The Manufacturing ERP Search: The Daunting Task of the Short List

Phew!  You’ve worked yourself like crazy in order to come up with 5-10 ERP companies that might be able to suit your shop floor’s wants, needs, and pains.  Let’s assume you compiled this list from numerous sources: RFI’s, word of mouth, historical research, specific industry reporting, analyst evaluations, community/peer driven sites, etc. etc. You’re still sitting with a pencil in your ear and about 5 strong portfolios in front of you that all look the same from an eagle eye view.  Now comes the toughest part; you ask yourself, which one of these will take me to the promise land and not turn into a pumpkin by the end of the day. 

We spoke in a previous blog, ‘How Do You Find the Right Fit For YOU?’,   about the different routes and research options to get this process started and how overwhelming the issue of an ERP system search can be.  However you, personally, battled through the opening stages, you’ve sat through an overview, perhaps even a technical demo, and you’re now at a stage in the ERP selection process that you should be requesting references to perform site visits and see the ERP systems in place.  To get the full sense of what the system is capable of and how it might work best for you, you’ll want to see it in action.

Each manufacturer is unique from one another.  One strategy might not work as well as another, and vice-versa.  With that said, there have been occasions where a prospect will request to see the solution in action.  Now, this may seem like a lot of extra work and time, but this just might be exactly what you need to get you past the wall you’re facing to make that final decision.

We typically recommend asking the vendor to show you mission critical functionality using your data so you can see how the system will work for you out of box.  We then recommend the reference process.  Start by asking for references in your industry that are roughly the same size as your business.  Also ask for a larger account so you can feel comfortable that the software you are buying is scalable.  Some solutions may be a great fit for your company today, but any growth could make it obsolete before you know it.  If at all possible try to set up at least one site visit to see the software in action.  This may have to be to a site that is not in the same industry as you due to competitive reasons, but visiting a company using the software in a production environment is important.

I would also recommend taking a look at our most popular article, “Top Five Reasons Why ERP Implementations Fail”.

Most companies won’t mind a referral visit or a phone call as your feedback could potentially lead them to unlocking new ideas.  If doing a site visit look to send a 2-3 person evaluation team, made up of each of your core departments to see and discuss the system in action within the various disciplinesTry to visit a company that has been on the ERP system for 3-5 years.  They have been through the implementation process and should be reaping the benefits and excelling within the new system/structure.  Learn their strategies and how they got the most of the system.  If the ERP is a longstanding company, they should be able to provide you with at least one company of similar size, type of manufacturing (ETO, customer mfg, MTO, MTS, etc.), and (if possible) within the same industry.

Before the visits request the ERP to submit a summary list that identifies:

  • Name of company
  • # of ERP users
  • Type of (manufacturer) business
  • Physical Location
  • Time on the ERP solution after full implementation

It may be common sense, but this will assure you that you will get the most of your time and can align you to prepare certain questions to ask upon your visit.  If the company provides you a few options to choose from in each category, even better.

Remember, whether it’s a demo or a company visit, let your goals dictate the direction of questioning, not the other way around.  Many ERP companies will give you a fire hose sale with eye candy.  The most important thing you can do is dive deep into your own processes and MAKE the vendor show you, specifically, how their solution would handle that item.

Posted by Jason Rourke, Marketing Manager, ProfitKey International

2 thoughts on “The Manufacturing ERP Search: The Daunting Task of the Short List

  1. TBoehm30

    On your customer visit, make sure you get advanced communication with someone at the company so that you are both aware of the proposed schedule. Don’t let the vendor set it all up, as you might wind up in a meeting room all day with no demos of the actual software in use.

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