Software Advice released their eBook “Key Criteria for ERP Software Selection” helping manufacturing companies get started and narrow down their ERP selection. In this process, you must ‘Identify a Short List of Vendors’. Considerations are your Niche, your Budget, your Deployment Preferences, your Must-Haves.
All manufacturers are not created equal and neither are ERP solutions. Forrest Burnson of Software Advice shares, “The most important idea to remember is that almost every ERP vendor will say they serve the ‘manufacturing’ industry, but many only offer basic MRP/MES features out of the box. And since process manufacturers needs are very specialized, your short list of vendors need to specialize in process manufacturing or you may be setting your company up for a heavily customized system.”
When putting together your short list of vendors, Burnson says remember the following:
- If a vendor does not specify that they target process manufacturing in their marketing language, he suggests writing them off
- Be sure to ask for names of clients (within your industry) that use the vendor’s ERP solution
- Go one step further and ask for a reference that you can call to verify the ERP fit with your industry
Burnson says you will have to weigh the variables of how well the ERP vendor fits your business with the size/longevity of the vendor. “Since your ERP vendor is a long-term partner, you’ll want them to be there to support you for at least 10 years,” shares Burnson. “Your best choice combines niche with company longevity.”
I would like to tack on a few other thoughts when considering your niche to identify a short list of vendors. Use the sales process to flush out your critical needs that are unique to your industry and don’t force a fit with the vendor. Learn if the solution needs to be configured to turn off certain processes that are relevant for discrete manufacturing, essentially trying to be all things to all people. And find out here if your vendor understands your unique business drivers and understands your pressures and challenges.
In addition, look to see if the fundamentals of the solutions (menu and transaction titles and parameters) are consistent with your industry. You’ll find that the more you force a fit to a discrete solution, the more likely your solution will require heavy customizations. Some customizations are acceptable, but the more out-of-the-box the solution, the more stable the product. And don’t forget, several customizations can be done within the solution with settings or parameters.
I couldn’t agree more with Forrest about the best choice being a combination of the vendor which supports your niche industry AND longevity of the vendor. Thankfully, process manufacturers do have vendors fulfilling their niche and that have served the process manufacturing industry for many years.
Christy Hudson is a Sr. Marketing Manager at BatchMaster Software. She is approaching the 30-year mark working with and for organizations providing ERP solutions to the for process manufacturing industry. Christy has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has also completed numerous courses in Marketing and Accounting.
Forrest Burnson is a market research associate at Software Advice, a firm that connects software buyers with vendors where he covers the ERP, inventory management and supply chain markets. He graduated from the University of the South with degrees in political science and French studies. In 2013, he earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas.