Your Guide to Software Selection

The Best Cloud Manufacturing ERP Software of 2019

Cloud manufacturing software is becoming more and more sought-out by companies with heavy production components. Its ability to provide access anytime and anywhere is especially beneficial to companies in this sector, as it allows employees to look at data from various locations as long as internet access is available.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the benefits and features of cloud manufacturing ERP while also analyzing some of the best solutions available on the market right now. It’s essential when selecting a manufacturing solution that you have a firm understanding of what cloud manufacturing software is, how it can benefit your company and what some of the commonly requested features are. By equipping yourself with this knowledge and reflecting on what functions your company needs from a software vendor, you can significantly reduce the aches and pains associated with the selection process.

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Cloud Manufacturing ERP Software

Table of Contents

What Is Cloud Manufacturing Software?

Cloud manufacturing software is a tool that assists companies in streamlining and visualizing the production process from creation to distribution. As a cloud-based solution, these systems can be accessed anytime and anywhere, making them especially well-suited to businesses where desktop access isn’t always readily available.

Many cloud manufacturing vendors also provide mobile support, which allows employees in the field or on the production floor to access important information from various locations as long as they have internet access. Each cloud manufacturing software vendor offers different functions related to the manufacturing sector. Therefore, it’s essential that you develop a list of your key requirements in addition to asking yourself some basic questions when considering a cloud manufacturing solution.

1. What core features will I need in my solution?

Because available features vary from vendor to vendor, it’s essential that you create a list of your specific needs before making a software selection. It’ll be helpful to ask vendors if their technology supports these needs at the beginning of a software discussion to immediately determine whether it’ll be a fit or not.

2. Where will staff primarily use the software?

This question is meant to help determine whether on-premise or cloud manufacturing ERP is the right choice for your company. If your company is highly mobile and your employees commonly work remotely, a cloud-based solution might be the easiest solution for you. However, if employees are pretty tied to their desktop computers or laptops, on-premise deployment might be the right choice.

3. How big is my company and what industry am I in?

Company size and industry are essential factors to consider. Many vendors specialize in specific company sizes, so if you are a perfect match for Acumatica based on the features that they offer, but your company is large, it likely won’t be an ideal fit due to that vendor’s specialization in small- and medium-sized businesses. Industry experience is also a key factor to consider. It is likely a better option to go with a vendor that is experienced in the actual needs of your company’s sector.

4. What is my budget?

In the below list of the best cloud manufacturing vendors, you’ll notice that we’ve included basic information on how expensive a solution might be. This factor is essential to consider, especially when you think about how many software implementations go over budget.

5. Will there be internal support for manufacturing software both at the executive level and the manager level?

If your executive team is onboard with purchasing a manufacturing solution, that’s extremely beneficial to your probability of success. It’s also vital that people on other levels of the company who will be the primary users of the software are up to try something new. Learning a new tool has its growing pains, so it’s essential that your employees are ready to try something new and that you keep their morale up during implementation.

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What Are Some Features of Cloud-Based Manufacturing Software?

Cloud manufacturing software encompasses a variety of features. Here are some of the basic and most highly requested functions that you might wish to ask about when you’re looking for a manufacturing system:

Production Management

A production management tool can help provide visibility of the product lifecycle. This might include the monitoring of items that are in the “work in progress” stage, the visualization of how labor forces are allocated and quality assurance. Some vendors also include integration with CAD.

Manufacturing Accounting

Financial tools are one of the most prominent features of cloud manufacturing ERP. Actual functions may include basic accounting tools such as accounts payable and accounts receivable. Availability of more advanced features such as budgeting, forecasting and tax calculation can vary from vendor to vendor.

Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management tools can increase control of the process from supplier to customer. Demand forecasting, finished product inspection and management of raw material bids are some components associated with this feature. The ability for customers to configure a product online is also available with some cloud manufacturing options.

Transportation and Logistics

Some vendors offer real-time tracking of your transportation fleet as objects are distributed. Other elements may include inventory forecasting, diagnostics and route mapping. Some tools can predict and order raw materials based on projected product demand and the amount and type of material that goes into producing the requested items.

Asset Management

Fixed asset management is commonly available to keep track of assets such as buildings and equipment. Features include maintenance records, tax information and the tracking of energy costs associated with these assets.

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Which Industries Benefit Most From Cloud Manufacturing Software?

Manufacturing is a critical component of many businesses, which is why companies in a wide variety of industries stand to benefit from cloud manufacturing software. Here are some of the sectors where companies are already utilizing this comprehensive tool:

  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Retail
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Food and Beverage
  • Distribution
  • Furniture

What Is the Best Cloud Manufacturing Software?

Our analyst team compared dozens of cloud manufacturing software vendors to find the best options on the market right now. Here are their picks:

Acumatica

Overview

Acumatica is an ERP manufacturing software that is available both on-premise and as a cloud-based solution. It contains a suite of modules that can be added to a base package to customize the functionality of the system. These modules include manufacturing management, project accounting and business intelligence. This program is well-suited for SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) that are looking for an integrated tool. In June 2019, Acumatica was acquired by EQT Partners, the investment firm that owns IFS AB. These companies remain separate but benefit from shared resources and capabilities.

acumatica

Benefits

Financial Management: Acumatica’s financial management module contains basic accounting features such as general ledger (GL), accounts payable and accounts receivable. In addition to these core functions, the tool also assists in cash management, fixed assets and accounting across multiple companies.

Customer Management: Customer information can be visualized through dashboards and reports that pull from real-time data. Some of the information included in these reports consists of payments, orders and quotes.

Project Accounting: The project accounting tool is an extension of the financial management module. This program allows you to calculate revenue and measure expenses on a project basis. You can also use this module to see how a project affects overall finances in your business.

Field Services Edition: This module assists in dispatching efforts while also taking a look at real-time customer interaction with your company.

Commerce Edition: The purpose of the commerce module is to develop consistency for customers, whether they are making purchases online, in-person or through a different method.

Business Intelligence (BI): The data that is maintained in Acumatica dashboards and reports can be gathered using BI tools. This information can then be organized based on different attributes such as customer or vendor to develop insights.

Manufacturing Management: The Acumatica manufacturing management module can assist in MRP, scheduling, BOM, and developing quotes or estimates.

Price: $$$$$

Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

Overview

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is an integrated solution with features that include financial management, supply chain management and manufacturing management. Its financial tool is customizable and can be adapted to meet continually changing financial regulations. The supply chain management module can support different types of manufacturing — lean, discrete and process. Its manufacturing management capabilities are highly accessible. The tool contains a warehousing app, which is available on mobile devices and can assist in both inbound and outbound supply chain management.

microsoft dynamics 365

This idea of accessibility and customization ability is central to the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. With this program, you can pick and choose the modules that you wish to incorporate based on your actual business needs. Additionally, because this software is a Microsoft product, integration with other Microsoft tools that you likely already use, such as Excel, is relatively simple.

Benefits

Role-Based Workspaces: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations access can be segmented by user groups so that only employees who need access to a specific report or module will receive that access. This improves information security. Workspaces that have customized access options include production floor management and budgets.

Built-In Dashboards and Overviews: Certain dashboards are available in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations out of the box. For example, expense analysis is automatically available and can even be filtered to support more detailed analytic efforts.

Compare Manufacturing ERP Pricing & Costs with our Pricing Guide

Integrated Power BI Capabilities: This tool assists in data visualization through different graphic types such as bar graphs and charts. These graphics can also be customized or removed from the workspace in real time.

Template-Based Emails: Developing consistent emails can be a headache, which is why Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations allows you to create email templates that can be directly sent to customers or other business partners to go along with various tasks.

Inbound Supply Chain Management: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations contains a Warehousing App that supports both inbound and outbound supply chain functions. Its inbound features include optimized warehouse placement and quality assurance.

Outbound Supply Chain Management: The Warehousing App assists outbound supply chain processes by determining optimal picking and staging locations. It also can assist in dock scheduling to ensure that drivers know when and where to go for the loading of products or materials.

Price: $$$$$

Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

NetSuite ERP

Overview

NetSuite ERP is well-suited to businesses of all sizes and in a variety of industries. It is a cloud-based solution that also has mobile capabilities so that the program can be accessed with a smartphone. This program can be easily integrated with other NetSuite tools such as omnichannel commerce, customer relationship management (CRM) and inventory.

netsuite erp

Benefits

Accounting and Finance: NetSuite ERP’s accounting and finance tool contains a wide variety of features. It can perform essential functions such as the tracking of accounts payable and accounts receivable while also keeping track of items such as purchase orders and sales orders. More advanced features are also available, such as fixed asset management and project accounting.

Supply Chain Management: This feature supports all aspects of the supply chain, from the acquisition of materials to the distribution of a completed product. Inventory management, distribution management and warehousing are key components of this tool. An additional benefit associated with this tool is real-time data, which assists in supply chain visibility.

Financial Close Management: NetSuite ERP assists in the prevention of incorrect postings to future periods. It can also manage period-end activities while detecting and responding to problems. Foreign currency reevaluation and adjustments for transactions between companies are also available.

Compliance and Controls: NetSuite ERP is able to comply with accounting and regulatory standards. This is done through a rule-driven tool that produces reports that meet standards such as GAAP and IFRS. Audit trail visibility and tax filing are also included.

Role-Based Accessibility: This software can segment accessibility to various tools based on a user’s role and position. This can improve usability so that employees don’t get bogged down in processes that aren’t related to their day-to-day tasks while also improving data security.

Real-Time Reporting and Analytics: Customers can customize visualization dashboards consisting of real-time data in order to produce and act on insights more quickly. The tool also contains pre-built accounting reports and consolidated financial reporting.

Price: $$$$$

Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

SAP Business One

Overview

SAP Business One is a manufacturing and ERP software that contains modules such as financial management, business intelligence (BI) and inventory control. These integrated features are available both through cloud manufacturing software or via on-premise installation. This solution is especially beneficial for small- or medium-sized companies. It’s also a viable program for subsidiaries of large enterprises.

sap business one

Benefits

Financial Management: SAP Business One’s financial management tool controls essential accounting functions such as accounts payable and accounts receivable. It also contains fixed asset tracking, budgeting and cash flow management capabilities. The program can track payments in various formats, such as through checks and bank transfers.

Analytics and Reporting: The analytics and reporting module is key in performing inventory management. Multi-warehouse tracking, movement of stock throughout the supply chain and delivery time can all be accessed and managed through this feature.

Compare Manufacturing ERP Pricing & Costs with our Pricing Guide

Sales and Customer Management: This module manages the entire sales process and customer lifecycle. It also allows you to view sales prospects.

Purchasing and Inventory Control: The purchasing and inventory control module can keep track of real-time stock availability while also looking at pricing impact reports. Item location and shipments can also be tracked.

Business Intelligence: Company-wide data is aggregated through SAP’s BI tool. Data reports and visualizations can be selected based on your company’s specific needs or areas of focus.

Price: $$$$$

Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

Epicor ERP

Overview

Epicor ERP is a multi-faceted tool that is best suited for small- and medium-sized companies rather than large enterprises. It is available for deployment either on-premise or as cloud manufacturing software. Support is available for multi-site operations.

epicor erp

Additionally, Epicor ERP is highly modular, meaning that you can pick and choose which features to add to your solution based on your company’s needs. It can support any discrete manufacturer with more than $1 million in annual revenue.

Benefits

Business Intelligence and Analytics: Epicor Data Analytics, Epicor Data Discovery and Smart Inventory Operations and Planning tools are included in this module. These features provide real-time data insights that are accessible through the cloud.

Human Capital Management: The human capital management (HCM) tool manages the employee lifecycle from recruitment to retirement.

Production Management: This feature is dynamic and can handle mixed-mode manufacturing. Specific features include data management, material requirements planning and work order processing.

Supply Chain Management: Real-time supply chain visualization is included in this tool. Some additional functions are inventory management, supplier relationship management, warehouse management and purchase management.

Sales Management: Epicor ERP’s sales management tool develops estimates and completes orders. It can also manage sales quotes and Point of Sale.

Enterprise Risk Management: This critical feature ensures company compliance with international standards and industry best practices. Some of the rules that this tool verifies compliance with include IAS, IFRS and GAAP.

Price: $$$$$

Deployment:
Platform:

Company Size Suitability: S M L

Compare Manufacturing ERP Pricing & Costs with our Pricing Guide

What Are Some of the Main Differences Between Cloud and On-Premise Software?

Many cloud manufacturing ERP vendors will boast the fact that their solution is available both on-premise or via the cloud. But how does deployment method actually affect day-to-day operations? Here are some of the key differences between on-premise and cloud manufacturing software that you’ll want to consider before making a software selection:

Cost

The upfront cost of on-premise versus cloud manufacturing software can be a determining factor for some companies. On-premise software has a higher initial price than cloud-based software due to installation costs. However, the cost of cloud-based manufacturing software compared to an on-premise solution evens out over time, meaning that if your company prefers an on-premise solution and can afford its initial cost, it might be a beneficial option for you.

Accessibility

On-premise software is only available on specific devices, meaning that if you get whisked away on a business trip where you don’t have access to your desktop computer, you may not be able to use your manufacturing software. On the other hand, a cloud-based solution is available anytime and anywhere due to its mobile accessibility. Because the program isn’t directly installed on your device, it is accessible even when you’re not in the office.

Maintenance

Maintenance and updates for cloud-based software may be more simple than with an on-premise solution. This is because on-premise software may need to be updated by support staff from your manufacturing vendor. There is also a higher likelihood that cloud-based manufacturing software can be updated automatically and with minimal need for vendor support.

Data security

On-premise and cloud solutions both do a great job of protecting information. However, companies that have incredibly private or secure information might prefer an on-premise system due to concerns about data ownership or about a vendor’s potential ability to view secure data.

What Are the Hidden Costs of Cloud Manufacturing Software?

After you look at the base cost of a cloud manufacturing ERP, you need to also consider additional expenses that might come up. These costs include maintenance, training and integration. Some vendors will cover or offer these services in your base package, but others may require that you use a third-party vendor for assistance, pay additional fees or purchase a premium support package.

Maintenance

Depending on the vendor that you go with, maintenance costs may or may not be included in the price of your base package. Therefore, when you are considering different cloud manufacturing software options, you should ask vendors about these costs. Some updates may be automatic and not cost you anything, but it’s best to ask before making the assumption.

Training

Some vendors do not conduct training and instead require customers to get support from a consulting firm for implementation and product knowledge. Some vendors do provide online education or knowledge portals that can be helpful. However, upon initial implementation, it can be incredibly beneficial to have someone knowledgeable of the product guiding you along.

Integration

The inclusion of additional modules or the coupling of your manufacturing solution with other software systems is an additional cost to consider. For example, if you currently use FreshBooks for your accounting needs and want to retain and integrate that functionality with your new system, you will need to discuss the potential for integration along with the actual cost of integration with your manufacturing vendor.

What Are the Current Industry Trends for Manufacturing Software?

Cloud-Based Software

As you already know if you’ve gotten this far into the article, cloud-based manufacturing solutions are on the rise. Manufacturing software, like other software categories, got its start exclusively as an on-premise solution. However, as more companies migrate to the cloud for business functions such as accounting and customer relationship management, it’s a natural next step for more complex business processes such as manufacturing to become cloud-based as well.

Many vendors still offer on-premise solutions, but the accessibility and 24/7 availability of software that’s located in the cloud is increasingly attractive to businesses. After all, if you need to check on a crucial Saturday shipment to see if it was completed, you don’t have to worry about making plans to go into the office to use your desktop computer or about bringing your work laptop home to access that information.

IoT

Internet of Things (IoT) is an increasing presence in ERP and manufacturing software. IoT is the connectivity of physical devices such as machines to the internet so that functions can be scheduled and observed in real time. For example, IoT could be leveraged to tell you how many machines are currently “in production” and how many are sitting idle.

IoT data can also help gather insights about how your manufacturing facility functions. The tool could show you when devices need to be repaired or when a part of the product lifecycle is incomplete due to technical issues.

Automation

Automation is an important feature that has the actual impact of streamlining operations when implemented and used correctly. For example, if you have a forecasting tool included in your cloud manufacturing ERP, your solution might be able to automatically use that data to schedule material orders based on anticipated demand.

However, with the initial introduction of automation tools, you need to confirm that nothing is falling through the cracks. Additionally, if you’re using a forecasting tool to support material ordering and product production, you should make sure that its technology pulls from historical demand data to ensure the highest likelihood of success and to reduce spoilage. Automation can have a huge benefit on your company, and as its capabilities become more advanced and more easily integrated, its prominence and importance to the manufacturing industry will continue to skyrocket.

Compare Manufacturing ERP Pricing & Costs with our Pricing Guide

Conclusion

Cloud manufacturing software is on the rise and for good reason. Its clear benefits, range of features and the variety of solutions available make it a viable option for companies looking for manufacturing software. Its accessibility and relatively low initial cost of ownership are arguably its most attractive features. Because it is a newer deployment method than on-site solutions, it often contains the latest and greatest technologies, which users can also benefit from.

Because there is such a wide variety of features available from different manufacturing vendors, it’s essential that you create a list of your “must haves” when considering different solutions. After all, you don’t want to go with a system that isn’t robust enough for your company, therefore leading to manual workarounds for your staff. A bigger system than is necessary can also be detrimental as it can confuse your team and cost you extra money for features that you don’t care about or that you won’t use.

Our list of the best cloud manufacturing software vendors on the market right now was compiled by our industry analysts, who looked at various factors to deduce which solutions come out on top. What cloud manufacturing solution is your favorite, and what do you like about it? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Lindsey JenkinsThe Best Cloud Manufacturing ERP Software of 2019

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