Manufacturing companies have special requirements when it comes to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Manufacturers are concerned with managing their supply chains and procurement, quality control inspection and material disposition, bills of materials, engineering change management, and more. The best ERP for manufacturing can streamline these processes.
In fact, the top ERP software for manufacturing can produce efficiencies within your business when utilized correctly.
To track and manage all these activities and get meaningful business intelligence from the data, manufacturers demand robust and easy-to-use ERP systems. They want these systems to be flexible enough to grow as their business needs evolve, with rapid implementation and low total cost of ownership.
This article discusses the top ERP systems for manufacturing and why they are especially suitable for manufacturing businesses.
What is the best ERP system for manufacturing? The answer, as you might expect, is that there is no single “best manufacturing ERP.” Each ERP software has its own strengths and weaknesses for managing manufacturing business processes, and an ERP platform that works well for one business might be ill-suited for another.
It all comes down to the type of manufacturing you do, the complexity of your manufacturing process, and your goals in relation to the deployment of ERP software.
A major advantage of ERP software is its tight, native integration of multiple business processes and business data into a single software system, thereby consolidating information across the entire enterprise. All the best manufacturing ERP systems have functionality to support processes such as:
- Accounting and finance
- Human resources
- Sales and post-sale service
- Customer order management
- Warehouse management
Any list of the best ERP systems for manufacturing should include IFS, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, SAP, Epicor, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. They are presented here in no particular order.
Established in 1983, IFS produces general-purpose ERP software with modules optimized for various types of industries, such as services, aerospace and defense, construction, energy and natural resources, chemicals, and manufacturing.
Within its manufacturing modules, IFS has features that are tailored to support both process and discrete manufacturers. IFS includes industry-focused functionality to support businesses in areas such as:
- Automobiles: Both finished-product automobile manufacturers and OEM parts suppliers rely on IFS to support their complex supply chain management and manufacturing operations.
- Chemicals: The chemical products industry can be difficult to manage, with complex formulas and manufacturing processes as well as a tight regulatory environment. Many products and components have short shelf lives, complicating inventory management. The IFS ERP system has features designed to meet these challenges.
- Food and Beverage: IFS enables food and drink manufacturers to closely manage their diverse supply chains and demanding customers, with full traceability of every ingredient as well as advanced demand planning and forecasting.
- Life Sciences: Similar to the chemical industry, life sciences (including biotechnology, pharma, medical device manufacturing, analytical reagents, and more) faces tight regulations, shelf life issues, and complex quality management. IFS provides the cGMP-compliant tools that are demanded by the life sciences industry.
IFS is highly regarded for its intuitive user interface, comprehensive product offering, and excellent customer and technical support.
Interested in learning more? Check out these blogs:
- Different Types of Manufacturing Processes
- 3 Challenges with Manufacturing Scheduling Software
- How to Improve Productivity and Efficiency in Manufacturing
The JD Edwards software company was founded in 1977 and acquired by Oracle in 2005. Its flagship ERP product, EnterpriseOne, continues to be developed and marketed under the Oracle JD Edwards brand.
JD Edwards is known for the breadth of its support for many types of manufacturing. Today’s manufacturing environment is complex, with its emphasis on lean principles, inventory control and optimization, and high quality with fast production cycles. Some companies have multiple manufacturing modes, such as:
JD Edwards EnterpriseOne includes features to support all of these and more.
Another of EnterpriseOne’s strengths is its manufacturing resource planning (MRP) module. MRP takes information about each planned production order (such as the bill of materials and cycle times) and optimizes the production schedule for the plant overall, accounting for variables such as:
- Current and expected Inventory of upstream raw and semi-finished materials
- Downstream storage capacity
- Human resources (such as personnel shift schedules, training, vacation days)
- Equipment resources (capacity, planned maintenance, shared machines, setup time)
This feature eliminates resource conflicts and gaps, and provides the business with a realistic view of when each production order can be started and completed.
JD Edwards EnterpriseOne also provides support for manufacturing quality management, product configurations, and requirements planning.
A German company founded in 1972, SAP (which originally stood for Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung (“System Analysis and Program Development”) was among the first companies to offer what is now known as ERP software. SAP also pioneered the use of electronic data storage (as opposed to punch cards) and client-server architecture.
Over almost 50 years of development and innovation, the SAP ERP system has modules to satisfy nearly every type of industry, and in particular almost every type of manufacturing industry. SAP has a robust MRP module, plus add-on options such as a manufacturing execution system (MES) for greater visibility and control of manufacturing operations.
SAP has had an unfortunate reputation in the past for being difficult to learn and use, requiring users to memorize dozens, if not hundreds, of “transaction codes” (four- or five-character transaction identifiers) to access the software’s functions. This has changed in the last few years with the release of their S4/HANA ERP product.
S4/HANA offers a more intuitive, modern user interface than its predecessors while retaining a wide scope of functionality. In addition, unlike earlier versions of SAP, S4/HANA has a cloud-based option (like many of its competitors), bringing the power of SAP to the cloud and opening new opportunities for improved functionality.
SAP has long been known as one of the top manufacturing ERP systems, in part because of its sheer size and scope. As such, SAP has traditionally catered to the needs of large multinational conglomerates with large IT budgets and extensive in-house support staff.
However, SAP has more recently entered the small-business market with its Business One product, with scaled-down functionality, easier implementation, and a reduced price point. With more than 500 add-on options available, Business One makes it easy for smaller companies to leverage SAP’s powerful management, planning, and analytics tools.
Epicor is a smaller player in the ERP market but has a compelling offering for smaller enterprises. In particular, it is considered one of the best manufacturing ERP software solutions for small businesses, with a “Visionary” designation in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.
Epicor’s manufacturing software is widely used in manufacturing industries such as:
- Medical devices
- Metals, rubber, plastics, lumber, and other materials
- Industrial machinery
Although it focuses on the small-to-medium business market, Epicor is scalable, enabling management across multiple sites, plants, warehouses, and distribution centers. This flexibility makes Epicor ideal for companies oriented towards growth or looking to make acquisitions.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central started life as Navision, an ERP product from the Danish company of the same name. Microsoft acquired the Navision company in 2002 and added the Navision product, branded as Dynamics NAV, to its growing Microsoft Dynamics ERP product line. Microsoft recently renamed the product to Dynamics 365 Business Central.
WIth its intuitive user interface and a flexible architecture that enables a wide range of customization, Dynamics 365 Business Central is well suited for the small-to-medium manufacturing sector. Microsoft is positioning the product as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud offering, although an on-premise option is also available.
Microsoft has taken pains to develop its entire line of Dynamics ERP systems. As the world’s largest software company, Microsoft has the resources to continue to make Dynamics 365 Business Central a compelling ERP option for the small-to-medium business market.
Bottom Line: Look for the Best Fit
Ultimately, the question you should ask is not “what is the best ERP for manufacturing,” but “what is the best ERP for my manufacturing business?” In order to determine which ERP is best for your manufacturing business, then, you have to ask yourself:
- How much ERP do I need? What business processes do I want to cover?
- How much ERP can I afford?
- How complex are my business processes? Can I migrate my unique processes to best practices that are already modeled in an ERP system?
- For those processes that are impractical or impossible using best practices, how easily can they be modeled in an ERP with customization?
- For a given ERP system, how easy is it to expand to additional functional modules as my business grows?
- How scalable is each ERP? Can I go from 500 parts (or customers, or vendors) to 5,000 or 50,000 without a significant new investment?
…and that’s just the start. By performing due diligence and asking the right questions, you will find the best ERP for your situation, both now and in the future.
Contact the experts at Corning Data today to find the ERP that fits your manufacturing business needs.