ERP System Examples
January 28, 2020
Let’s start with the obvious question: what is ERP? First and most simply, ERP stands for enterprise resource planning. According to SearchERP, an ERP is “a modular software system designed to integrate the main functional areas of an organization's business processes into a unified system.”
Basically, an ERP system puts all of your organization’s information into a single source of truth—not only is this good for organizational purposes, but this allows for complete visibility into business operations, encourages collaboration and open communication, and removes the many disparate systems where information can easily be lost or forgotten or mismanaged.
ERP is available from a wide range of vendors and is essential for manufacturers. Distributors and retailers use ERP solutions fairly regularly, as well, and as with any market, ERPs are used to meet the needs of all types and sizes of companies.
ERP system examples can be categorized in a number of different ways—by the size of the solution or the market share of the supplier; by the specific vertical industry that the system is designed to support; or according to the technology platform it runs on.
There are a small handful of large, multi-million dollar ERP providers that cater to an audience of other massive, multi-million dollar operations. With their market-share size, these two behemoths—SAP and Oracle—stretch the gambit of products and customers, but often lack the specific industry knowledge and customer support and services most companies look for.
There are many other providers, however, who can offer similar functionalities of these two, but because they’re smaller, they tend to manage more niche businesses, take care of all their work in-house and function with their customer’s specific needs as a central working point.
There are two major divisions within manufacturing in terms of industry applicability: discrete and process, though many products have been adding capabilities to bridge the gap and serve both markets.
Initially, ERP evolved in support of the “discrete” side of manufacturing—companies that deal with hard goods fabricated and assembled from individual parts. Basically, discrete manufacturer’s products come from or can be made into other products; they’re a part of a larger or smaller whole. Some discrete manufacturing products might include automobiles or computers or medical devices.
Specific discrete manufacturing industries benefit from ERP solutions designed to support industry-specific needs. Examples include Made2Manage for engineer-to-order manufacturing; Axis for metals, wire and cable; Cimnet for printed circuit board manufacturing; and DTR for plastics manufacturing.
The process side of manufacturing, working with materials and products that are or contain liquids and powders (such as chemicals or food and beverage manufacturers) soon thereafter demanded ERP solutions specifically designed to support their needs. More recently, discrete-oriented ERP solutions continue to add process capabilities (the ability to handle “recipes,” potency, continuous processing schedules, product grading, etc.). Examples of process industry solutions include Infor Prism and Ross ERP.
There used to be a significant division in ERP solutions based on the operating environment (hardware, operating system, database, etc.) in which they functioned. That’s not really the case anymore. So much of that distinction has disappeared or become irrelevant with the near universal adoption of cloud-based architecture. Most companies are offering software as a service, or SaaS.
With SaaS, the customer basically pays a subscription fee, and the vendor hosts and manages all of that customer’s data for them. Because of ease-of-use, scalability, functionality, and many more reasons, more businesses are choosing SaaS. One of the major technology players here is Microsoft Dynamics. More and more ERPs are leveraging the Microsoft Dynamics platform to build industry-specific functionality, such as JustFood ERP, bcFood, and Linkfresh.
Nevertheless, ERP solutions can be categorized by server platform and database, although many solutions can be implemented in several environments. For example, there are versions of SAP’s products that operate mostly UNIX or Windows/Intel platforms. Many of Infor’s products use the IBM Power Systemi (AS/400) platform and integral DB2 database (Infor XA, Infor LX, Infor Prism, Infor System21) but other Infor products reside on WinTel platforms (VISUAL, Syteline).
Database system tends to be one of the more significant differentiators, but many products have a choice in their database, most often electing Oracle or SQLServer (Microsoft). Many ERP buyers prefer to limit the number of technology suppliers they want to deal with, simplifying their processes and their support and maintenance tasks. Microsoft is the winner in those accounts as companies almost inevitably standardize on Microsoft Office products, prefer the Microsoft SQLServer database, and gravitate toward an “all Microsoft” solution including the platform for their ERP system.