When evaluating ERP software for ETO, remember these 5 essential needs

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Compared to repeat manufacturers, engineer-to-order manufacturers have additional processes throughout production. And as these companies grow, the complexity of managing all these unique processes increases. 

Communication between departments can become difficult, and even slight miscommunications or delays cause bottlenecks. This has a broad effect on the growth potential of small- to medium-size manufacturers.

The goal then becomes accurate, real-time communication. That's the common thread across the five things listed here as ERP system must-haves for ETO manufacturers.

The 5 essential things ETO manufacturers need in an ERP

1. Project-mode functionality

By functionality, we mean functions that truly answer the call for ETO plants. For instance, the capacity to add more detail to the overall bill of manufacturing (BOM) to a project on an ongoing basis (i.e. progressive BOM release). When handling complex, multi-stage manufacturing, this detail in planning brings a new level of communication and accuracy into play.

2. Integration with your current CAD software

You’ve already made major investment in this area, but for most manufacturers, there exists a gap between design and production that is bridged using a number of ad-hoc, time consuming and redundant systems. This can be avoided with an ERP that integrates with your CAD software.

3. Ability to accurately track time and expenses for delivery to and installation at your customer site

There shouldn't be a delay in the communication of information from off-site jobs, for accuracy, efficiency, and general oversight reasons. Many ERP solutions only allow for tracking of time within your factory walls, and are limited in what they can do in the field.

4. A system designed specifically for custom ETO manufacturing 

Many ERP solutions began as accounting and/or distribution software, and over time added more and more modules to include functions for manufacturers. However, the ERP system market has matured, and some companies have started with manufacturers in mind. Implementing a solution that was developed from the beginning specifically for manufacturers and their unique process requirements helps to avoid headaches down the road when it comes to fit, service, and usefulness.

5. A service team specialized in your manufacturing industry

Communication starts with the very people who will be implementing your ERP system, and training your staff. An important aspect of the solution you implement is the service contract – when the same company who developed the software is selling their own software as well as conducting the implementation at your site, and the company fully understands your industry and specific requirements, you can be assured of industry expertise every step of the way and consistent expectations throughout the entire process.

Often times, small- to medium-size custom engineer-to-order manufacturers rule out adopting an ERP solution, thinking that their manufacturing processes are too unique and complex to be assisted and covered by a software solution. In fact, such manufacturers should consider investing in only a specialized software solution that fits their unique needs.

Instead of hiring more staff to grow your business, a specialized ERP solution should streamline processes and communication across your entire organization including engineering, leading to increased revenues and profit growth.

This post originally appeared on Manufacturing.Net.

Jean Magny

Jean is the president of Genius Solutions. With over 20 years of experience working in industrial engineering with a focus on operational best practices, Jean has in-depth knowledge when it comes to the challenges faced by fast-growing companies and their implementation of new processes with limited resources. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and completed the entrepreneurship development program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and has served as both a technical advisor and a project manager for ERP implementations in small to medium-size manufacturers across North America. He’s passionate about engaging the next generation in manufacturing.

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