By Glenn Nowak, Vice President of IQMS
It’s finally happened. You’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and invest in a new manufacturing ERP software system. Ideally, ERP selection should be a onetime process, as you should be looking to select an ERP partner for life.
Most ERP companies will try to lure you in with bells and whistles, but in the end, the strength of the core system (the area that handles all the ins and outs of your daily business), is the part that matters the most. Here are some questions to consider before attending the Vendor Shootout to make sure you get the most out of your visit.
No. 1: What are my “must have” features?
Is inventory control critical to the success of your business? Are accountability and traceability essential to meet your stringent quality requirements? Is shop floor communication the key step necessary to grow your company to the next level? Closely inspect your business processes and determine the features that you must have in order to succeed. Then consider the pain points currently plaguing your business that the new system should solve. Are you experiencing too much manual data entry, missing certain functionality required by a client or lacking system-wide communication across departments?
No. 2: What am I hoping to get out of this new long-term partnership?
Fundamental to any long-term partnership is like-minded goals and values, not only between you and the vendor, but between you and the vendor’s other ERP clients. A company invested in the long-term should have an infrastructure in place to foster collaborative user best practices, as well as welcome development suggestions as a core value of its business. Don’t overlook the value an open, community-minded ERP vendor can bring to the table.
What sort of long-term growth are you hoping to have with your new ERP partner? Some ERP companies are looking to be acquired, rapidly accepting investment funding in order to sell to the highest bidder, while others are trying to acquire as many small ERP companies as they can. But some ERP software companies are in it for the long haul. They have no intention of being acquired or acquiring others and they carry no debt. Be sure to do your research on the longevity and viability of the company you are considering.
No. 3: On premise or SaaS?
Until recently, this question was not even on the table. But with the recent appearance of Software as a Service (SaaS), manufacturers now have to consider whether SaaS or on premise is the solution that will work for them. Ask yourself: Am I an early adopter and looking for a cloud model, or would I prefer an on premise option that allows my data to be stored on my site, under my control? Based on the strength of the ERP software’s technology requirements, which model will work best?
No. 4: How industry-specific am I looking for?
Of the eight ERP companies selling their wares at the Vendor Shootout, only a few of them are manufacturing specific. Many dabble in multiple industries, such as hospitality, retail and food processing. When researching partners at the Vendor Shootout, determine which aspects of the system are industry-specific and designed particularly with your business processes in mind. It will help you decide how much money you will need to put aside for customization or to create workarounds.
No. 5: What do you need to support your future growth?
Ultimately, the decision to select a new ERP company stems from the desire for growth. What features are you hoping your new ERP partner will offer to help you grow to the next level? Is the ERP company focused on development? On continually offering the most state-of-the-art technology, such as mobility tools, automation options and greater shop floor communication? How often are new software versions released? Is the company tepid, running in place to maintain their customers, but never really pushing the boundaries of what ERP software can offer?
Selecting a new manufacturing ERP system is a big undertaking, but by asking the right questions, doing your research and having a solid understanding of what you need out of a new system to succeed, you can find an ERP vendor for life.