In today’s competitive environment it is hard to imagine any business being able to manage without adequate systems. For distribution and manufacturing businesses, the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system manages all day to day processes, ensures that users are running at peak efficiency, and provides reporting on all aspects of a business.
Looking for ERP software can be a daunting prospect. Software Choice, partnering with Edge Software, hosts the Australian Business Software Directory that lists more than 60 different ERP packages, covering all business sizes and over 20 industry specialties.
Unfortunately it isn’t possible to generalise and say “package x is the best”, as every solution has its own strengths and weaknesses – generally they are all good, it is a matter of finding the one which best fits specific requirements. For a start, users should try looking at the following six ERP vendors. They all have a solid user base and a product range which will suit a wide range of businesses, with a strong focus on distribution and manufacturing solutions.
A global vendor founded in 1984, Epicor has a well-respected and mature product range. While they offer a number of specialist products, their flagship product is Epicor Enterprise, which includes financials, supply chain management and customer relationship management. Epicor has traditionally catered for the mid-market, but their product can scale up to suit larger businesses as well.
Many businesses tend to steer clear of the high-end ERP systems such as SAP because they consider them too expensive and too much effort to implement. While in many cases this is true, SAP has been marketing heavily to the smaller businesses recently as they do have some cheaper and simpler solutions available.
SAP Business One is targeted at SMEs (10 - 500 employees), and is a completely different product to the old SAP R/3. It is an integrated package including financials, manufacturing, distribution and CRM. Sold through a large reseller network, the software is priced very competitively and implementation is usually straightforward.
The MySAP All-In-One range is also worth a look – these solutions offer full SAP functionality with a much faster (and cheaper) implementation than traditional SAP systems.
Another global software provider, SYSPRO was founded in 1978 and claims to have a global customer base of 12,000 manufacturing and distribution companies, including Daewoo, Johnson & Johnson, Hitachi and Dupont.
The SYSPRO ERP package, for mid to large businesses, includes financials, manufacturing and distribution, as well as optional advanced planning & scheduling, analytics, CRM and e-commerce modules.
A global specialist in manufacturing software founded in 1975, Cincom offers two ERP packages:
- Cincom Priority for small to medium manufacturing businesses. This package includes financials, manufacturing, advanced planning & scheduling and other modules such as project management and e-commerce.
- Cincom CONTROL, a web-based ERP system for larger and more complex manufacturing businesses. As well as the standard ERP functions, it offers tools for regulatory control.
Cincom’s customers include Otis Elevator, Thales Underwater Systems, Alcatel, and Boeing of Canada.
The Microsoft Dynamics range consists of a number of packages which have been acquired by Microsoft over the past few years. The most applicable to distribution and manufacturing businesses are Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta), Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision) and Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains). Generally Dynamics AX is considered to be the best fit for manufacturing and distribution businesses, but all three have their own strengths and weaknesses.
All three products have a wide user base and are applicable to small to mid-sized businesses.
The Dynamics range is sold through a wide reseller network but very few of them sell all three, so you may need to approach multiple resellers to find the best fit.
The only Australian ERP manufacturer in this list, Pronto has been in business since 1976 and has a large user base consisting mainly of small to medium sized distributors and manufacturers.
The PRONTO-Xi package includes financials, manufacturing, supply chain and retail, as well as being one of the few ERP vendors to offer integrated payroll. Pronto’s customer base includes Bolle, Oldfields, Capt’n Snooze and Haymes Paint.