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Choosing the Best ERP for Manufacturing: A Features Checklist

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Choosing the Best ERP for Manufacturing: A Features Checklist

Nov 22, 2021

Andy Pickard
Businessman in manufacturing plant

When you’re looking for new technology, it’s easy to get blinded by choice. Many of the solutions available right now offer a comprehensive suite of tools: which manufacturing ERP features do you ACTUALLY need to drive digital transformation in your organization?

If you’ve read our blog post on everything your business needs to know about manufacturing ERP and are ready to invest in new technology, you’re in the right place. To help you find the best ERP system for manufacturing, here is a checklist of features that your chosen software should include, and some tips to enhance your business using digital software.

Quoting and Estimating

The positive impact of ERP starts as soon as new customer opportunities arise, as the best ERP for manufacturing will include tools that enable you to increase the speed and accuracy of quotes and estimates.

By recording operational information such as raw material prices and previous job quotes, you can use your manufacturing ERP features to resource jobs properly and protect profit margin, completing more orders on schedule without your team having to do overtime. And by presenting a clear breakdown of costs, you’ll get customer quotes over the line quicker.

Shop Floor Management

As the nerve center of your business, the shop floor needs to function as effectively as possible. But many manufacturers still rely on paper-based processes, emails and spreadsheets to manage operations.

Manufacturing ERP software is a really powerful way to increase shop floor productivity and cost-efficiency, by connecting all your personnel via a single solution. Everyone can see and react to what’s going on in all operational areas, and many of the core processes that your shop floor relies on can be streamlined and automated to increase your output.

The best ERP system for manufacturing will create automatic workflows for low-value, repetitive tasks, so people can focus on higher skilled responsibilities. For example, if you’re a process manufacturer, ERP software will automatically generate certificates of analysis (CofAs).

The data insights provided by ERP technology will also allow you to make smarter decisions—such as sequencing similar processes together to minimize the number of machinery changes made during the course of each day. Data insights are especially useful if your manufacturing ERP features are mobile-compatible, as shop floor staff can view information and manage workload on-the-move.

In addition, you can use your ERP’s shop floor management module to record people’s skills, so you can assign the right personnel to each job. Coordinating this information centrally also enables you to identify any gaps or weaknesses in your capabilities, to plan future recruitment and business growth.

Financial Management

Like the shop floor, many manufacturers are using paper and email-based systems to manage accounts, which makes it difficult to get an accurate, up-to-date overview of company cash flow.

The best manufacturing ERP software will automate and optimize every element of your financial management; so the accurate quotes you’re creating using ERP technology can be automatically turned into a sales order for processing by your finance team.

If you’re an international manufacturer, look out for ERP software with multi-language, multi-currency options for seamless invoicing and payment.

Production Scheduling

Running a productive operation is key to every manufacturers’ success, and the best manufacturing ERP system will deliver accurate visibility of your needs by improving planning and scheduling. Manufacturing ERP software enables organizations to flexibly adapt scheduling and processes based on changing demand levels, organizing your production floor by work order or batch ticket to improve people’s efficiency and scheduling maintenance and technical downtime around customer orders.

A market-leading manufacturing ERP system will also allow you to perform ‘what-if’ analyses to foresee challenges and potential disruptions before they occur—for example, what’s the impact of ingredients or raw materials being delayed?

Armed with this information, you can make intelligent scheduling decisions, such as reordering your schedule to prioritize jobs that can be completed while you’re waiting for missing inventory to arrive.

Inventory Control

Inventory control goes hand-in-hand with production scheduling, as ERP software empowers you to match real-time ingredient or component levels with work orders, to plan resources based on who and what will be available. However, the type of inventory control software you require may differ depending on the sector you operate in.

For example, industrial manufacturers will need an ERP system with material requirement planning capabilities, to generate a bill of materials (BOM) for each job. Ideally, your ERP software will integrate your bill of materials with live inventory data, so you can forecast when you’re likely to run short of components—rather than only seeing the full extent of the problem when stock is critically low.

Meanwhile, process manufacturers and food manufacturers need ERP software with recipe and formula management capabilities, to calculate raw material requirements according to the size and makeup of each product batch. 

Process and food manufacturers also have greater ingredient variability to contend with, which is why many organizations tend to choose a dedicated process manufacturing ERP system or food ERP software. These industry-specific solutions can help with storing and managing perishable ingredients to minimize waste.

Traceability

Strong customer relationships are built on trust, and a huge element of this trust is the authenticity of the ingredients and processes that go into creating a product. For manufacturers, this means using ERP software to identify, classify and track inventory from supplier through to shipment, for complete transparency throughout the manufacturing and distribution process.

Like inventory management, traceability plays a particularly critical role in food and process manufacturing, and the best ERP for manufacturing in these sectors is often industry-specific.

For example, pharmaceutical ERP software automatically tracks serial numbers, lot and production line information in real time, while chemical ERP systems can track volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like fertilizers to comply with government regulations.

Another emerging industry with bespoke technology is legal cannabis and CBD goods production. Cannabis ERP software is enabling manufacturers to assign plant ID information for seed-to-sale control, while monitoring specifics such as potency grade. Cannabis manufacturers are also using end-to-end traceability and reporting to meet regulatory compliance and handle multi-jurisdictional operations, along with managing who can use cannabis ERP systems using permission-based security access.

Whatever sector you specialize in, the best ERP for manufacturing will allow you to maintain tight control over raw material using forward and backward lot number genealogy. Not only does this support transparency and authenticity; it will enable you to quickly audit and recall products in the event of a safety, construction, calculation or contamination issue.

Supply Chain Management

The best ERP for manufacturing features we’ve discussed so far have focused primarily on internal organization and customer relationship building. However, ERP software can also transform your supplier relationships.

Supply chain control and supplier management best practices are critical to stop sourcing issues impacting your productivity. And an ERP with supply chain management tools gives you greater resilience and flexibility; something we discuss in-depth in our future manufacturing supply chain whitepaper.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted just how easily global supply chains can be disrupted. The best manufacturing ERP system gives you the visibility to understand the impact of ingredient or component delays on your material requirement planning and production scheduling, so you can accommodate setbacks and look to source raw materials from an alternative supplier if necessary.

Analytics and Business Intelligence

In addition to providing operational and automation benefits, manufacturing ERP software adds value by centralizing your business data, so you can make stronger, more contextual decisions.

The best ERP for manufacturing will include analytics and/or business intelligence tools that allow you to visualize and report relevant, real-time information to any device, anywhere in your business, through an easy-to-use dashboard.

By digitizing your manufacturing operation, you can analyze high-level trends and drill down into granular detail, to understand the cost-efficiency of your processes and prioritize your most profitable jobs.

Look out for manufacturing ERP features that enable you to create custom dashboards, so you can configure insights and set KPIs for each user in your business, delivering automatic event-based alerts when those KPIs aren’t met. This will allow everyone in your organization to focus on the metrics that matter most to their role, developing proactive responses to any setbacks.

Don’t Forget: Talk to Vendors About Their Manufacturing ERP Features

This manufacturing ERP features guide has given you a comprehensive overview of what to look for when choosing new technology, but it’s not just a case of finding software that ticks every box on your checklist. Your choice of vendor can make a huge difference to whether ERP delivers ROI.

To find the best-fit technology partner, look into your shortlisted vendors’ track records, to see what their experience is working with manufacturing companies in your sector. At this stage, it’s a good idea to document your requirements in a vendor brief or RFP, so you can set clear criteria for rating the capabilities of each manufacturing ERP provider you’re considering.

Next, talk to your shortlisted vendors about their sector knowledge. The best ERP system for manufacturing will be built by someone who knows the challenges organizations like yours face day-to-day, and will be comfortable demonstrating their capabilities by:

  • Sharing case studies and customer testimonials – so you can see which other manufacturing companies are using their ERP software and the benefits they’ve yielded from it. For example, when chemicals manufacturer, Hammond Group, moved to Aptean process manufacturing ERP they reduced IT costs by 39% in the first year of operation. Read Hammond Group’s success story in full.  

  • Live demonstration – it’s good to see on paper what your manufacturing ERP provider can do, but make sure you also ask your shortlisted vendors to carry out a demonstration. This will give you a clearer idea on whether the software is easy-to-use, and seeing it in a live environment will give you the opportunity to ask questions and explore key features in greater detail.

  • A roadmap for deployment, training and support – a good implementation plan is critical to hitting the ground running, but an experienced manufacturing ERP vendor understands that day one is just the beginning. The best results are driven by tech companies that understand the importance of training and support in customer success, and who will empower your workforce to drive value through your manufacturing ERP features.  

Aptean offers free ERP software demonstrations to prove the value of our technology in helping manufacturers run more efficient, profit-driven businesses. Rather than trying to create a ‘catch all’ solution for all manufacturing organizations, we’ve created three industry-specific solutions that deliver the tailored functionality your business requires to drive ROI:

  • Aptean Industrial Manufacturing ERP software is ideal for manufacturers with customers in computers and electronics, fabricated metals, heavy machinery, and transportation equipment.

  • Aptean Process Manufacturing ERP supports manufacturers with customers in sectors including cannabis/CBD, chemicals, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products.

  • Aptean Food ERP enhances manufacturing operations in sectors like bakery, confectionery, dairy, fresh produce and frozen foods.

If you’re ready to get started transforming your manufacturing operation, get in touch with us today.

Tell us about yourself and an Aptean specialist will be in touch.