ERP software for IBM i continues to deliver supply chain management, financial controls, manufacturing activity oversight, materials planning, and other functions.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the must-have application software for companies in the manufacturing and distribution industries, as well as being more than useful for any enterprise that that is part of a supply chain. As the benefits of Internet-enabled business communications have multiplied, so the need to use ERP applications has grown into a necessity for companies that want to remain on the cutting edge in their markets.
A Pallette for the Management Palate
ERP software vendors today have made their products easier to implement and use, have extended the functionality of their suites to cater to more niche markets, and have tailored their features to accommodate vertical market players more than ever before. Enterprises looking for ERP software may find themselves feeling like viewers of the Food Channel, in that they have the luxury of picking and choosing between multiple programs offering both sweet and savory delights and numerous tasty nuances.
Multiple companies with solid reputations provide ERP applications that handle such diverse corporate activities as business process management, business intelligence, customer relationship management, enterprise asset management, financial management, human resources, supply chain management, and supplier relationship management features in addition to the expected materials requirement planning and manufacturing operations controls.
In addition to other features, ERP applications also imply Internet-based services that, for example, let the customers or business partners track the progress of their orders from cradle to grave (or at least from the start of fabrication to delivery to the customer's doorstep). (For a more complete rundown on considerations in selecting an ERP package, see Steve Pugh's article "ERP: Should You Stick with a Best-of-Class Software Strategy?" in the MC Press archives.)
Unlike some areas of the application software market, the task for today's management seeking ERP software is mainly about facing the challenge of picking the best fit for their operations from a rainbow of alternatives. For some help nailing down priorities in this search, see the recent Aberdeen Group study "ERP: Much Better Off With than Without" (currently available to the public free of charge for a limited time.)
Lunchtime vs. Teatime
It may be useful to define a few terms used in the product descriptions. Lean manufacturing refers to processes that provide a smooth manufacturing workflow and minimize waste by coordinating all elements of production to come together as they are needed rather than beforehand. Related is kanban ("just-in-time"), which attempts to precisely key the pace of production to the pace of observed demand. In practice, these two terms are interpreted as keeping inventories of raw materials or component parts low enough to just meet manufacturing needs for a specific time period, though they involve other techniques as well, such as constantly reviewing processes to eliminate inefficiencies.
For the general reader, two other terms may be helpful. The two major types of manufacturing are discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing. The former refers to production of specific products, such as furniture or automobiles, which are usually built from components in response to specific orders and are usually identifiable by their style or other features as having come from a particular manufacturer. Process manufacturing is concerned with products that are created via formulas or recipes, such as gasoline or sport drinks, and that can't be easily broken back down into their components once made and can't readily be discerned from competing products without something like helpful packaging. Both types of manufacturing can use ERP software but, rather obviously, require control of significantly different manufacturing processes.
If you are considering adopting an ERP application to streamline your enterprise processes, the product names, descriptions, and links to vendor Web sites below will help you focus your initial research. The key is to determine which aspects of your operations are most crucial to your success and then look for applications that are strongest in those areas.
Please note that the brief summaries used here in no way cover all the features each software product provides. You should consult the links provided for each product and contact the associated vendors for a more complete idea of what each ERP product has to offer.
And as always when looking for products or services, be sure to check the MC Press Online Buyer's Guide.
Significant ERP Applications for System i
ComMIT offers four integrated products that make up a planning, scheduling, and supply chain management system that helps to synchronize production activities and optimizes use of manufacturing resources. The modules are deployable standalone or together. Users can also integrate them with legacy MRP II, ERP, or other information systems.
Service Information Access
Common Sense is based on IBM's Express Advantage middleware. It provides ERP, supply chain management, customer relationship management, and human-resource management functions in an application designed to integrate with custom and third-party software. It lets users build a data warehouse to support ERP functions such as back-office accounting, distribution, manufacturing, project services, transportation, and warehousing.
Computer Software Solutions
Compsoft ERP is an integrated suite for managing company resources in the wholesale distribution and retail sales industries. Its 14 modules include cash reconciliation, financials, fixed assets, human resources, inventory control and purchasing, order entry, payroll, point of sales, and sales analysis. The product offers a single database structure, customization options, and unified communications tools.
Realization defines Concerto as an execution management system for manufacturing companies and offers the software as part of an overall "execution culture" that helps enterprises prioritize tasks, improve throughput, and improve due-date performance. Concerto helps users focus on enabling and enforcing execution management rules, establishing project pipelining to maximize use of resources, highlighting process improvement opportunities, and setting execution priorities.
DS90 is an ERP tailored for light manufacturing in SMB-sized companies. The light manufacturing module helps enterprises coordinate production, kit assembly, and component processing into production of a finished product. In addition, DS90 includes functions for commission management, financials, inventory control, order management, and sales analysis.
eC-LINK ERP is designed for companies in distribution or light manufacturing industries. In addition to normal ERP functions, eC-LINK ERP offers customization features and tools for converting legacy data, helps users achieve nearly paperless environments, provides automated stock replenishment reporting, and enables stock availability views across multiple locations. It also supports multimedia and multiple national languages.
Enterprise is an integrated suite of applications. The manufacturing portion includes facilities for bills-of-material management, capacity planning, engineering change, manufacturing accounting, master scheduling, materials requirements planning, product costing, production scheduling, route and work-center control, and shop floor control. It also includes functions for financials, logistics (order processing, inventory control and accounting, purchasing), planning (demand forecasting, inventory planning, distribution requirements planning), and manufacturing. In addition, the suite interfaces with American's e-Intelliprise e-business solution.
GXD is a suite of graphical enterprise applications designed for companies of up to $500 million annual revenue engaging in manufacturing and distribution. The ERP app is a menu-driven system that handles financials, inventory management, labor reporting, master scheduling and material requirements planning, order processing, pricing, product configuration, purchasing and receiving, returned-goods authorization, and routing processes.
HarrisData ERP Manufacturing creates an ERP environment that helps users manage all facets of manufacturing, including integrated, Web-based customer and supplier self-service. HarrisData ERP supports activity-based costing, kanban replenishment, lean manufacturing, paperless shop floor, and variance analysis. HarrisData's ERP application also interfaces with the company's accounting, distribution, and human resources applications.
IFS offers multiple ERP software applications for manufacturing companies. Manufacturing solutions include apps for companies specializing in engineer-to-order, lean manufacturing, make-to-stock, project-based delivery, repetitive manufacturing, and to-order manufacturing methods.
Infor offers multiple ERP applications, but LX is specifically designed for the System i and is modeled on the legacy BPCS application. The product is aimed at mixed-mode and process manufacturers and focuses on helping users improve core business processes such as channel management, customer relationships, financial management, logistics, manufacturing, and supply relationships.
JD Edwards EnterpriseOne is a suite of 70 integrated application modules that can support diverse business operations. Modules include asset lifecycle management, financials, customer relationship management, human resources, manufacturing and engineering, order processing, supply chain execution, and supply chain management. It supports a variety of operating systems, databases, and middleware, which makes it well-suited for larger, multiplatform enterprises.
JD Edwards World is an ERP application built expressly for System i SMBs and focuses on financials, distribution, human resources, and manufacturing management. It incorporates built-in interfaces to Oracle solutions for customer relationship management and demand management. World features customizable business-process templates that users can adapt to their existing practices.
Light Manufacturing Solution is tailored for assemble-to-order, engineer-to-order, and make-to-order/work processing activities. Special features let users bundle fabrication processes into a master profile, create predefined fabrication process templates, generate work orders for fabricated materials, and modify fabricated items on the fly. Light Manufacturing also supports production of kits or combinations and helps users manage rollup and scrap materials.
Lawson M3 Manufacturing Management is a software suite aimed at flexibly providing assistance for discrete, process, and mixed-mode manufacturing operations. It supports manufacturing operations, costing and planning, manufacturing execution, and product data management. It also includes an industry-specific product lifecycle management module for clothing.
Lawson M3 Supply Chain Management helps enterprises manage their supply chain activities with modules for procurement, supply chain execution, plant scheduling, and other aspects. It also includes a Trace Engine feature, which is a Web-based configurable information repository that can receive, filter, and trace product line information from internal, business-partner, and third-party sources.
Lawson S3 Supply Chain Management assists the supply chain professional with job aspects such as contract management, distribution management, EDI for supply chains, mobile supply chain management (for handheld devices), procurement, credit-card self-service, strategic sourcing, and supplier order-management. It also includes an optional medical-instrument management module for hospitals.
Manufacturing PM specializes in MRP/ERP activities at SMB manufacturing companies. Functions include capacity requirements planning, financials, manufacturing scheduling, inventory management, product costing, product configuration, purchasing, sales analysis, and shop floor control. The app emphasizes UI simplicity, ease of implementation, and low cost.
Mosaic Data Solutions
Mosaic M21 couples control of manufacturing activities with management tools for handling accounting financials, customer orders, inventory, payroll, and purchasing. Additional features include credit-card processing, master production scheduling, material requirements planning, multiple-level bills of material, and production schedule and order control.
SAP's ERP application is part of the company's SAP Business Suite product line. AS well as standard ERP operations, SAP ERP controls areas such as business performance management, corporate services, end-user service delivery, financials, and human capital management.
Solarsoft iVP is an ERP package designed to support discrete manufacturing operations that rely on an intensive supply chain. Solarsoft iVP features multicurrency and multicompany ledgers, EDI transaction sets for thousands of companies, release accounting linked to production reporting, multiple sales-order processing options, inventory controls, and production-planning and control options.
Solarsoft mVP is ERP software for discrete manufacturing operations that require repetitive batch production lines with complex tooling requirements. It provides features and options similar to the Solarsoft iVP product line.
Tropos is Solarsoft's ERP product for process-oriented, short-cycle, demand-driven manufacturers and regulated industries. As well as manufacturing, sales management, and inventory options similar to iVP and mVP, Tropos offers niche industry options and support for browser and mobile devices.
Xperia's EXECUTIV is a suite of ERP-related solutions that include integrated applications for managing supply chains, production and distribution, customer relationships, financials, e-commerce, and business intelligence. The company's offering also includes ADAPTIV, which is a combined IBM i hardware and software package with a focus on EDI.
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