What Are the Best ERP Systems for Manufacturing?
ERP systems for manufacturing vary widely in their capabilities, their quality, and the level of commitment their vendors have to innovation and ongoing investment. If you’re looking for the best manufacturing ERP for your business, choose carefully, – because the details matter a great deal.
The best ERP systems for manufacturing are purpose-built to address the specific requirements and core business processes that drive success for manufacturing companies, rather than attempting to appeal to a broad range of businesses that focus on retail, professional services, or distribution. In other words, you should look for manufacturing ERP software that’s built with your specific business processes in mind. General purpose ERP is almost always a poor substitute for good manufacturing ERP software.
What do the best ERP systems for manufacturing offer?
The best ERP systems for manufacturing tend to have certain characteristics in common. Most importantly, they address the core business processes that are vital to manufacturers, such as supply chain management, resources planning, and production scheduling, for example. Many offer integration to shop floor equipment, mobile applications, and self-service portals for vendor management and customer service applications.
They are innovative
Innovation is about applying technology in ways that can make a meaningful positive difference for manufacturing companies. Today’s top manufacturing ERP software vendors are incorporating features like machine integration to measure throughput, improving control over the manufacturing process by providing visibility to the status of equipment on the shop floor.
Many are using IoT (Internet of Things) sensors for inventory control, monitoring the temperature and location of vital raw materials or finished goods. Mobile applications are putting information into the hands of employees on and around the shop floor, informing them as to raw materials that may be required, production scheduling issues, or potential glitches in the manufacturing process.
The best ERP systems for manufacturing make wise use of new technologies in ways that make a meaningful difference for the business.
They offer self-service options
Managing vendor and customer relationships can be time-consuming. In many small manufacturers, communications with outside parties may be prone to errors. It can be difficult to stay on top of e-mail and phone communications, especially when multiple parties are involved. Things can sometimes fall through the cracks.
The best ERP systems for manufacturing include self-service options such as vendor portals or customer-facing product configurators. When vendors can update their order status, enter price quotes, and upload important documents to a centralized communication portal, everyone is working from the same source of information. Workflows and approvals can be automatically routed to the right people, assuring that prompt attention is given to urgent matters. Nothing falls through the cracks.
Customer-facing self-service options provide for a better overall experience, and they lighten the load for your sales and service personnel. One popular feature among top manufacturing ERP systems is a product configurator. Online configuration tools enable customers to decide which features and add-ons they want with their product, and even to determine a price, – at any time, day or night, without ever having to speak to a salesperson. That saves you time and money, and it increases customer loyalty.
They make regulatory compliance easier
The right manufacturing ERP software is especially important for regulated industries. Manufacturing companies that fall under the auspices of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, must track the incoming raw materials used in manufacturing their products and must be able to trace their finished goods back to those sources. FDA reporting, audits, and mock recalls are critical compliance measures for these companies. The best ERP systems for manufacturing pharmaceuticals and food & beverage products will include these capabilities.
Aerospace & Defense manufacturers, likewise, must comply with Department of Defense (DoD) requirements, including stringent new cybersecurity standards. Cloud-based manufacturing ERP makes it easy to comply with DoD’s DFAR, NIST, and CMMC standards when they are hosted at secure data centers that meet all necessary DoD requirements.
They improve management visibility
Many small manufacturers struggle to understand which jobs and customers are profitable, and which ones are actually hurting their bottom line. The best manufacturing ERP systems provide powerful analytics that make it easy to identify the factors that drive profitability.
Manufacturing ERP software should handle every aspect of the manufacturing process, from supply chain management to inventory control, and production scheduling to quality management, shipping, returns management, and service after the sale. With powerful analytics designed for manufacturing companies, managers can see which jobs are on time, and which ones are running late. They can view machine utilization, cost of labor, and throughput. Information is power, – and for managers struggling to optimize their manufacturing process, this kind of information can be especially powerful.
They increase efficiency
The best ERP systems for manufacturing improve inventory management by calculating lead times accurately and optimizing safety stock levels. They help managers to increase machine utilization and prevent downtime with improved scheduling and predictive maintenance. They make labor more efficient with flexible shop-floor scheduling and mobile apps that provide real-time information to workers. They reduce waste by helping managers identify bottlenecks and other problems in the production process.
They enhance customer service
In addition to the self-service options discussed earlier, the best manufacturing ERP software helps you respond quickly and effectively to customer inquiries. It can improve your on-time delivery rates. Integrated customer relationship management (CRM) and field service management software help manufacturing businesses to enhance their overall customer service levels.
They offer flexible deployment options
Many manufacturers were initially reluctant to move to cloud-based ERP software. Today, most have come to understand that in many respects, cloud-based software is actually more secure than on-premise. ERP Manufacturing systems hosted in the cloud offer security monitoring and third-party management, making them ideal for agile, growing manufacturing businesses.
Cloud-based manufacturing ERP systems also support remote workers and distributed companies with multiple locations, offering anytime/anywhere access through a simple web browser interface. Simplified upgrade processes, frequent enhancements, rapid scalability, and predictable costs add to the appeal of cloud-based manufacturing ERP.
Nevertheless, many companies prefer to have a choice, – and those who prefer on-premise deployment can certainly find robust manufacturing ERP solutions as well.
They reduce risk
Risk comes in many different forms, from regulatory action to cybersecurity exposure, or simply losing customers because of a failure to deliver product on time.
Cybersecurity attacks are increasingly common, and for small manufacturers, they can be especially devastating. Most ransomware attacks go unreported. When they occur, they can lead to work stoppage, late deliveries, lost business, and severe reputational damage. The best manufacturing ERP systems protect your data from unauthorized access and guard against the kind of attacks that can be crippling to your manufacturing business.
Compliance risk, likewise, is a concern for most manufacturing companies. Top manufacturing ERP software is built with regulatory compliance in mind. This speeds audits and offers a high level of confidence, freeing up management to focus on generating revenue and improving business process efficiency.
Finally, there is the ever-present risk of losing business to the competition. In the context of the world’s current supply chain management challenges, on-time delivery is a particular concern for many manufacturing companies. Effective supply chain management, resources planning, inventory control, and production scheduling ensure that your company delivers on its promises and stays ahead of the competition.
They help you increase your revenue
The best manufacturing ERP systems don’t merely help you operate more efficiently, – they also support you in increasing your revenue. At the height of the COVID crisis, many small manufacturers realized they needed to diversify their sources of revenue and reduce dependency on a few especially large customers.
By extending a manufacturing ERP system to incorporate powerful customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, businesses can manage prospects and existing customers more effectively. That increases customer loyalty and extends the company’s reach.
A number of manufacturers have also recognized the value of post-sales service, which offers another opportunity to expand revenue even further. Top manufacturing ERP software systems incorporate field service management capabilities that include work order management, dispatching and routing, spare parts provisioning, and service invoicing. By adding service options to the company’s portfolio of product offerings, manufacturers can build a powerful new revenue stream.
They help future-proof your business
Future-proofing your manufacturing business means choosing an ERP system that will grow with you, adapting to the changing world in ways that support your ongoing evolution as a company. Top manufacturing ERP software vendors demonstrate an ongoing commitment to investing in their platforms. That means extending their solutions to include IoT sensors and machine metrics. It means applying AI and machine learning to problems that are unique to the manufacturing world. Predictive maintenance applications, for example, reduce downtime by ensuring that equipment always remains in good operating condition.
For regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, food, and beverage, or aerospace and defense; future-proofing means adding new features that support ongoing compliance with new mandates. Whether it’s new cybersecurity standards, reporting requirements, or entirely new business processes; the top manufacturing ERP solutions will adapt to your changing needs over time.
They are created and supported by manufacturing experts
Above all, the best manufacturing ERP software is created by experts who understand the nuances and specialized requirements of manufacturing companies. Although there are many ERP solutions on the market that claim to support manufacturing processes, – many fall short of the mark because they’re built to meet the needs of a much broader market of small and mid-sized businesses. As you evaluate manufacturing ERP software for your company, focus your efforts on the products that are clearly purpose-built for the manufacturing industry.
As you seek out a qualified partner to help you with your selection and implementation process, it is likewise important to look for a company that truly understands manufacturing. Ask the tough questions, request recommendations from other companies in your industry, and talk to references.
Are there ERP alternatives for manufacturers?
Occasionally, manufacturing companies will seek out alternatives to a full-blown manufacturing ERP system. Here are a few examples:
Manufacturing execution systems: A manufacturing execution system (MES) is focused primarily on production processes, rather than on the comprehensive flow of transactions throughout the business. This means less information, less control, and fewer opportunities for revenue growth, customer service, and business analytics.
Plan vanilla ERP: As we have noted, general-purpose ERP software virtually always falls short of expectations because it only provides rudimentary support for manufacturing processes. For more details, we recommend reading our blog article, Plain Vanilla ERP Isn’t Good Enough.
Spreadsheets and other manual methods: Unfortunately, many small manufacturers still rely on spreadsheets for critical tasks like inventory control, production scheduling, and compliance reporting. It’s incredibly time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient. With the shortage of qualified managers in today’s job market, manual methods are an especially poor use of scarce resources.
Finding the best manufacturing ERP software for your company
Reaping the benefits of modern ERP software starts with thorough research and a careful plan. Here are some resources that can help you as you embark on that journey:
- Your Complete Guide to ERP for the Manufacturing Industry
- The Top 10 Benefits of ERP Systems Explained
- Making the Most of ERP with Aligned Business Processes
When you’re ready to take the next step, Synergy’s team of manufacturing ERP experts is available to speak with you about your goals and objectives, without obligation. We will take the time to understand your manufacturing business, your goals and objectives, and your corporate culture. We can work with you to identify the best manufacturing ERP system for your organization. Then, when you’re ready, we can work with you to plan, implement, and support your system to help you achieve your goals.
Synergy has been working with manufacturing ERP systems for decades. We have a deep bench of experts who know aerospace & defense, industrial equipment & machinery, high tech & electronics, automotive, energy, medical device manufacturing, food & beverage, chemicals, and more.
To begin a conversation with our team, please reach out to the experts at Synergy Resources.