Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to commonly asked questions about custom manufacturing and Genius ERP.

What is an ERP?

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a comprehensive business software that facilitates the day-to-day and long-term management of a company. ERP software consist of a number of integrated modules, functions and databases to track, order, process and consume critical resources, and to keep a live record of the status of a business.

ERPs come in all shapes, sizes and capabilities – so finding the ERP that is right for your business if critical. A good benchmark for a manufacturing ERP is that it should include modules for MES (manufacturing execution system), MRP (materials requirements planning), Sales and CRM (customer relationship management), engineering, scheduling, purchasing, operations, inventory management, shipping, reporting, accounting, and more.

What is an MES?

A manufacturing execution system (MES) is a software system that connects machines and work centers on your shop floor to track and control the movement and transformation of raw materials to finished products. Often integrated into an ERP, a good MES will help manage your manufacturing operations and improve production efficiency.

What is an MRP?

A material requirements planning (MRP) solution is a business software that manages inventory as it relates to planning and scheduling, to improve productivity. Manufacturers use an MRP to ensure on-time delivery of jobs, keep their inventory at the lowest possible levels, and to guide their planning, scheduling and purchasing decisions.

What is the difference between MRP and ERP?

MRP stands for Material Requirements Planning and is a business software solution that helps manufacturers calculate more precisely what materials or inventory management they require, at what time, and in what quantities. Over time MRPs developed more functionalities and most MRPs (known as MRP II) now include detailed capacity planning, scheduling, inventory management, shop floor control, and other calculations. MRP II gives you the ability to compare forecasts with actual data, analyze performance, and improve processes to achieve better efficiency.

ERP, on the other hand, stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is a more complete business software system that includes additional features and functionalities to help manufacturers automate and streamline business processes, not just related to manufacturing, but across their entire enterprise. ERPs developed out of MRPs and are designed to not only help manufacturers better plan their inventory management and scheduling, but to help manufacturers with sales, quotes and estimates, customer relationship management, accounting, human resources, project management, and more.

ERPs go beyond MRPs and connect and integrate all the different aspects of your business into one database, allowing you to streamline tasks and processes, as well as share error-free information across your entire organization. ERPs power your business with accurate data, and help you to increase efficiencies and reduce costs across your organization.

In short, ERPs do it all, whereas MRPs are more specific to manufacturing processes.

What is a CRM?

A customer relationship management (CRM) tool helps manage a company’s communications and interactions with prospects, partners and existing customers. A CRM gives companies the ability to track new leads, move opportunities along a sales pipeline and record new signed deals. It manages information related to:

  • Contacts or People – name, email address, phone number, etc
  • Companies or Accounts – Company name, website, number of employees, revenue, etc
  • Communications – emails exchanged with the contact, recordings of phone calls, notes, activities, etc
  • Reporting – Metrics for lead acquisition, new deals, conversion rates, etc

What is an SME/SMB manufacturer?

Both these terms mean the same thing – a small or medium-sized business. The parameters of what exactly defines small or medium vary from organization to organization, but the US and Canada often use benchmarks of 10-500 employees or $1Million-$50Million in revenue. SME stands for Small Medium-sized Enterprise, whereas SMB is Small Medium-sized Business.

What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

Business intelligence (BI) is the process of turning raw data into meaningful and actionable insights about an organization to make better, more data-driven decisions.

BI solutions include the tools, technologies, and practices that are used to collect, analyze, and organize data to give manufacturers a comprehensive view of their organization, and allows them to use their data to drive change and eliminate inefficiencies.

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is the term that is used to refer to the fourth industrial revolution that many industry experts believe is currently underway. Industry 4.0 is being driven by trends such as the increasing levels of digitization, automation, and inter-connectivity in the manufacturing sector.

What is Genius Academy?

Genius Academy is our flexible, hands-on online learning system.

Genius Academy gives you 24/7 access to our extensive and engaging e-learning system, giving you and your team the flexibility to learn the core concepts of Genius ERP on your own schedule.

Genius Academy saves time and money by reducing on-site days in favor of our tailored e-courses that include all the information needed to get up to speed quickly and efficiently. Our custom assisted training lets you choose the perfect mix of e-learning and on-site training days, to customize learning to your unique requirements. And you’ll always be fully supported by our expert implementation team throughout.

Learn more about Genius Academy below.

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What does high-mix, low volume mean?

High-mix, low-volume refers to the diversity of products a custom manufacturer must produce, and the infrequency of repeat products. Machinery, automation and equipment manufacturers are good examples of high-mix, low-volume custom manufacturers.

What is a Bill of Materials (BOM)?

A bill of materials (BOM) is essentially the recipe for a manufacturing job. The bill of materials contains a complete list of everything required to manufacture a given product, including parts, items, assemblies, and other materials, and it also includes all the instructions and routing steps required to produce the job with the required materials.

What is ETO (Engineer-to-Order)?

Engineer-to-Order (ETO) is a type of manufacturing where a given job requires an engineer to design a unique or partly-unique product from start to finish. Engineer-to-Order projects are a type of custom manufacturing. They utilize more engineering resources than other custom projects such as Make-to-Order or Configure-to-Order. ETO jobs begin only after a customer order or internal order is accepted.

What is MTO (Make-to-Order)?

Make-to-Order is a type of manufacturing where production follows specific demand. With Make-to-Order manufacturing the final product doesn’t get produced unless an order has already been received. In this way it is the opposite of Make-to-Stock manufacturing, where items are produced and warehoused awaiting potential orders.

What is CTO (Configure-to-Order)?

Configure-to-order is a manufacturing process where products are produced according to unique customer requirements. This can mean that the items are created from previously manufactured elements, or from a configuration process where the customer chooses from pre-set options to configure the final product. This allows products to be explicitly tailored to a customer’s specific requirements.


Drum Buffer Rope is a manufacturing scheduling concept developed by Eliyahu Goldratt, the engineer behind Theory of Constraints. The primary aim of Drum Buffer Rope is to keep the most vital constraint (Goldratt called this the Drum, we think of it more as the heartbeat of your shop) in your shop fueled at all times. This is accomplished by upstream buffering of materials, labour and other processes to ensure that the constraint is never starved and always operating at the highest desired capacity. To know more we recommend reading Goldratt’s book The Goal, or for a shorter version you can see our full page here.

What's a drum in DBR?

The Drum is the primary constraint or bottleneck in your shop. We like to think of this as the heartbeat of your company. You move at the pace set by the heartbeat. A Drum can be any vital constraint, including machines, labour or a target for a certain amount of finished products.

What's a buffer in DBR?

A Buffer is any process, material, machine or other manufacturing step that is set in accordance to the drum, usually upstream, that ensures it is delivering to the Drum to ensure the Drum is never starved of resources.

What's a rope in DBR?

Ropes (metaphorically) tie the DBR process together. Ropes connect to buffers and the drum and can be reined in or let out depending on the Drum situation.

What is the Theory of Constraints (TOC)?

Developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, the Theory of Constraints asserts that every process has a bottleneck (constraint) and working to improve the output of that constraint is the fastest and most effective way to increase a manufacturers profitability.

The TOC methodology identifies the most important bottleneck, then because you can’t go faster than that bottleneck allows, seeks to maximize the output of that bottleneck. Thereby increasing overall throughput – one bottleneck at a time.

If you are looking to learn more about TOC, we recommend reading any (or all) of Goldratt’s books on his theory.

How do you define job costs?

Job cost is a calculation used by accountants to track costs related to an individual job. Job costing is calculated by accumulating the cost of labor, materials and overhead for a specific project. This allows you to determine profitability by job, giving you more insight into which jobs contribute the most to your success as a business. The quicker you can understand the true job cost of each and every individual job, the closer you get to making the best decisions for the growth of your company.

You can start with this simple equation to formulate job cost:
+ Labor
+ Overhead
= Total Job Cost

How do I keep my workplace safe during COVID-19?

Manufacturers need to ensure the safety of their workforce and businesses by having a “worker-first” mindset that places the needs of their staff first and foremost. Physical distancing measures, increased sanitation, and changes in shop-floor scheduling all need to be put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Local and national governments have issued guidelines for employers to follow regarding sanitation and physical distancing, and include helpful tips on how to implement them in your shop. Consult your local or national government websites to find more detailed information and guidelines on how to create a safe environment for your workers.

What's a bottleneck?

A production bottleneck is the point in your production line where workloads accumulate because they arrive too quickly to be processed. Bottlenecks are problematic because they not only cause you undue stress, they actually limit the capacity of your entire shop.

Long-term bottlenecks can be the result of poor planning and scheduling, outdated equipment, improper maintenance schedules causing machinery breakdowns, worker shortage, or bad forecasting—and are extremely detrimental to the output of your shop.

What is an estimate?

Custom manufacturers do not have set pricelists and must provide customers with an idea of what they can expect to pay for a particular job.

An estimate is basically a ‘guesstimate’ or rough, educated guess based on what a job MAY cost. Often it is supplied early in the process, before you know all the details of a particular job.

Estimates are your first thoughts on costs and can change when you get further information, when unexpected complications crop up during the work, or the scope of what you have been asked to do changes.

What is a quote?

A quote is an exact price for the job being offered. It is fixed and CANNOT be changed once it has been accepted by the customer (unless the customer changes the amount/type of work required or you discover something completely outside of the scope of what was agreed).

Quotes are only issued after you are confident that you have established exactly what is needed, and what the job costs will be. Because quotes are what you will be paid for a particular job, it is important for manufacturers to understand job costs to create accurate quotes.

What is CAD2BOM?

CAD2BOM is a proprietary Genius ERP product that converts a CAD model directly to a Bill of Materials. This allows engineering to be better connected to the manufacturing process, speeds up the estimating and quoting process and improves progressive release manufacturing.

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What does 'in the cloud' mean?

The cloud refers to remote access servers which store information for individual users or businesses to access. When  manufacturers (because really, you are all that we care about here) refer to hosting their ERP in the cloud, what they are saying is they want their ERP to be stored remotely and accessed through the internet. This is a safe and cost-effective solution that suits some manufacturers. The cloud doesn’t require the manufacturer to own and maintain, as well as backup, their own servers. This cuts down on IT infrastructure, IT costs and other overhead related to servers.

What's the difference between cloud and on-premise?

ERPs can be hosted on servers that are on-premise or in the cloud. On-premise means the servers are physically located at your facilities, whereas in the cloud (or just, cloud) means the servers are remote, and you connect to them through the internet. There are pros and cons to both, so it is a matter of business preference which one you go with.

What is Smart Scheduling?

Smart Scheduling is only available inside Genius ERP. It is the only Drum Buffer Rope scheduling tool inside an ERP. Smart Scheduling helps manufacturers improve their scheduling to increase throughput and deliver on time more often.

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What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and is a software tool that helps companies organize all of their interactions with both potential and current customers.

CRMs are robust tools to help manage the sales process, and also let manufacturers:

  • Keep track of customers and their order history;
  • Identify business opportunities and new sales leads;
  • Streamline the sales process and reduce repetitive work; and
  • Facilitate better support for current customers.

The manufacturing industry has evolved to be much more customer-centric over the last few years, and a CRM is an invaluable tool to help manufacturers be more organized, sell more products, and create happier customers.

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Do SME manufacturers need an ERP?

In short, yes—an ERP system manages all aspects of a business, including production, planning, purchasing, manufacturing, sales, distribution, accounting, and customer service, from one fully-integrated system.

SME manufacturers use ERP software to improve communication across departments and optimize business processes by providing easy visibility of all operations. ERP software also helps small manufacturers integrate their financial information and customer information into one system, and easily share data between departments.

Is Excel an ERP?

No, Excel is a powerful business tool but it is not an ERP system. There are multiple issues with Excel, ranging from security and accuracy of data, to connectivity, human error, and efficiency, which prevents Excel from functioning as an ERP system for a manufacturing business.

An integrated solution like an ERP will give manufacturers better control over their data, and the important business processes and decisions that rely on it, making shops run smoother and more efficiently.

Read our blog

What is a magic spreadsheet?

A magic spreadsheet is the term for the master spreadsheet—usually controlled by a single person—that manufacturers rely on to run their business. It is, in fact, not magic and a poor way to organize and run a custom manufacturing shop. Don’t use one for your business!

How do I know I need an ERP?

All manufacturing businesses can benefit from an ERP system. Not having an ERP system can hold you back from meeting your business goals, cause you to spend too much time on redundant processes, and make you fail to meet customer expectations.

Signs that you need an EPR system include:

  • Your business is growing and you are struggling to keep up;
  • You have too many disparate software systems;
  • You are struggling with efficiencies;
  • Your inventory management system is out of control; and
  • You have problems with sharing information across your organization.

What modules are typically part of an ERP?

The right mix of ERP modules for your specific manufacturing business will vary with your needs, but typically an ERP built for custom manufacturers should include:

  • Product Engineering, including CAD-ERP integration
  • Inventory Management
  • Production Planning
  • Scheduling
  • Project Management
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Accounting
  • Purchasing
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quality Control

Do I need a manufacturing-specific ERP?


The right ERP is all about fit and will vary depending on your business, your industry, your size, your budget, and your needs. A manufacturing-specific ERP will be built with the features, functionalities, and benefits that a manufacturer needs.

All good ERPs will help you increase your efficiency and reduce costs—an ERP will connect and integrate all the different aspects of your business into one database, let you streamline tasks and processes, and let you share accurate information across your company. But to truly find the best ERP for you, think about your unique business and industry needs, and select the ERP created for that unique niche.

How can I manage projects better with an ERP?

An ERP will help you run your entire operation more smoothly, letting you become more streamlined, more efficient, and get more jobs out the door on time.

With the help of an ERP system that connects and controls your inventory management and scheduling—along with every aspect of your shop—you will be able to stay on top of your entire operation, and plan and execute projects better. Use real-time visibility to track and manage every single job in your shop, to get an enviable delivery rate — winning you repeat business and new customers.

Do I need an accounting suite in my ERP?

Whether you choose to use a separate accounting system or an ERP for accounting is a personal choice. ERPs have the same powerful accounting features as other accounting software systems, but also give manufacturers the ability to run their entire operation, including their accounting and finance departments, from a single system.

Using one system is easier, and saves time, by eliminating the need to cross-reference and re-enter the same data into multiple systems and spreadsheets. A fully integrated system increases the accuracy of your accounting and financial reports by eradicating upload errors, input errors, and potential timing errors. Manufacturers will also save the money you are currently spending on maintaining and upgrading multiple systems.

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Is Quickbooks an ERP?

No, Quickbooks is an excellent accounting software program, but it does not have the same robust features or connectivity of an ERP.

Using an ERP that is fully integrated from quote to payment eliminates the need to operate and maintain parallel systems. Real-time data and fully customizable dashboards allow you to easily manage all of your accounting and financial management operations from one place.

How do you determine ROI on an ERP system?

Doing an ROI analysis of an ERP system is hard. ERPs are large and complicated systems that connect and interact with every department, process, and system within your organization. Conducting an analysis of such a wide-reaching system, and one where the benefits can sometimes be hard to quantify, is no easy task.

An ERP system does have immediate value to your organization, for example, helping you to reduce wasted time, better manage your inventory, improve your profit margins, and reduce mistakes and miscalculations.

Accurately putting a quantifiable figure on all of these isn’t easy, but below are some numbers that we typically see when a manufacturing company starts to use an ERP system.

ROI from investing in an ERP?

  • 19% reduction in operating costs
  • 15% reduction in administrative costs
  • 19% reduction in inventory costs
  • 18% reduction in obsolete inventory
Read our blog

What is Genius ERP's Implementation procedure?

Our implementation process has been developed over 30 years and many iterations to ensure you are up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. We work with your team to implement our solution in 4 phases:
The TOC methodology identifies the most important bottleneck, then because you can’t go faster than that bottleneck allows, seeks to maximize the output of that bottleneck. Thereby increasing overall throughput – one bottleneck at a time.

If you are looking to learn more about TOC, we recommend reading any (or all) of Goldratt’s books on his theory.

1. Knowledge Gathering – 3 Steps

  • Kick-off
  • Business Review
  • Planning

2. Knowledge Transfer

  • Training

3. Knowledge Application

  • Go-live preparation
  • Go-live

4. Customer Success

  • Project closing and transition to Genius Customer Success team
See our implementation process

How much should an ERP cost?

As ERPs are incredibly complex software solutions, there is no exact answer for this of course. It depends on what you need an ERP to do for your business, how many users you have, whether you want to host the servers on-premise or in the cloud, and dozens of other criteria. The most important thing is to find an ERP that fits your business – and that includes a cost that works for your business.

How long does it take to implement an ERP?

Implementation times vary by project, but can take anywhere from 1 to 3 or more months. The biggest factor in implementation time are the manufacturer’s availability and capacity to train. Implementation process should be a big factor in your ERP selection decision, as it has a massive influence on your project success.

What does an RFP for ERP software and services look like?

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for ERP vary by instance, but usually share some consistent elements: background information, project scope, budget expectations, requirements, vendor qualifications, vendor budget/pricing, terms and conditions, along with a statement of evaluation criteria and award process.

An RFP is one of a few different ways to select an ERP – and it may or may not be right for your selection process. It tends to be the most black and white, which considering part of what you are buying is services and a relationship with your ERP provider, is not always the best approach.

You can see which approach is right for you by reading our ebook “How to Select the Right ERP for your Business”

Read our eBook

Can Genius ERP implement remotely?

Yes—our expert team of consultants and implementation specialists are able to implement Genius ERP remotely. Learn more about our unique online training platform and implementation process.

See our implementation process

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