Just a mere decade ago, a majority of companies using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software were major corporations — massively complex business operations with lots of time and money to put toward the creation and maintenance of custom enterprise software and the accompanying on-premise data centers. 

But the emergence of cloud technology has changed this equation dramatically. Today’s cloud-based ERP platforms are highly scalable, which translates into vastly improved affordability. And as the term “cloud” implies, there is no need for an on-premise data center, which has dramatically reduced the costs of ERP.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platforms are large, multi-module systems that centralize a company’s operations into a single database. There are literally dozens of ERP platforms to choose from, with some better-suited to certain industries. The manufacturing industry is one that is very complex and the company that deploys a manufacturing ERP platform stands to see some really significant benefits. But what is the best ERP for manufacturing? The choices can seem overwhelming, so let’s examine a few of the available options and how to choose the best manufacturing ERP software. 

A Look at Some of the Top ERP Software for Manufacturing

Evaluating manufacturing ERP software is subjective, of course, but there are a few systems that emerge as consistent standouts amongst those who evaluate and rank these platforms.

  • Epicor ERP – Epicor ERP is regarded as a top manufacturing software platform and it is among the few enterprise software systems designed with manufacturers in mind. The platform features “intelligent” AI-powered systems to help companies make the most of their data in an end-to-end manner, extending from the manufacturing facility to the store shelves. 
  • NetSuite Cloud ERP – The NetSuite Cloud ERP platform is a consistent top pick amongst evaluators due to its versatility and highly-customizable nature. NetSuite describes their advantage very adeptly: “We offer an agile and staged pathway for you to succeed by engaging you continuously throughout the full lifecycle of your business, keeping you on an upward growth trajectory tailored specific to manufacturing companies.”
  • SAP Cloud ERP – One of the best-known names in the industry, SAP’s cloud ERP platform is a common top pick for the manufacturing sector. The SAP S/4HANA Cloud ERP platform can work as a cloud or hybrid deployment, while the supply chain- and manufacturing-specific modules make for a smooth implementation process. SAP ERP software is highly-supported by way of integrations too, allowing for a deployment that is far more straightforward and cost-effective than what you might experience with other systems. This interface is also highly data-driven, which is a major plus in an industry where the heavyweights are largely fueled by data metrics. 

How to Choose the Best ERP for Manufacturing

Picking the top ERP for manufacturing is a challenge because each company’s operations are unique. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all ERP solution. Factors such as the nature of your operations, company size, budget and required third-party integrations are just a few of the key considerations that will need to be kept in mind as you pick the best enterprise software solution for the organization’s needs. But you can look for some of the following attributes as you seek out an ERP system for your manufacturing business. 

  • Rich Data Analytics and Metrics – Manufacturing is a data-driven business niche. The most successful companies in this sector use data to drive their operations forward. The centralized nature of ERP systems is ideal since these platforms use a single database that lends itself to use with big data tools and data analytics engines. For this reason, it is prudent to seek a system with rich data analytics capabilities so you can fully leverage this data to drive your business forward. 
  • Integrations With Third-Party Platforms – It is not uncommon for a manufacturing company to use custom software systems to work with suppliers, vendors, logistics companies, and others within the supply chain. Often, these software systems are custom-developed platforms without an established API. If you plan to keep these stand-alone platforms as such, you’ll likely want to integrate them so the data syncs with your manufacturing ERP platform. This is a special consideration that must be addressed with your implementation partner. Third-party integrations are common for ERP software and the most cost-effective solutions will be one that features existing “connectors” or “plugins” to achieve these integrations with minimal coding and configuration. 
  • Customization to Your Operations – Some ERP platforms are more customizable than others. The ideal ERP system will require minimal configuration to meet your needs; the more you customize, the greater the cost of implementation. That said, configuration is typically a one-time expense so it is generally worth the investment. The goal should be to find an ERP system that allows you to eliminate as many stand-alone software systems as possible. The overarching objective is to integrate all capabilities into the single, centralized ERP platform that will propel your manufacturing business toward success.

Finding the right ERP platform for your manufacturing business — or any company, for that matter — is a challenge due to the complexity of the software and the size of the investment in this sort of implementation. Implementing and deploying an ERP platform is a costly and time-hungry venture — an endeavor that can be very costly to re-do down the road. Quite simply, this is one project whereby you need to get right the first time. Failure is not only costly. Failure can snarl operations in a very disruptive way. 

An ERP consultant can be a valuable asset as you search out the best ERP for manufacturing. The ever-evolving nature of this software, perpetual waves of new ERP platform releases, and the emergence of new technology make this a rapidly-changing niche. As such, selecting the perfect ERP software solution really demands the hiring of expert ERP professionals

An ERP consultant will be well-positioned to help you review the most up-to-date information on enterprise manufacturing software. This is the preferable approach over simply researching the best manufacturing ERP systems since even the most comprehensive ranking and evaluation articles are rendered outdated in fairly short order. 

Finding the Right ERP Consultant for Your Manufacturing Business

At Cox-Little, we fully appreciate the complexity and importance of a well-executed manufacturing ERP implementation and deployment. We work with top tech talent — individuals who have extensive experience with enterprise resource planning software. The right ERP consultant can go a long way toward helping you find the perfect solution for your organization’s unique needs. We invite you to reach out to the Cox-Little team today to discuss your manufacturing business and your needs for an ERP platform.