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Is There a Best ERP for Manufacturing? Not Really.

9/26/22 10:00 AM

best-erp-manufacturing - use this one

We’re good, but are we the best?

Visual South sells ERP for manufacturing-centric companies. More specifically, we sell Infor CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) and Infor VISUAL ERP. My experience with VISUAL goes back decades: When I was a plant manager, I bought and implemented VISUAL; I was a VISUAL consultant for years; and I’ve taken deep dives into CloudSuite Industrial.

With all that in mind, you may expect me to tell you that Infor CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) and Infor VISUAL ERP are the best ERPs for manufacturing-centric companies. I’m not going to do that, because choosing the best ERP for manufacturing involves many other variables aside from the technology itself.

Here are the three big factors to consider when selecting an ERP:

  • The Company. All manufacturing companies are not the same. Both a Fortune 100 automotive manufacturer and a 20-person valve manufacturer build products, but they are vastly different in terms of their size and the scope of ERP functionality needed. An ERP solution that is perfect for one company would be a disaster for the other.

  • Business Issues. Picking an ERP for manufacturing without having an in-depth understanding of the business issues that need to be addressed is like packing for a vacation without considering the weather. Sure, that’s a great ski outfit, but what if you are going to the beach? ERP is a large set of functionalities designed to help run a business more efficiently by streamlining issues. If you don’t have a grasp of your business issues, you have no way of evaluating if the functionality the ERP offers is a good fit. You could end up laying on the beach in ski boots.

  • Implementation and Continuing Support. When you purchase and then get access to ERP, your company is no better off. In fact, maybe it’s worse off. Nothing has changed, except you just made a large purchase and now have less money. That’s because you haven’t implemented the ERP. Implementation boils down to developing new processes and procedures to take advantage of the software’s functionality. Your current processes and procedures are based on your current system(s).

It’s rare that an organization has the in-house talent to guide everyone through an implementation. Just because there are employees who have used ERP before, doesn’t mean they know how to implement an entire organization. There is no shame in this. Implementing ERP is not what the employees at an organization do every day. Our consultants would be horrible at designing your product because it’s not what they do every day; but they are great at implementing ERP.

It's not just about the best ERP for manufacturing

It’s natural to focus on the product when thinking about buying. For example, if you want a new stove, it’s reasonable to wonder which is the best one out there? This is the entire business model of Consumer Reports. However, ERP isn’t a stove.

 Related: Why Top 10 ERP Lists Are Worthless

Related: ERP Implementation Roles & Responsibilities: How to Build Your Team

The problem with this approach is that by just focusing on the software, you are allowing the vendor's sales team to do the same thing – and boy – they LOVE focusing on just the software. You will see a lot of really cool stuff. The system will also look great and seamless. But with this approach, it’s all about the software, not your business. If you are contemplating a major purchase like ERP, shouldn’t the software demo be about you? Have the sales team focus on how their software is going to solve your well-defined business issues. Otherwise, you will come back from your beach vacation with odd, ski boot tan lines…and without the best ERP for your manufacturing organization.

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Jack Shannon

Written by Jack Shannon

Jack is the President of Visual South and has been working with ERP since 1996 when he bought it in his role as a Plant Manager. Since 1998 he has worked for Visual South with roles in consulting, sales and executive management.