Of all the software sectors, manufacturing software is probably the most diverse. When you compare packages, you will soon see the different software requirements that the market is catering to and the kind of functions your business needs.
Comparing lots of packages can be somewhat daunting; however, two things will make the task manageable. Firstly, ensure that you know what business benefits you want from the application or what business problem it needs to solve; secondly, use a site with tools to help you with the comparison process, enabling you to filter out irrelevant products and focus on those that will help your business.
Factors to Consider when Choosing Manufacturing Software
The criteria you use for assessing packages should include:
- User reviews - Use a site that logs user comments so that you can see what people think of the software after they have been using it for a while.
- Price - Set a budget and don’t be persuaded to spend more unless you really feel that an application can make an outstanding difference to your business.
- Industry segment - If you have a specialised manufacturing business, you may not be comfortable with all-purpose software and may get some reassurance from the fact that the software company has taken special account of the needs of businesses in your area.
- Size, or number of employees - This is a really quick way to tell whether you are looking at a product aimed at a sole trader or one focused on the integration needs of a large business.
Use a software comparison site that has selected the best packages and will allow you to filter the list, selecting the ones that really interest you. Being able to do this before you look at the products in detail will save a significant amount of time.
The Top End of the Market
At enterprise level you will find SAP and Oracle, as you would expect, and will need a serious budget at your disposal. Most of these applications are bought by companies that are also prepared to spend money on customising the application so that it fits their business.
These systems are goliaths - they can take on any corporation, including oil majors and others, and can integrate every aspect of a business. They are the obvious choice for multinationals operating in multiple currencies, across numerous time zones, in different languages and with complex accounting entities.
Still at the top end is MPDV’s Hydra, which is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) that helps organisations to collect and analyse data related to production, HR and suppliers. Hydra has the certifications many regulated manufacturers need for their systems.
DEACOM describe itself as the artisan of the ERP industry and is focused on highly-complex, highly-regulated manufacturers seeking a simple solution to their complex processes.
Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)
At the other end, you will find Fishbowl, which interfaces to QuickBooks - the accounting package favoured by small- and medium-sized companies. Many companies do not want the expense or complexity associated with full ERP systems and feel that they are not big enough to need system-based integration of their activities. Fishbowl covers all the main manufacturing functions at a budget price and gets good user reviews. It is aimed at streamlining manufacturing processes while being affordable and easy to implement.
In the middle are large numbers of companies, including Microsoft with Dynamics GP. Microsoft has worked with a number of partners to provide functionality and apps for specific industries. This has resulted in a set of applications, such as manufacturing planning and compliance, and an innovative ‘a la carte’ selection system that will interest many companies. The enormous advantage here is that if you are a Microsoft business already, you will know that Dynamics will work with your other MS applications.
Try your hand at filtering via a good software comparison site to get a sense of where your business fits into this market.