Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has revolutionized the software industry. This software system has been around for years, but every since the Web-based version became available just over a decade ago, many new vendors have come online to service it.
Software Manufacturers are a plenty
The big players such as Oracle, Microsoft, SAP have been active in the industry. But online, on-demand, software as a service seems to have transcended the traditional enterprise market space. Don’t get me wrong, traditionally on-site installed ERP still gets the attention of many software manufacturers, but it is Web-based ERP that has brought many new vendors into this active software market; and they are numerous. These vendors are large midsized and small, and they service every type of industry and business. They run the gamut from accounting, supply chain management, manufacturing, project management, retail, human resources sales, marketing, distribution, customer relationship management and more. There are also a good number of open source enterprise vendors that have entered the fray. Some of these active vendors include companies like Sage, Infor, Lawson, Syspro, NetSuite, Exact, Intaact, Abas, BatchMaster, CDC Ross, Plex Systems and the list goes on. There is a lot to choose from and that is why it is wise to take your time when selecting an enterprise software vendor.
The Web-based space has become increasingly popular over the past few years and many vendors service this market exclusively. This is software as a service (SaaS) and requires no purchasing of software, which is a far cry from the past when most businesses did just that. Software vendors today who are working the online market make their many from providing the software and hosting services, which has become a very lucrative market. Large firms have always liked to maintain control over their own systems and have had their own software, servers and storage space installed, on-site. this is still quite common among large corporations. However, even some of them are dabbling in the SaaS market for some of there business processing tasks.
This is a wide open marketplace for software manufacturers and it has become very competitive. But is also a flexible market with some of these manufacturers working only in certain areas of the market. Some provide only accounting software for example; some deal only with the manufacturing platform. Others are serving the customer relationship management market and then there are those that are active in human resources software. Supply chain management is another area where some of these vendors are concentrating their efforts. Then there are vendors that are working every area of the market from hardware, software and middle ware, like Oracle. This software vendor has also bought out many of its competitors, like JD Edwards and Siebel systems.
One of the problems with the smaller vendors is that they either get bought by larger companies or they go out of business. That’s one of the reasons it is wise to investigate vendors and try to determine their staying power. You don’t want to choose one who will be here today and gone tomorrow.
One thing is for sure, this is a very vibrant market for software manufacturers.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms for manufacturing are some of the most popular and one of the companies that gets good ratings is Infor manufacturing. This company offers enterprise platforms for thousands of businesses around the world. It is also active in providing services for a diverse group of business that include not only manufacturers, but also financial services companies, retailers, state and local governments, pharmaceutical companies, automotive suppliers, high-tech companies and the aerospace industry. Its service systems are known for their ability to integrate all components into a repository of centralized tools, information and data, that come together to administer all day to day business processing activities.
The Infor Manufacturing platform gets good ratings
The company’s manufacturing platform is known for its comprehensive scaling of production, sourcing, selling and fulfillment. The systems for mixed mode manufacturing are all automated, as are those for project management, materials and inventory management, product configuration, supply chain management, intelligent tools management and customer relationship management. The Infor SyteLine product is a program that is extended and based on a Microsoft platform that provides the accuracy and speed needed for not only the manufacturing component, but for selling and service objectives as well. The system provides for collaboration across the enterprise, to include partners, suppliers and customers, with real-time visibility.
The SyteLine product is popular for being able to incorporate the duties of planning and scheduling along with the management of customer orders and product configurations and to extend the application to address such areas as customer relationship management and fulfillment. Its manufacturing production tools include the ability to gather information and data and to analyze different aspects required for the shop floor for planning, scheduling and the decision making process that takes place on different levels. All of this information and data is brought together so that all concerned parties have the same blueprint for production. Infor’s software is also adaptable to the customer’s desire and coordinated for links with suppliers for just in time deliveries.
another interesting aspect of Infor manufacturing is that it its architectural design simplifies the process by giving users the ability to tailor their enterprise browser screens to their own individual needs, while still being able to transfer information, data and statistics across the enterprise in real time. The Infor architecture can also allow for the tailoring of information and data for observation and analysis, in real time. This is helpful and important for a quick picture of the operational scenario as well as the ability to make decisions on the spot. Reduced training costs are also part of the design of this software system as is the addition of tools that increase productivity, boost revenue and support customer relations.
The financial functions of the Infor platform are fully integrated and can coordinate all of the costing and financial transactions in sync with production operations. Some of these finanacials include HR and payroll management, Multiple and alternative currencies, Project management and control, Standard or actual costing, Tax calculations, Treasury and cash management, Fixed asset management, Enterprise reporting and consolidation, Crystal Reports®, Costing based on work orders and/or projects, Audit controls and AP/AR and GL.
Infor manufacturing provides a sturdy platform.
The fifth level of functionality to look for in an environmentally ready ERP package is how will the environmental management tool help us measure and plan for the end-of-life impacts of the product.
How Manufacturing ERP Can Shrink Your Environmental Footprint. (Part 6)
Particularly if some portions of a product can be poisonous, end of life disposal or decommissioning can be a major concern. But even under ideal circumstances, attention will need to be paid to how much of the product can be reclaimed or recycled, how product design impacts the ease or difficulty of recycling, and certainly how any potentially dangerous substances within the product are to be taken care of. This type of data must be on hand for each and every part across the product structure, and that means you need to keep track of your product structures at a very granular level of detail.
Issue #6: How much flexibility to change, expansion and reconfiguration does the environmental management tool have, and what is the cost of that flexibility? Environmental measurement and management requirements are not static. New regulations will be promulgated. New reporting demands will be placed upon you by your customers and the market. New products will bring with them new challenges. So an environmental management solution that can measure only one impact, like carbon emissions, is of little value. Moreover, environmental management solutions that rely on extensive integrations that are limited in capability or expensive to change and expand are equally undesirable. Indeed, when it comes to environmental management a manufacturer ought to start small and plan to expand their program over time as needed or as it becomes desirable to do so. An initial decision ought to be what should be measured first. There might be immediate environmental reporting demands that must be satisfied, or obvious environmental impacts that receive priority. For instance, a company that manufactures industrial chillers may want to measure impacts stemming from refrigerants like ammonia, Hydrogenated Fluorocarbon Refrigerants (HFCs) and Hydrogenated Chlorofluorocarbon Refrigerants (HCFCs). Eventually, for that industrial chiller company, an environmental footprint management program may be extended to manufacturing and installation operations, but measuring impacts stemming from these chemicals is the best place to start. It is obvious, though, that for any manufacturer, it makes little sense to invest heavily in a solution that will meet only immediate needs and will require additional major investments to expand and be reconfigured over time.
The seventh issue to explore is how much will it cost to implement this solution, including integration costs and middleware. And how much will it cost each time you upgrade my ERP package to uplift any necessary integrations? What are the costs associated with maintaining this solution over time?
Manufacturers about to commit to an enterprise software solution that includes embedded environmental footprint management need to do extensive due diligence. They need to ensure that they are actually getting ERP with a native, built-in module that is pre-integrated with the rest of an enterprise suite. The degree to which other parts of an enterprise suite must be implemented in order to feed data into the environmental footprint solution will vary from one manufacturer to the next.
Unlike their multi-billion dollar brethren, middle market manufacturers—those with between $100 million and a couple billion dollars in revenue—cannot as easily afford to maintain multiple ERP systems and numerous complex integrations to keep them all in sync.
How Manufacturing ERP Can Shrink Your Environmental Footprint. (Part 5)
This is because implementing and maintaining complex, one-off integrations costs almost as much for a middle market company as it does for a Fortune 100 company, but the middle market company has a lot less revenue with which to amortize that cost. So middle market companies will have a real need for out-of-the-box solutions for environmental management because they have the same if not greater environmental reporting requirements placed on them by the market, customers and regulators but have a smaller budget for compliance.
How can middle market manufacturers go about selecting environmental management tools? Currently, manufacturers with any degree of environmental footprint measurement and management capabilities rely almost exclusively on either standalone carbon footprint software or on one-off integrations between ERP tools and either packaged or custom software. Above, we have established that a more elegant, affordable and flexible solution involves the inclusion of environmental footprint management directly in the ERP package as a native piece of functionality. Determining who truly has this functionality and who does not should be a major concern for those evaluating enterprise software packages designed to deliver environmental footprint management.
To this end, here are seven specific levels of functionality to demand from any software vendor claiming environmental footprint management.
First, can they track environmental impacts like you can track cost? Because that is exactly what environmental impacts are, a cost, and they are driven by the same types of activities that drive financial cost. Every manufacturer keeps track of the costs to some extent, including standard cost or actual cost, at varying levels of granularity. Remember—everything that is purchased, every time materials or products are moved, every manufacturing activity, every business process, drives cost and also carries an environmental impact. How does the environmental footprint management solution take advantage of the existing costing system to reduce complexity in measuring environmental impacts?
Second, how is the environmental management tool linked into supply chain and materials management? One major contributor to the environmental footprint of a manufacturing company is its supply chain. Manufacturers need to understand what their products are made up of on a raw material level, the environmental impact of creating those materials, manufacturing them or mining them and the impact of transporting them to your plant.
Third, ask how the environmental management tool is linked to manufacturing operations functionality? After all, once you understand the environmental impact of your supply chain, you need to keep track of your own operations and your manufacturing processes. How will a solution help you see how much energy these processes consume, what emissions are associated with them, what chemicals they consume and what potentially dangerous chemicals like lead, cadmium or mercury are involved?
Next, look for how an environmental management tool track environmental impacts. The environmental management tool will need to allow you to measure how your product is used, how much energy it consumes, does it emit any substances when in use, can substances like cadmium, lead or other substances leak from it, etc.
Continued in Part 6