Top ERP Tools For Your Business
As you work to understand the potential benefit of an ERP solution, you need to understand the various functions that a modern ERP system will provide, and why these will help you.
The various ERP tools provided may differ to some extent, but most systems follow similar, established functional requirements that comply with APICS or other industry standards. In addition, ISO 9000 (and the family of various versions of ISO 9000 for various industries) continue to provide ‘best practices’ that most systems will want to emulate.
Some ERP systems are ‘lighter’ than others, meaning the depth of their product may not allow for unlimited levels of bills of materials, or for adding a limited number of ship to addresses for a given customer. These idiosyncrasies are sometimes difficult to find, but are examples of some of the kinds of questions you should ask.
ERP Tools in Epicor Kinetic
We represent Epicor Kinetic, which is one of the best ERP systems, and we will list the standard elements of Kinetic as an example of a full-fledged ERP system. Other systems may use slightly different terms, but most follow the same major areas.
CRM – Customer Relationship Management tracks your prospects, sales pipeline, and tasks related to each opportunity you have. CRM systems are usually not popular with salespeople, because they require information to be entered and salespeople would rather be selling. If you have a CRM that they do like to use, it may be able to be interfaced with your ERP, and the CRM data needed for the ERP can be automatically loaded. If your salespeople have a CRM they like, it’s usually best not to rock the boat – but figure out how you can pull in the opportunities into your ERP.
Product Configurator – many manufacturers have core product lines with many options. The configurator allows users to set up all the questions needed to be asked to properly specify a product, including the use of pull downs for acceptable choices, and validation routines that can compare multiple answers in order to properly design a product. Configurators can ensure products are properly engineered, without having engineers operating the configurators, and deliver properly specified and designed products to the shop floor for flawless production.
Demand Management – this is the suite of features to bring in orders from various places. Typical sources of demand are discrete sales orders, EDI (Electronic Data Interchange, used still by many industries for transferring standard transactional information electronically amongst trading partners), forecasting, transfer orders from other plants or companies in your organization, and master production schedules (usually historically developed production in a make to stock operation). You should be sure that your ERP can handle all of the kinds of demands your company generates.
Intelligent Document Management – this is a relatively new ERP tool, as it is from the document management world, and is a utility that ‘reads’ incoming purchase orders, test results, or documents of any kind. Rules are set up to read the document and enter it automatically into the system. The finished record can be reviewed prior to moving to the next step in the process, but in high volume applications, this saves a tremendous amount of time.
Material Requirements Planning (MRP) – is really just part of the automated process that detects demand, creates shop floor work orders, (or jobs) and purchase orders for materials needed as the result of the MRP run. Lastly, production capacity planning and scheduling can be run automatically after jobs and purchase orders are run so that the shop floor dispatching is updated. In more sophisticated systems like Epicor, forecasting is done as part of the MRP process to adjust and make quantities depending on trends of volume increases or decreases over time.
Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) – is very detailed production planning based on the necessity for machines, people or other resources and the availability of those various needs. Scheduling can be run finite or infinite, front to back or back to front, and any combination of these based on job priority.
Requisition & Procurement – Purchasing demand can come from automatic replenishment levels (KanBan), calculated levels, and manual purchase orders. Rules are set up for any number of levels of approvals, and the supplier workbench helps the staff manage the flow of incoming materials by showing on time and overdue deliveries.
Quality – standalone quality systems should not be needed with a good quality integrated ERP system. Quality processes starting with reason codes for various failures extend into quality plans for incoming or in process materials, with rules and embedded calculations to determine pass/fail conditions. Organizations that require SPC, PPAP, APQP, Gage R&R, and other quality system processes are all embedded in the system.
Project Management – is fully integrated, so groups of jobs, purchases, engineering processes, and shipments can be coordinated by project. Scheduling can be done by project. Automatic billing rules can be built per contract to automatically generate incremental billing when certain criteria are achieved, such as % of completion or key deliverables are attained. Actual versus budget costs are kept by materials, labor, overhead, and materials overhead at the phase and overall project. Projects can be exported and imported from Microsoft Project.
Manifesting & Shipping – with integrations to all major carriers and freight forwarders is provided, in addition to container tracking with landed costs.
Integrated Accounting – all accounting-related information is mapped back to the general ledger through system settings for various categories, but can also be overridden with specific ‘GL Controls’. GL codes can have up to 200 characters and 20 segments. Dynamic segments can be created when combinations of requirements merit them, so that all possible combinations don’t need to be set up in advance. Multi-company setups can be done in any combination of consolidations, all automatically processed. Inter-company transactions are also automatically fed from one company to another.
Contact EpiCenter Today to Learn More About The Best ERP Apps
There are obviously thousands of ERP tools and additional features of Epicor Kinetic, but if this list seems to match your needs, please contact us to have an assessment done on your operation, and we can map which features you’ll need. Your EpiCenter ERP sales professional can help you find the best ERP app for your needs.
written by Jeffrey W. Glaze, President