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Top 10 ERP Solutions

Top 10 ERP

Top 10 ERP Solutions explained

People often are interested in knowing which are the Top 10 ERP Solutions available. This is a difficult question to answer because it depends upon the company that is asking the question and for what criteria. For example if you are a manufacturer looking for an ERP solution, it would not only matter that you are in the manufacturing Industry, but also which form of manufacturing are you; ie. Discreet, process, or project-based manufacturing are all different with different Top 10 ERP offerings within their respective niche.

Probably the best way to answer the Top 10 ERP solution question is to define the overall ERP market leaders, who both have good track records as well as those who meet the Top 10 ERP criteria in many industries.

We have listed out the Top 10 ERP solutions that we see as market leaders. The big caveat here is that while they may be a market leader, they may not be right for your company. You should look carefully at any ERP vendor you evaluate and determine if they are truly a good fit for you.

Our Top 10 ERP Solutions

There are three tiers of ERP Software. These tiers refer to the size of the systems relative to the size of the companies. Tier 1 is the largest systems which support the largest companies. Tier 2 is the middle market solutions serving companies of about $50 Million in revenue up to $500 Million. Often these solutions are scaled so that they roll out individual installations on a plant by plant basis. Tier 3 is for those companies under $50 Million in revenue and is designed for the smaller companies.

We will look at the Top 10 ERP solutions by Tier so as to give you a relative sizing of the systems. Keep in mind that the Tiers are only a general guide and that there is no rule that says a Tier 1 system cannot work in a Tier 2 client.

Tier 1 ERP Solutions

SAP is one of the market leaders in ERP software. Having been around since the early 1970’s SAP has implementations in many of the Fortune 500 and is well suited for global corporations. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t work locally and with smaller clients. They have put an emphasis in the last ten years on meeting the needs of the smaller company. By smaller, we mean the smaller corporations and companies whose annual revenue exceeds $50 Million per year. This is not a hard and fast rule, as now there are more offerings from SAP that are well suited to the smaller companies. Bottom line is that there is probably nothing that SAP cannot do. Along with Oracle, they are probably on most people’s Top 10 ERP list.

A strong competitor to SAP is Oracle. Although Oracle started as a database company, it quickly moved into the ERP Applications world and won over many large organizations. Like SAP, Oracle’s sweet spot is in the larger market. But they too have learned to work in the middle market. (Companies of $50-$500 Million in Sales) Again, like SAP, Oracle can do just about anything. But keep in mind with both of these systems that they are almost a platform that can be built to suit any company (for a price).

Microsoft joined the ERP world several years back with the acquisitions of multiple ERP Packages. They have since re-branded, retooled, and integrated these solutions into their Office and Web offerings. Solutions such as the powerful Microsoft AX can scale to very large companies and provides a lot of functionality. Microsoft NV is a very flexible package that can be modeled to fit any type of business. Microsoft GP has roots in service and distribution and is a good financial system. Microsoft SL is for companies who are looking for a project and financial software.

Tier 2 ERP Solutions

Our Top 10 ERP list has a majority of its players in the Tier 2 level. Tier 2 Solutions are suitable for the companies that have revenues greater than $50 Million in revenue. They are well suited for the division level of very large companies or for businesses that have a single market focus. They too can scale up, but usually they are not seen in companies over $500 Million in revenue, except at the plant level.

Infor is an interesting company in that they came into the market and made multiple acquisitions and have continued to develop these various solutions. They have a package for just about every type of business. The way they work is they find out what business you are in and then provide you with a solution that works well in your industry. You will be sure to find a suitable product from Infor.

Industrial and Financial Systems (IFS) does exactly what their name says. They are a tremendous ERP solution for the Industrial manufacturing world.

Always strong in Manufacturing and Distribution. This Tier 2 solution works very well and has many successful installs. If you are a company who is larger than $25 Million and Smaller than $1 Billion in sales, then you should probably take a look at this solution.

Similar to Abas, Epicor is a strong middle market ERP solution that works very well in Accounting, Distribution, and Manufacturing. They have a great story to tell and their products are well-developed. They too are worth a look.

Syspro is another middle market competitor who does very well in the small to medium size businesses. Originally developed in South Africa, they have taken on the world with tremendous force and have done quite well.

BatchMaster ERP
BatchMaster is included her for all the process-based manufacturers who struggle with forumlations and tracking liquid blend or chemical products. With a long legacy of helping paint, coatings, chemical, and recipe based manufacturers, BatchMaster is a great solution for the growing process manufacturer.

Sage has, like Infor and others, acquired numerous products over the past 5 to 10 years. As such, they have some great offerings for various industries. Systems such as their mainstay, MAS200 or even MAS500 are great products that serve distribution and manufacturing quite well.

Top 10 ERP solutions roundup

As we mentioned in the beginning, this is an overall ERP solutions comparison. But each industry and market can have their own top 10 ERP list. Use this guide as a starting point in your ERP Selection.

We hope this Top 10 ERP solutions guide has been useful. Please feel free to comment if you have other solutions that you would include in the Top 10 ERP listing.

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New Site New Features

We had an unfortunate server crash and were only able to recover partially from the outage.

We are rebuilding the site and adding new articles that you should find useful. We will still focus entirely on ERP software selections. We may touch on implementations, but the focus is on the processes, methods, and technology surrounding business software selections.

Additionally, we have added a new Q&A groups, where you can post questions to the community, post war stories of your successful (or less than successful) selection projects.

If you have any thoughts on how to improve the site as we move forward, please post your comments below.

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ERP Selection Methodology Success

ERP Selection Methodology

ERP Selection Methodology refers to the process and steps you take to evaluate and choose a new Enterprise Resource Planning System. Wikipedia defines a methodology as “A documented process for management of projects that contains procedures, definitions and explanations of techniques used to collect, store, analyze and present information as part of a research process in a given discipline.” This seems to be very appropriate when it comes to evaluating ERP Software. Your ERP Selection Methodology can determine the success or failure of your subsequent implementation.

If you choose to forego an ERP Selection Methodology when evaluating new systems, you will run into problems. The most prevalent issue is the ERP Vendors driving the selection process. You, as the buyer, end up hanging onto their coattails and ultimately go where they lead you. A proper ERP Selection Methodology will lead the vendors down your path and provide you with the details you need to make an informed decision.

This ultimately affects the outcome of your implementation in a number of ways. If you have chosen a software that fits your business, then the implementation will be easier due to the fact that you will not need to bend your processes dramatically to make the software effectively process your transactions. If however, you end up choosing an ERP software that does not fit your business processes very well, you will have to change your business processes and could ultimately create a situation where your unique value in the market is diminished. For example, if you have to change a process that previously required two steps, but now requires five steps in order to ship a product, this could lead to delays and bottlenecks and can potentially can create customer issues.

An ERP Selection Methodology Example

ERP Selection Methodology
A typical ERP Selection Methodology Flow

The following is an example ERP Selection methodology that you can model.  It is not a complete process and should be used for reference purposes only, however, it does show typical tasks that are involved in selecting an ERP software solution.

Phase I – Strategy and Requirements Definition

This phase develops the vision for the future ERP system taking into consideration the key drivers for the company from both inside and outside the company.

The following are the major tasks that occur in this first phase:

  • Develop a clear understanding of your current business and information systems
  • Interviews are scheduled and held to understand the company’s future plans and focus
  • Working with top management, develop the top four or five strategic objectives required to achieve the company’s plans for the future
  • Review technology status and trends based on your understanding of the “best of class” organizations
  • Develop a high-level “Future State” model that describes the attributes of the future system required to support the company’s vision for the future.
  • Develop a detailed list of specific and distinctive requirements that must be supported by the new ERP software system
  • Develop a Long List (8-10) of ERP Vendors based on initial understanding of your requirements
  • Research each vendor’s product functionality and features as well as key vendor issues/deficiencies to arrive at the short-list finalists
  • Identify the two vendors who shall provide an end-to-end demonstration of how they will support your future vision
  • Optionally, evaluate ERP software Value Added Resellers (VARS) for each candidate software to participate as potential implementation partners
  • Based on the requirements and business processes, a demonstration script is developed
  • Optionally, develop a high-level business case to justify the investment in a new ERP system

Phase 2 – System Evaluation and Selection

This phase is the detailed analysis and comparison of the two software vendors chosen above.  Your role as project manager is to ensure that the information provided by the vendors during their demonstrations, functionality and features discussion, hardware configuration recommendations and reference assessment is as accurate and factual as possible.

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During the vendor evaluation phase, the following key tasks need to occur:

  • Review the demonstration script with the selected vendors
  • Create scoring sheets based on the demonstration script
  • Manage the vendor demonstrations closely.  Work to avoid exaggeration and embellishment and keep the demonstrations on course
  • Score and rate the vendors
  • Conduct reference checks
  • Visit and interview vendor customers at their site
  • Rank the two vendors based on all the relevant business and technical criteria
  • Review vendor proposals and determine key areas for negotiation
  • Hold software vendor contract negotiations
  • Prepare a high-level implementation plan, schedule, and budget
  • Communicate to vendors the selection outcome

ERP Selection Methodology Summary

As stated above, the ERP Selection Methodology shown is only an illustration of the various tasks that need to occur and should not be used as a final template for your selection.  Rather, use it as a checkpoint for ensuring you do not miss any key tasks in your own ERP Selection Methodology.  Spend the time to build out your plan and research other alternative approaches.

When building your personal ERP selection methodology, be sure to keep in mind that you are the one who will be driving the project.  Not the vendors.  If you follow the ERP selection methodology closely, you will have a higher chance of  bringing the selection in on time and within budget.

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ERP Comparison Tips For Finding Your Ideal System

ERP Comparison – Finding Your “Best-Fit” Software

An ERP comparison is usually one of the first tasks that people take on when looking for a new ERP solution. But what is it that you should be comparing? Is it the feature set? Is it the pricing? Is it the support offerings? There are a lot of various components to choosing the best ERP software system. In your ERP comparison, is it possible to find the best-fit software for your feature needs, but totally fail on the software company’s availability to deliver or support. You may find the software that is the right price, but may not meet your functional needs.

Finding the right software in an ERP comparison is like finding the right spouse. There will be a lot of courting and a lot of flirting, but there are many factors that can affect the relationship. You can think that they are the perfect one for you and yet there is the potential that a few years from now, you will be looking all over again. Carrying the analogy further, if you can find the right one who not only fits your requirements and is committed to not only your short-term happiness, but also is fully committed to making the relationship work, then you will have a successful marriage.

This is so true of an ERP software vendor’s relationship with the client. If in your ERP comparison activities you find the vendor who is truly committed to your success and the success of the mutual relationship, then you will have someone you can work with even when times are difficult. This should be your underlying focus of the ERP comparison activities.
erp comparison

Key ERP Comparison Factors

There are a number of things that you should evaluate in your ERP comparison, however here are some of the top evaluation criteria you should consider:

1. What is the platform and what is the support for this platform, both from the vendor and from your staff?
When we are talking about platform, we are really referring to the operating system and the database that you will be using with this system. If you are looking at Windows for the operating system and MS SQL server, you are looking at a very common platform with many options for getting support. If you are looking at UNIX and Oracle as your operating system and database platform, then you are again choosing wisely.

However, if you do not have the internal support for the platform you are choosing then your training costs will be increased. But don’t let this be the only consideration. If you need to do extra training to get the right solution for your needs, then do so. If you can get a solution that your IT department can support immediately, and it fits your other ERP Comparison requirements, then make that choice. The main point is that you want to find a solution that fits overall.

Now, you have another platform consideration option to factor into your ERP comparison. Cloud computing. There are more and more ERP vendors who are offering a hosted solution. But keep in mind that this may only be a hosted server, or it may be a true multi-tenant environment where upgrades are easily maintained. This will require little if any internal IT support so it could be a less expensive solution to support. It could also have a negative impact on IT moral since you would be taking responsibilities away from them. The key solution here is to make sure that IT is involved from the beginning of the ERP Comparison when it comes to platform discussions. Early decisions on the platform often determine potential vendor candidates.

2. How do the prospective systems meet your functional requirements?
When most people perform an ERP comparison, they look at the functional requirements. For example: “Does the system offer the ability to issue A/P laser checks?” or “Can the system freeze stock levels for inventory processing?”. These are just a couple of the potentially hundreds of functional requirements with which you will be screening the erp software candidates.

A good way to establish requirements in your ERP comparison is to focus on the uniqueness of your business and ensure that the system supports those specialized functions. Too often people spend a lot of time and effort on documenting the trivial… “Can the system issues a/p checks?” or “can the system do double entry accounting?” Okay, that was an oversimplification, but you should see what we are driving at. The questions to the software providers should be along the lines of “Can the system support a third-party logistics integration?” or “Does the system support lean manufacturing in project based company?” The more focused on your specialized business you can write these questions, the better the differences between the various systems in your ERP Comparison will be demonstrated.

3. How well does the vendor’s support meet your needs?
As mentioned earlier, an ERP comparison and selection is like getting married. And the support agreement is your assurance that when times are difficult, that the vendor will be there to support you. Make sure you consider the potential problems that you may encounter. Will you need 24 hour support? If you are a global company with people working around the clock, you may need it. If you are a single location with 9-5 hours, then a standard 12 hour support may work for you.

Find out the type of support representatives that they have and the levels of training. Understand the levels of support escalation. Get and read the service level agreement documents. All of these will give you an understanding of how well you will be supported.

Find out about upgrades, patches and other software enhancements. What is the standard release cycle? Is it yearly, bi-yearly, or quarterly? What will be needed from your team to make sure the system is at the latest revision? If you get too far behind in patches and upgrades, you may fall out of the support agreement terms. Understand what you are getting into.

4. How true is the vendor’s management commitment to your success?
This is a bit subjective, but during your ERP comparison, meet with the provider’s service management. Find out how committed they are to you as an individual client to ensure that you are successful. Find out how easy it is to engage the service division’s management with an escalation should you have a support issue.

You want to make sure that the vendor isn’t just moving licenses, but rather has a desire to make you successful.

5. Does the price fit your budget? (short and long-term)
Pricing is always a sticking point. Make sure that you negotiate and negotiate well. During the negotiation phase of an ERP Comparison, the vendors are often expecting to drop the prices by double-digit percentages. Don’t leave money on the table. At the same time, realize that there is a final number that they are willing to come to and if you are asking for more than that, they won’t budge.

Don’t forget to factor in the costs of hardware and network upgrades into your budget. These can have a significant impact on your budget. Too often people only focus on the software costs and do not factor in the hardware and upgrades.

That covers up-front costs. In your ERP comparison, make sure you understand the long-term costs, including software license renewals, support renewals, and if there are any limits to the amount of price increase on the contracts. You likely negotiated a good up-front cost, but what about the ongoing costs?

Other ERP Comparison Considerations

There are other ERP comparison considerations to think about, but many are subjective and really up to you to evaluate, such as how well do you feel you work with the vendor? ERP suppliers who are easy to work with often are easy to work with in the implementation. Get a feel for the company culture. Does it fit with your company’s values and attitudes? Sometimes a company with a more easy-going attitude will not work well with a rigid ERP provider. Understand the personality of the company you will be married to for at least the next 7 to 10 years or more.

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What to look for in an MRP System

Key things you should know about an MRP System

An MRP System (Materials Requirements Planning) helps a manufacturing company utilize built-in scheduling logic to manage the flow of materials in the manufacturing operation. Companies are looking at ways to reduce inventory costs, drive down lead times while improving customer service, improve the manufacturing process and improve product quality. Using an MRP system, a manufacturer can become much more efficient and better plan the needs for resources, both in terms of materials as well as capacity within the factory and better serve the customer.

There are two types of MRP Systems that can be discussed. First is Material Requirements Planning and the second is Manufacturing Resource Planning or MRPII. A traditional MRP System is one where the software uses the Bills of Materials, Inventory levels, and the Master Production Schedule to calculate and plan the need for replenishment orders. An MRPII system is a system that plans many more functions of the entire manufacturing process, including Capacity Requirements planning, Master Production scheduling, Plan Simulations and all the aspects of the classic MRP system.
MRP System
Most systems today are MRPII based systems, so from this point forward, if we are referring to an MRP System, we are really discussing MRPII systems as that is what is presently offered in the market and includes the earlier aspects of MRP.

Researching an MRP System often brings about a lot of questions and uncertainty. Not so much about the MRP System and how it calculates the requirements, that is usually just a calculation that you can get from a good Material Requirements Planning book. Really, the question usually comes about as to where the differences are between the systems.

Essentially, the key differentiators of MRP systems would be the ease of their ability for them to allow you to see the multiple layers of planning. But even more, the ease in which you can keep the data clean. With thousands of parts and possibly thousands of Bills of Materials (along with the many variations), you will need to be able to easily update or even mass update parts, BOMs, routings and all of the detail surrounding them.

MRP System as part of an ERP solution

As most MRP system software is a subcomponent of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), it is worth looking at how the materials planning aspect of the ERP interacts with the rest of the system. For example, how well does the MRP system communicate order requirements to the shop floor control system? How well does the Product Data Management aspect of the ERP interact with the Bills of Material module? How well does the inventory control system work with the Quality Management system? For example, if you receive inventory into the system, is there a way to isolate it from the MRP System while it undergoes quality inspections?

When looking at MRP Systems the real concern is how the users will use it. It needs to be as simple as possible to interact with from a user perspective. However, it needs to be able to drive all of the capacity and material plans that you need to run the business. An important thing to try is to let your material planning or purchasing people try out the system during the demo phase. They won’t be able to run the system without help, but at least they can get a feel for the screens and the depth of information provided.

Another important tip is to make sure that all of your people who are interacting with the system, such as buyers, planners, and inventory managers all have training on the concepts of MRP. This will help them get up to speed quickly once a new MRP system is in place.

Your Future MRP System

When you get down to a short list of vendors, it would be a great idea to start looking at the quality of the information from your existing MRP System. Clean up the Bills of Materials. Obsolete any that are out of date. Ensure that your inventory counts are accurate. Make sure that your customer orders are clean and old back-orders that will never ship are closed. You should begin the cleanup of the data in the source system long before you even think about transferring it to the new system. If you do it a little at a time over a period of months, by the time you are ready to migrate the data to the new system, you will be ready to utilize the new system immediately. At some point the data needs to be clean, it might as well be now.

Lastly, find out early from the software provider of the new system what additional data elements you will need to support their system. You may not be capturing that data currently, so start building the list now. Moving to a new MRP system does not need to be difficult, but it will take some cleanup and planning.

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MRP System

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Small Business ERP

Finding the right Small Business ERP for your company

Small Business ERP is a unique category of enterprise software. It typically needs to have all the functionality of large corporate ERP software, but it needs to have as few clicks and screens as possible to ensure that the users are not overburdened with a lot of time spent entering data. The size of the business does not necessarily change the functionality required in the software. Rather, the small company often has a need for higher efficiency since they cannot afford the manpower to maintain the system.

When you look at ERP software, there are three tiers of applications. Tier 1 is large multi-national software solutions, such as Oracle, SAP, and JD Edwards. Tier 2 is the mid-market level. These applications are suitable to businesses in the range of 50M to 250M. This is the sweet spot of the market. Like any bell curve, the mid-market has both the most customers, as well as the most product offerings. The last tier is the Tier 3 offerings which is the small business ERP category. These are systems suitable for 1 person startups to about the $50M level, although some of these products become inefficient if they have more than 20 users on the system. So while they claim to be Small Business ERP offerings, they are for the smallest of companies.
Small Business ERP

Things to look for in Small Business ERP

When evaluating small business ERP solutions, it is important that you properly screen the potential software candidates to ensure you get a software that fits your business. If you don’t you will run into many different issues. Here are some tips:

1. Make sure that the small business ERP software you are looking at fits into your niche.
2. Make sure that the data entry is simple and efficient
3. Make sure that the database platform can be managed by you or your staff
4. Look at the support offerings of the small business ERP provider to ensure that it is tailored to your needs
5. Determine that the small business ERP reseller provides enough training to properly get your staff up and running

Let’s discuss these points. First you need to make sure that the software you are looking at fits within the business model or industry that you work within. A retail store should not use a software designed for distributor. See what other customers that the software provider has worked with in the past and ask for specific examples of companies in your industry.

You need to make sure that the users do not become slaves to the system. Make sure that the data entry screens are simple, efficient and do not require a lot of bouncing around to other screens to input simple things such as invoices or purchase orders.

The heart of the system is the database. You need to make sure that the database does not require a full time system admin to maintain it. It should be designed to be self maintaining and easily managed. Learn a little bit of the technical requirements from the Small Business ERP solution provider. You do not want to be in the situation where you need to bring in a specialized database administrator if later something goes wrong.

Small Business ERP should have support designed for you the small business owner. You should easily be able to call in and immediately speak to a rep for support. You don’t want to have to wait for days to get answers. Be careful of small systems with small support staffs. Especially be wary where the system is developed and maintained by one or two people. Yes, they are also a small business, but it will be a big problem when they are not available to assist you.

Lastly, you and your staff need to have enough training to properly operate the application. Do not skimp on this point. You need more training than you think. In fact, it would be good to plan on training to go live and at least one other training session a month after go-live to answer any questions and resolve any problems from a lack of knowledge. You won’t become experts on the system in a day, so plan on future training sessions.

The future of Small Business ERP

The future of Small Business ERP seems to be one of two paths. There are those systems that will continue to be operating on a small network of computers and do quite well on them, such as Quickbooks or DBA Software. The other path is that of small business ERP companies such as Netsuite, who are leading the charge to bring small business ERP to the cloud. This means that you will have access to the application through a browser and no installed software will exist on your site. You are licensing access to a system that stores your data remotely and operates via an internet connection.

People often are concerned with this model as your data lives somewhere else. The fact of the matter is it is probably safer there than on a computer sitting in your back room. The data center security policies and the high-levels of authentication that are enforced by cloud computing providers truly lock down your data and its accessibility. Whereas your server in your back room is often open to anyone who happens to wonder by. This seems to be riskier. Nonetheless, whichever path you choose, you can be assured that the small business ERP industry is continuing to grow and develop.

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Manufacturing ERP Fundamentals

What is Manufacturing ERP?

Manufacturing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software is a much more complicated system than standard ERP systems. Before we talk about software though we need to understand that Manufacturing ERP also consists of the business processes that it takes to run a manufacturing operation. Unlike distribution or service businesses, there is a complete set of processes that enable the create of value from raw materials. These materials are supported by a supply chain which also needs to be managed.

Setting the software aside, there are inventory processes, shop floor processes, design processes, procurement processes, quality control measures and processes, and order management processes that need to be properly managed in the manufacturing ERP system. Many people have tried to solve the issues related to all of these processes by applying a new software solution to manage the process and have failed.

A blend of people, technology and process factors needs to be evaluated and optimized. If any of these three areas are missing or weak then the overall manufacturing process will not succeed. What will make you successful is improving the processes before you apply a manufacturing erp software solution.
Manufacturing ERP

When evaluating Manufacturing ERP software, it is important that the functional requirements for each of the three factors needs to be evaluated. How will the people be managed and evaluated in the Manufacturing ERP system? How will controls on the machinery and other technology be managed in the manufacturing ERP system? How will the technology enable efficient operations?

A trend in manufacturing over the last decade has been to apply Lean Manufacturing principles. Essentially, you want to remove waste from a process before automating it. If you do not, you will make the inefficiencies operate faster, creating more in-balances in supply and demand. It really doesn’t matter what you produce in terms of products, or what you utilize as your input raw materials. Lean principles balance out your supply and demand and in doing so, create better throughput. With the advent of Lean Manufacturing principles, many ERP software systems have incorporated a lean thinking into their systems.

Using a combination of Lean principles and common sense, you can work at creating operational efficiencies that will help when you apply any manufacturing erp software system to help manage the business processes. Bottom line: don’t automate a mess.

Manufacturing ERP Software

Looking at Manufacturing ERP Software, you need to evaluate how well it manages the manufacturing business functions (such as creating purchase orders, the business processes (such as managing the demand planning process), and how well it manages the data (as in providing efficient access and ease of reporting). That being said, all systems typically have a set of financial modules, a collection of inventory modules, manufacturing modules, and sales and order modules. These various modules each have certain functionalities that help you run the core business.

The differentiation between these various systems is in how well they accommodate the niche business that you are in. If you are a process manufacturer making blends then there is a certain set of Manufacturing ERP systems that work best for you. If you are a machine shop, then another class of Manufacturing ERP solutions work for you. If you are a complex or project based manufacturer, then you will look for different software than others. The good news is that there are ERP vendors that specialize in these different niche areas and others.

Understanding the class of software you want to evaluate is key to creating a short list of vendors. Keep in mind that there is a class of ERP software that fits in as a generalist niche solution. In other words, these software do all aspects of manufacturing fairly well, but do not have a specialty in any certain industry. Often these manufacturing ERP solutions will rely on their value added reseller chain to create add-on modules to fit certain industries. For example, there may be a generalist solution that has a set of 3rd party modules (written in the native toolset) that provides the process manufacturing functionality.

Things to look for in Manufacturing ERP solutions

When you evaluate Manufacturing ERP software, it can seem overwhelming. There are hundreds of manufacturing ERP software vendors all looking to be the next system at your company. If you step back and look at the industry that you belong to and evaluate the systems based on those that are successful in your industry, you will have taken the first step.

Second, you need to look at those systems that support all areas of your business. If you have unusual requirements make the vendor demonstrate how they will handle these unique functions. Many vendors claim to support various business processes, but when you make them show them in detail, there will be a clear distinction between those that can and those that only think they can handle your requirements.

Thirdly, you should evaluate the standard functions, but do not spend too much time on those things. Being able to cut a check or create a debit memo are pretty standard these days. Rather, have the vendor spend time showing you how they will handle your unique Return Merchandise process or your specialized Quality Management requirements. There is a consulting joke about the fact that “you as a customer are unique just like everyone else.” This is both true and false at the same time. Every business thinks it is unique on the whole. But the reality is that you probably do a majority of the things that most other businesses do. However, there is probably 20 percent of the things you do that make you special and make you successful. You want to make sure that these are the things that you drill down on with the vendors to ensure that you can continue to be special in those areas.

Taken step-by-step or with an area-by-area focus, Manufacturing ERP systems can be selected and implemented with great success.

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How to Have a Successful Selection Project

What to do right in a Business Software Selection Project

An ERP selection project (or any business software selection project) is a difficult endeavor. There are many things that need to be managed. There have been projects that seem to go well and then suddenly things end up on the wrong track. The critical thing about an ERP Selection project or any business software selection is that it lays the ground work for the implementation project. So if it is done correctly, you will have a higher chance of success in your implementation. If you have a weak selection project, then you are likely to have an equally weak implementation.

Things to ensure success on your Selection Project

There are several things you can do to ensure success on your selection project. Firstly is to gain top management’s support for this project. If the project is not a high priority at the top, then it will never succeed. This is one of the most important things that needs to be in place for a project to be successful. Good project management dictates that you have support for the selection project before undertaking the project. If the staff see that management doesn’t really care, then they will not care. However if people realize that management has made this a priority, they will shift their work to accommodate this new project.

The next thing that will help to ensure success is to have well defined expectations. This means that you need to map out the goals that you want to achieve with the new system. Often people will define their requirements for the system, but they have no higher goal. What is driving this need for a change? What is the expected successful outcome. Any successful project begins with the end in mind, but an ERP selection project is driven by the overriding goal of a successful out come resulting in significant positive changes. This goal will get you through the difficult times. Without it, the project is destined to achieve mediocre results and will likely take longer and be more difficult.

A focused timeline will also aid to the success. If you can define and manage to a set timeline and stick to it, the selection project will move at a reasonable pace. If you do not set a timeline and manage to it, the project will move at the pace of the vendors and will likely flounder. Again, this goes back to the management support. It needs to be a driven project. A selection project that is treated like just additional work will not be successful.
Selection Project Success
Focused and available resources are also key to the successful ERP selection project. Typically there are two teams, which may overlap. First is an executive steering committee that will decide on key things such as issues that arise where departments are competing with one another, or issues where time and budget are involved. This team is usually composed of senior management and at least has people empowered to make strategic decisions. Second is a functional team that represents the various areas of the business. Accounting, Quality Control, Manufacturing operations, Purchasing, Order Management, Inventory Control, etc. are all key areas that should be represented in the functional team.

This team needs to have the time to dedicate to the project. Companies that are truly committed to the success of the selection project often will move key people out of their jobs and give them full time responsibilities to the project. This is often very difficult and creates a short term gap in the various departments. But usually the remaining staff rise to the challenge and the leader from the department will provide invaluable insight into how the software system should function. The best people to assign to the project are the people you can least afford to remove from their jobs. They are the movers and shakers of the company and they make things happen in their departments. But this personality is exactly what you need on your selection project. They will give insight and a sense of drive to the project that will ultimately make it and the company a success.

Another key area to keep in your area of focus is the acceptance of change. Change management is one of the critical things you can do to ensure that the implementation is a success. But why talk about this in the selection project? Because the selection is where the change management process begins. If you can communicate your goals and visions for the project and get people enrolled into the idea of a change to their working environment, and make them excited about the change, then you are on your way to being successful. Change management boils down to effective communication. If you can over communicate the needs, the reasons for the projects and the successful vision, then you will gain the trust and support of those who will likely be doing more work in the short term to make the selection project a success. This includes those who are not directly involved, but will ultimately be users of the system. You need to make sure that everyone is involved.

This ties in with the last success factor and that is the communications plan. A plan needs to be drawn up to help communicate the goals of the project, the status of the project, they impact the project will have on users and even communicating bad news. Be sure to build into the project the communication plan. For example, at initiation, communicate the goals and desires of the project to the employee community. Along the way, communicate the status of the project. Make people feel involved or at the very least they are not being kept in the dark about the project.

What a Successful Selection Project looks like

If you have done the above mentioned items well, then a selection project will look like and will be a success. There are many aspects to a selection project, including people, processes, and the technology. Managing all of these factors well will result in your success. But communication and support are critical. You can not over communicate too much. Be sure that you have support and that everyone understands why you are undertaking the project. If you do this, you are on your way to choosing the right software and ensuring a successful outcome to your implementation, all thanks to the good work you put in on the ERP selection project.

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10 Steps to selecting ERP Software

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