7 Steps to Choosing Cloud ERP Software for Make-to-Order Manufacturers

robotic arms and other manufacturing icons ERP software

Implementing an ERP software solution can significantly improve the efficiency of manufacturing companies, according to researchers.[i]

However, even if you decide to spend money on ERP software to manage data and obtain insightful knowledge in key areas of your organization, how do you know which solution would be best for the business?

The truth is, that choosing and implementing cloud ERP software is often a huge undertaking for a manufacturing business. In determining which solutions best meet your objectives, consider various elements, including business needs, integration, functionality, ROI, and other factors.

What is a Manufacturing ERP?

An ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning system connects your finance, sales and marketing, manufacturing, logistics, and human resources departments to your data. With advanced, real-time data collection, processing, communication, and analytics, the ERP enables faster decision-making on real-time issues that impact your company.

If you are manufacturing widgets by the thousands in just a couple of sizes, your needs are going to be simpler than a manufacturer who engineers, assembles, or builds to order. Whenever there are opportunities to customize a product, complexity is added. Some ERPs have built-in product configurators to handle this complexity.

Whether you sell through a dedicated sales team, a dealer network, direct to consumers, or all of the above, your ability to configure, price, and quote quickly and accurately is at the cornerstone of your business. The right cloud-based ERP system can help.

So how do you choose the right one? To make the decision easier for you, we have curated this article to guide you through how to choose the best cloud ERP for your make-to-order manufacturing business. Let’s dive in.

7 Steps to Choosing the Best Cloud ERP Software

1.  Identify the Problems the ERP Software Needs to Solve

Expanding a manufacturing business has its challenges, and your cloud ERP software does not have to add to it. It should make your success easier. Ultimately, choosing an ERP system with a simple, easy-to-understand user interface will boost productivity and your employees’ morale.

You should find a system that is closely aligned to your organization’s business needs and that can solve your unique business problems. However, don’t try to solve them all – aim to identify and solve your TOP business challenges, then consider it a bonus if the system also solves your remaining challenges or needs.

Rank your top challenges on a simple or weighted scale. You should narrow it down to 5, 10, or 15 features that you want to include in your “short list,” and make it a point to focus on only these most critical features in your final assessment and comparison of your top contenders.

This will allow you to hone in on what’s truly MOST important to your business and your bottom line. It will also help you calculate the largest financial gains that you can expect to receive from your initial investment.

2.  Review Each of Your Company’s Operational Procedures.

Do any current processes call for manual entry or double entry? Do you have inefficient, time-consuming processes that automation could solve? Do you require better and more timely reporting? Asking yourself these questions can help you identify the key needs that your ERP software should solve.

3.  Get Support From the Important Stakeholders

Key stakeholders and executive management need to be inspired to adapt and take part in the review process. Gaining their support will be much easier with the help of a cost-benefit analysis. You can use it to convince stakeholders that ROI comes from more than just cost savings.

For instance, automating processes means employees work more efficiently. By helping them avoid laborious manual duties, they have more time to focus on activities that add value to your customers. This, in turn, increases employee retention and productivity.

4.  Ensure the ERP Software Is Future-Proof to Support Growth

Examine the development roadmap of prospective ERP suppliers to learn how they plan to support change, and where they see your industry going. Does their point of view align with yours? Does it concur with predictions made regarding the industry’s future? Will they support your adoption of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things?

Innovation sustains future business growth. An ERP partner who encourages innovation will be helpful. Look for one who knows the risks and can help guide you through them.

5.  Consider the Ease-of-Use

Numerous users, from order-entry to those on the shop and factory floors, will use your manufacturing ERP system. The user interface needs to be logically organized and simple to use. A well-designed interface will boost productivity and employee happiness.

When choosing an ERP solution, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are quite important. They can either make or break employee effectiveness, productivity, and job satisfaction.

6.  Review the Training and Support Options Available

Request that your provider initially trains a few key employees across the entire company. They will work as system support personnel and internal trainers.

Ideally choose a combination of IT staff and those identified as super-users in their respective departments. Their feedback and understanding of the system will support the provider’s initiatives for enhanced training accessibility.

Create a training schedule and devote staff time to it. After all, if no one knows how to utilize a new system, there is no purpose in spending time and money on its implementation.

7.  Make Your Decision

Finalize contract negotiations, assess any hidden costs that may arise during the ERP implementation, and analyze your short list to determine the best fit for your business.

Cloud ERP for Make-to-Order Manufacturers: Next Steps

Before selecting the ideal manufacturing ERP software for your company, conduct thorough research. Ask to speak with other customers in your industry. Some may even be able to arrange site visits.

Friedman’s customized ERP software provides comprehensive support for make-to-order manufacturing, design/layout tool integration, and fully integrated dealer order entry.

Visit our website to learn more about our configurator for make-to-order manufacturers, the industries we serve, or contact us for more information.

[i] (PDF) Expected and Achieved Benefits of ERP Systems Implementation over Time (researchgate.net), April 2021.

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