabilities for quality assurance, security, logistics, and more. ERP solutions offer a powerful and flexible way to integrate an extensive range of IoT devices and their data into a system using a unified and intuitive IT architecture.
  • Machine Learning: ERP systems can be bolstered by the power of machine learning. With predictive maintenance, equipment problems can be identified and fixed before they become catastrophic. Not only that, but machine learning can optimize the supply chain, forecast demand, improve quality control, and identify possibilities for process optimization — all to increase efficiency at a lower cost. In sum, machine learning is a powerful asset for ERP systems and can provide a competitive edge in an ERP implementation.
  • Data Management: The best ERP systems are equipped with data management features that allow businesses to manage, process, and analyze their data more efficiently. This includes features such as reporting, data security, data visualization, and analytics. It also includes sophisticated technologies such as business intelligence (BI) software and artificial intelligence (AI), which examine large amounts of data and identify patterns or trends that could not be seen before. With the help of these advanced technologies, ERP systems can improve operations by proactively minimizing risks and boosting productivity.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises ERP: Which Is Best for Manufacturing?

Another major decision for any company choosing an ERP system is whether to use cloud ERP software or on-premises ERP software. The major difference is:

In a cloud ERP software model, a business purchases an ERP system from the vendor using software-as-a-service (SaaS) architecture. Rather than installing the software on-site, a cloud ERP vendor stores all data and processes all software functions through their cloud-based servers. The business pays a monthly subscription fee to the vendor for continued access to the software.

On premise erp
On-Premises ERP Model: Software is installed and maintained on a business’ on-site servers and hardware.

In an on-premises ERP model, ERP software is installed and maintained on a business’s on-site servers and hardware. On-premises deployment is an older but still widely-used style of ERP software.

Erp cloud
Cloud ERP Model: Stores all data and processes all software functions through ERP vendor’s servers.

Cloud based and on-premises ERP both have their advantages. The advantages of cloud ERP systems include the following:

  • Updated and patched automatically by the vendor’s team
  • Lower upfront costs in most cases
  • Typically shorter set-up and deployment times
  • Security is addressed in-house by vendors
  • Often designed with small business-friendly features

Meanwhile, the advantages of on-premises ERP are:

  • Can be an advantageous long-term investment
  • Greater flexibility in customizing implementation
  • Data stays in-house rather than being stored by a third party

Manufacturing businesses unsure whether to choose a cloud-based ERP system or on-premises ERP will find more information in the Cloud ERP Implementation Survival Guide and Premise-Based ERP Implementation Survival Guide.

Evaluating a Manufacturing ERP Vendor

Because almost all ERP suites are sold through vendors, businesses need to take the time to communicate with potential vendors and ensure that they are a good fit. Some questions many businesses find helpful to ask about prospective Manufacturing ERP providers include:

  • How long has the vendor been in business?
  • Which services does the vendor include with the software, and which have additional costs?
  • What options does the vendor offer for integrating emerging technologies into their software?
  • What are the vendor’s strategies for improving their product in the long term?
  • Do the vendor’s sales and support staff respect the business’s time and respond to questions promptly?
  • Does the ERP provider have case studies showing the system’s benefit in an industry like yours?
  • Are there any hidden costs or fees (for example, added implementation fees, customization costs, or licensing fees)?

Manufacturing industry businesses must commit to a thorough evaluation of any prospective ERP vendor. An ERP vendor that’s a good fit can be a valued collaborator for decades, while a business may waste years working with an unsuitable vendor.

Common Challenges with ERP

ERP software systems are large and complex pieces of software, and that size and complexity can create challenges in deployment for businesses – both large and small. 

Common erp challenges

Some common challenges to be aware of include:

  • Deployment Period: Historically, many businesses have faced challenges with executing ERP implementation in a timely manner due to the complex nature of ERP software. Although most of today’s ERP systems are much faster and less expensive to deploy than those of yesteryear, implementation can still take months, and each organization should be ready to experience some disruption of its business processes.
  • Transition and Migration: Bridging the gap between an older piece of software and a new system is a common trouble spot for businesses. Businesses need to take the time to develop a transition plan with their ERP vendors and ensure that data migration isn’t rushed.
  • Security: IT security is a constant need for 21st-century businesses, and ERP systems are huge repositories of information that can be attractive targets for cybercriminals. Businesses need to ensure that their ERP systems include key security features such as two-factor authentication, automatic system updates and role-based access control.
  • Training: A system that employees don’t understand will inevitably create frustration and lower productivity. It’s critical that any business implementing a new ERP system devises a thorough and user-friendly training program, preferably in collaboration with the ERP vendor and using resources supplied by them.
  • Customization: In most cases, there’s no such thing as a turn-key ERP system. Almost every system will need modifications by the vendor to fit the business’s specific needs and goals, and these modifications will typically come at an additional cost. On-premises ERP solutions typically feature more extensive customization options than cloud ERP solutions.
  • Upgrades: Businesses should be sure to learn how upgrades to their ERP software work and how much they cost. Cloud ERP updates are relatively easy; they’re usually performed on the back end by the vendor’s team, requiring minimal downtime and labor from the client. Costs can vary, but as per usual with the cloud model, they’re spread out over time via the cost of upgrading to a new subscription level. On-premises updates can require significant labor from a business’s IT staff, and they typically involve a higher up-front cost.

Researching and Comparing ERP Systems for your Manufacturing Business

Selecting the best enterprise resource planning (ERP) for manufacturing businesses can be a long and research-intensive task, so businesses should be sure to take advantage of the many ERP research resources available to them.

Buyers guide feature image
Top10ERP allows you to compare features, pricing, and more, for the best Manufacturing ERP Software.

Direct ERP product comparison is one of the most important tools to help businesses decide on a manufacturing ERP solution, as it allows businesses to compare pricing, features and specifications of ERP suites. A Manufacturing ERP Comparison matrix (like the ones provided throughout this website) allows a business to evaluate the features and specifications of various ERP software products and decide which offers the best fit.

Our comparison matrices allow businesses to quickly compare the approximate pricing ranges of different ERP solutions. However, the easiest way to get accurate price data that are tailored to your business is to submit a Manufacturing ERP pricing request and get free quotes from the ERP vendors you’re considering. Quotes arrive in minutes and account for each business’s most critical factors, including the number of employees, industry, annual revenue, budget, and timeframe.

ERP buyers should also examine many ERP analysis white papers available. These documents cover a wide range of subjects, including how to effectively implement an ERP system and how to use an ERP system to automate business functions.

In addition, many ERP manufacturers publish case studies that show how their products can be successfully implemented and drive improved outcomes. The Top10erp​.org ERP case study library is an excellent resource that allows software buyers to investigate how various systems have been implemented at other businesses and which strategies different businesses use to get the most out of their ERP software. Businesses that don’t find a case study relevant to their business in our archives should ask a candidate ERP vendor for relevant case studies on their product or current client references. Any reputable vendor will be able to provide either or both.

More options for manufacturing ERP software are available than ever before. A manufacturing business that takes the time to carefully evaluate the top manufacturing solutions will find a wide array of options available to suit its needs. Once a solution is selected, it is time to learn about ERP implementations.

Top 10 ERP offers the leading collection of resources for any manufacturing business searching for a manufacturing enterprise resource planning solution. Businesses can start evaluating ERP software options today with our industry-specific ERP guides or dive into our whitepaper library and case study library for in-depth ERP software analysis. Top 10 ERP’s experts compile these resources specifically to help your business choose the right ERP solution, and using these essential tools is the best way to prevent the costly mistake of choosing the wrong one.

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