An enterprise resource planning system is software that helps organizations manage business functions and streamline operations with a centralized database and a user-friendly interface. Modules include accounting and finance, customer relationship management, supply chain, inventory management, manufacturing, human resources and business intelligence.

The global ERP market is expected to grow to $74.2 billion
by 2026

Source: Stratistics

95% of businesses experienced an improvement in their processes after implementing an ERP system.

Source: Panorama Consulting

Small businesses experienced a 36% reduction in the time it takes to make decisions because of ERP software.

Source: The Aberdeen Group

ERP Buyer's Guide

What is an ERP?

An Enterprise Resource Planning System is software that helps organizations manage business functions and streamline operations with a centralized database and a user-friendly interface. Modules include accounting and finance, customer relationship management, supply chain, inventory management, manufacturing, human resources and business intelligence.

Common ERP features

Here are the common features found in ERP software:

Accounting and Finance

The accounting and finance module tracks the company's finances, including budget and expense planning, core accounting, revenue management and tax management..

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

With the CRM module, businesses can manage their client-facing operations, such as sales, marketing and customer service. Employees can track sales prospects and customer pipelines. Users can also manage marketing tasks, including advertising and lead generation campaigns.

Supply Chain

The supply chain module tracks products from manufacturing to warehouse to distributors to customers. Features include supplier scheduling, purchasing, inventory, claim processing, shipping, tracking and product returns.

Inventory Management

Using the inventory management module, businesses can monitor materials and supplies through inventory control, purchase orders, automatic ordering and inventory scanning.

Manufacturing

Manufacturers and other production-oriented facilities can use the manufacturing module to manage their shop floors, looking at elements such as work orders, bill of materials, quality control, engineering, manufacturing process and planning, and product lifecycle management.

Human Resources

The human resources module helps organizations manage their hiring cycles from recruitment to succession. Companies can take advantage of the following features: applicant tracking, payroll, time and attendance, performance management and learning management.

Business Intelligence

A business intelligence module collects and analyzes data from multiple sources and helps users make better business decisions. Some features include customizable dashboards and visualization tools, ad-hoc and scheduled reporting, and real-time data access.

Top Benefits of ERP

Using an ERP system has the following benefits, including

More accurate data

An ERP system uses a single, centralized database, which cuts down on data entry, redundancies and errors from transferring information between multiple databases.

Employees across the company can generate reports from a single set of data. ERP systems can also help companies comply with strict regulations concerning data security.

Data-driven strategies

With an ERP dashboard, decision-makers have quick access to real-time data and key performance indicators. Users can also generate reports with visual insights and other business intelligence.

Armed with this information, leaders get a deeper understanding of their business and can make better decisions, improve their corporate planning and develop more data-driven strategies.

Standardized business processes

Companies often handle the same business processes differently across various departments and locations. These processes can be inefficient and produce inconsistent data that's hard to analyze.

ERP systems standardize business processes by increasing automation, streamlining operations and allowing companies to adopt industry best practices. Using standardized business processes leads to improved productivity, faster workflows and fewer mistakes.

Greater collaboration

Departments are often siloed by business unit or location, which can lead to an inefficient use of resources and missed opportunities. ERP systems break down these walls with centralized data and streamlined business processes.

Employees in various departments can access the same pool of information and work together to meet common business goals. Standardized workflows make collaboration more efficient.

Supply-chain efficiency

ERP systems streamline all aspects of the supply chain, from purchasing raw materials to customer fulfillment. The software can analyze shop floor data, for example, to help reduce lead times and inventory on hand, as well as increase machine utilization and on-time deliveries.

ERP solutions can also communicate with suppliers and customers to produce insights like demand forecasting to estimate future sales, which reduces waste and improves profitability.

Types of ERP DEPLOYMENT

Here are the three main types of ERP Deployment:

On-premise ERP

Software is installed and customized on the company's own hardware and servers. The company typically pays a one-time license fee to purchase the software and is responsible for maintenance, security and backup of the software and data. Many large manufacturing companies already use on-premise ERP systems because they can be customized for extensive manufacturing execution systems and advanced planning and scheduling.

Cloud ERP

RSoftware and data are hosted on a remote third-party server. Companies generally pay a subscription fee to access the software through the internet. Vendors are responsible for software maintenance and updates. The data server provider manages the hardware and ensures data security and backup. Because of their low up-front costs and faster implementations, cloud ERP solutions are often deployed by small and medium-sized businesses. For more info, take a look at our definitive guide to cloud ERP.

Hybrid ERP

Cloud and on-premise software, often from multiple vendors, is integrated into one system. This is an increasingly common option as many companies integrate newer cloud ERP solutions into their legacy on-premise system.

How to Choose an ERP

ERP systems require significant investment and time to implement. And once you've finished implementation, it can be incredibly expensive and difficult to switch to a different vendor.

That's why it's important that you thoroughly research your options before making a final decision. Here's what you should consider before choosing an ERP:

1

Identify your company's needs

To understand what you need from an ERP solution, you first must understand your current business processes. Identify the issues your company is facing, as well as opportunities to streamline operations.

It's vital to define the requirements of your ERP software based on these issues and opportunities. You'll want to set goals and objectives for what your company will accomplish after implementation.

2

Creating a Shortlist

Once you've established objectives, create a shortlist of vendors that best fit your needs. We recommend making a list of your required features, as well as preferred-but-not-necessary features, so that you won't be oversold by vendors that push extra functionality.

Figure out if there's a vendor that offers your required features or if you'll need extensive customizations. Remember that customizing any ERP software takes time and makes implementation more challenging.

3

Contact vendors

After you've put together your shortlist of vendors, it's time to reach out to them. Discuss your objectives and required features. Ask the vendor about its experience with customers in your industry.

You'll also want to request a demo of the software with real-life scenarios, if possible. Some vendors will suggest a virtual demonstration, but see if they'll meet with you at your office. Another way to test ERP software is to take advantage of a free trial, if offered.

4

Conduct due diligence

Be sure to compare not only different price quotes, but also deployment options, implementation times and customer support.

Once you've narrowed down the list of vendors, request referrals from customers in your industry or that are a similar size to you. Find out if there are any issues with the vendor or the software.

ERP Implementation

ERP implementation is the process of ERP software installation, data migration and user training. It's not a one-time event, but rather a continuous process or life cycle.

Here are the seven key steps for a successful ERP implementation:

1

Research

Form an implementation team that can communicate effectively and has the knowledge and commitment to guide the project from beginning to end. Document and examine current business processes. Identify common problems or errors, duplicated or unnecessary efforts and missed opportunities with customers. Set goals and objectives for the implementation, and define the key performance indicators that will be affected.

2

Installation

Evaluate your current operations and re-engineer business processes into standard operating procedures. Build the infrastructure, such as networking facilities and data collection or display devices. Install the software.

3

Migration

Review and edit your data for accuracy and uniformity. Set up new databases, map database fields between the old and new systems, and transfer your data.

4

Testing

Test all interfaces, functionality and reports with real-life scenarios and transaction data. Make sure business processes are flowing correctly between departments.

5

Training

Train users in the new software. Users may find it difficult to change old roles, processes and behaviors. Manage change by providing users with the opportunity to offer feedback on the software.

6

Deployment

Choose between three types of deployment: big bang (instantaneous), phased approach (in stages) or parallel operation (run both systems simultaneously). Be prepared for challenges on the go-live date. Test and audit the system for accuracy, reliability and speed.

7

Support

Maintain ongoing support of the software and its users. Budget time and resources to identify issues and fix errors. Evaluate the success of the ERP project using key performance metrics that are tied back to your goals and objectives.

For more details, check out our definitive guide to ERP implementation.

Pricing

One of the most important considerations in selecting an ERP solution is pricing, which depends upon:

  • Software license
  • Implementation team and consultants
  • Type of deployment
  • Level of customization
  • Number of users
  • Hardware and software installation
  • Data security, backup and storage
  • Training and IT staff

ERP costs vary significantly based on the type of deployment::

On-premise ERP

On-premise ERP software generally requires the purchase of a perpetual license, which gives the business ownership of the software. Companies pay for customizations, installation of the server infrastructure and software, data migration and user training. Overall, on-premise ERP implementations require a very large up-front investment, but lower ongoing costs.

man with checklist and giant pen

Cloud ERP

Cloud ERP solutions require less initial investment because they don't need hardware and data server ownership and installation. In addition, they commonly use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) licensing and delivery model. Companies pay a subscription fee to access the software and updates, as well as data security, backup and storage. This fee is paid monthly or annually based on the number of users and level of features.

man at desk thinking

Open-source ERP

Open-source ERP software can be a cost-friendly alternative, because the source code is publicly available and free to download. Customizing and implementing an open-source ERP solution, however, can be complex and require additional IT staff.

man with checklist and giant pen

ERP Shortcomnings

Here are the main shortcomings of ERP's

ERP implementation

ERP implementation is known to be a long, complex and expensive process. From not selecting the right solution to not having realistic expectations, there are many potential obstacles.

Managing change

One of the biggest challenges is managing change within the organization. Employees often have difficulty changing their behaviors and job routines, which can lead to implementation failure.

Planning for upgrades

Many companies also find that, as their business needs change over time, their ERP system no longer supports their growth. Upgrading an ERP system or transitioning to a different vendor, however, can require reimplementation and other obstacles.

Adjutant
VENDOR NAME: Abis
READ REVIEW

GOOD

Robust functionality covers most areas of business management, streamlining operations and saving money.

BAD

Extended learning curve for system mastery, user interface could be more intuitive.

BOTTOM LINE

Adjutant ERP is a fully functional, robust ERP that's best for companies in metal construction, steel manufacturing, chemical production and water treatment.

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AccountMate
VENDOR NAME: AccountMate Software Corporation
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GOOD

Easy to navigate, customizable, variety of modules, top-notch customer support.

BAD

Doesn't offer HR or POS (Point-of-Sale) modules. Can get pricey.

BOTTOM LINE

Flexible ERP solution with a customizable source code and different modules to streamline processes for small and mid-sized companies.

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Acumatica
VENDOR NAME: Acumatica Inc.
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GOOD

Business intelligence, comprehensive reporting, several deployment options.

BAD

Pricey direct support, users must go through multiple steps for simple processes.

BOTTOM LINE

With its integrated business applications, robust reporting and workflow management capabilities, Acumatica helps companies streamline important business management functions.

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Aquilon
VENDOR NAME: Aquilon Software
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GOOD

Seamless integration of modules, multiple options for deployment, affordable price for small businesses.

BAD

GL integration is not done in real time but Aquilon expects this to be corrected within the next year.

BOTTOM LINE

Robust ERP software that enables SMBs to boost efficiencies, enjoy cost management benefits, and make accurate decisions.

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BatchMaster ERP
VENDOR NAME: BatchMaster Software
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GOOD

A robust ERP solution specifically designed to ensure quality and compliance for the process industry.

BAD

Users have said the software can be "clunky and unintuitive," occasionally lacking support to resolve.

BOTTOM LINE

Despite glitchy shortcomings, it's a comprehensive business management suite advantageous to process manufacturers.

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Cloud ERP
VENDOR NAME: BizAutomation
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GOOD

Single database core keeps data true among all modules. Ability to quickly build rules by clicks, not code, to trigger activities and alerts in Workflow. Powerful user interface.

BAD

Limited customer support hours. Does not have its own HCM/payroll module. More third-party integrations/plug-ins would be helpful.

BOTTOM LINE

Small businesses needing to transition from Quickbooks' simplicity to more sophisticated, integrated business management solutions will find value in BizAutomation, despite a few minor drawbacks.

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Solution Line
VENDOR NAME: Blackbaud
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GOOD

Role-based work centers that track individual and team performances, reduced risk of inaccurate data, integration to SKY Reporting for analytics.

BAD

Not intended for for-profit companies, can be costly for smaller nonprofit organizations.

BOTTOM LINE

Cloud-based solution that helps nonprofits and public service organizations streamline tasks so they can focus on their missions.

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Blue Link
VENDOR NAME: Blue Link Associates
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GOOD

Specifically designed for wholesale and distribution companies, customizable for customers' needs.

BAD

Steep learning curve, unattractive UI.

BOTTOM LINE

Blue Link is a robust, all-encompassing ERP solution for wholesale and distribution companies.

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Brightpearl
VENDOR NAME: Brightpearl
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GOOD

Brightpearl is intuitive and easy to use. It enables companies to manage their businesses from a single system. Users have said it is a good value for the money. 

BAD

Without an HR solution, complete ERP functionality isn't achieved.

BOTTOM LINE

Brightpearl is a cloud-based ERP system designed to help retailers and wholesalers align their business processes, including orders, inventory, customer data, accounting and reporting in one platform.  

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Connected
VENDOR NAME: Accountek Solutions Inc.
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GOOD

Mac and PC users can access software without complex integration processes, robust inventory and job costing modules, SaaS hosting option for companies that have remote employees or limited IT resources.

BAD

Does not include point of sale for register and has limited POS integration options.

BOTTOM LINE

Connected Enterprise helps distribution, light manufacturing and wholesale companies better track their accounting and inventory management needs.

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Costpoint
VENDOR NAME: Deltek
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GOOD

Contract management and project accounting modules have industry-specific features. Deltek has an in-house implementation team and extensive customer support options.

BAD

Common tasks, such as entering time and setting up projects, require many steps. Error messages provide minimal info and can be difficult to resolve.

BOTTOM LINE

Deltek Costpoint is a comprehensive project-based ERP solution uniquely designed for government contractors.

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ECOUNT ERP
VENDOR NAME: ECOUNT
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GOOD

A very low price for unlimited users and full access to all features, greatly assisting companies on a tight budget.

BAD

It is fully web-based, offering no desktop version. Additionally, it is not compatible with all barcode printers.

BOTTOM LINE

A truly encompassing ERP solution that helps small- to mid-sized companies manage their business for a fair, straightforward price.

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Epicor ERP
VENDOR NAME: Epicor Software Corp.
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GOOD

Companies can customize the software based on the specific needs of their businesses.

BAD

A bit complicated and expensive to implement for smaller businesses.

BOTTOM LINE

Modular approach with robust capabilities helps organizations streamline processes, reduce costs and improve customer responsiveness.

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ERPNext
VENDOR NAME: Frappe Technologies
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GOOD

Open-source, easy to use and customize, actively maintained, economical (the on-premise/self-hosted version is free) and well supported.

BAD

The documentation could be improved. ERPNext is not suitable for large organizations. Inventory, Purchase and product Planning, and Supply Chain management features omitted.

BOTTOM LINE

An opensource, web-based business management system for small and medium businesses in professional services, health care, education, non-profit and agriculture that need to manage employee, customer and financial data but don't need to manage supply chain, inventory or product development.

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EXEControl ERP
VENDOR NAME: EXEControl Global Solutions
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GOOD

Intuitive dashboard, custom reporting, variety of software modules.

BAD

Correction of items can pose difficulties.

BOTTOM LINE

Robust ERP software solution that helps small and midsize companies manage their core business operations.

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FinancialForce
VENDOR NAME: FinancialForce
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GOOD

Flawlessly integrates with existing Salesforce applications.

BAD

Requires a steep learning curve for mastery.

BOTTOM LINE

A flexible ERP built on the Salesforce platform with applications that can be purchased as a suite or separately, making it customizable for your specific business size and needs.

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Infor ERP
VENDOR NAME: Infor Inc.
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GOOD

Industry-leading analytics, 360° customer view, top-notch support.

BAD

Subpar Excel functionality, slow loading time.

BOTTOM LINE

Versatile ERP solution that offers comprehensive, end-to-end functionality to help boost performance across clients’ entire organization.

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LillyWorks ERP
VENDOR NAME: LillyWorks
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GOOD

Fast implementation, automated manufacturing plan alteration, mobile access.

BAD

HR and Payroll modules unavailable - for now.

BOTTOM LINE

Automated manufacturing plan adjustments, task list provision and job-completion prediction streamline production and lessen expense.

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Macola 10
VENDOR NAME: ECi Software Solutions
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GOOD

Workflow automation, personalized workspaces, variety of customer support services.

BAD

Limited APIs for third-party cloud services. No means to cost inventory items.

BOTTOM LINE

Full-featured ERP solution aimed at helping manufacturers and distributors handle materials, labor, compliance and resources.

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Dynamics 365
VENDOR NAME: Microsoft
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GOOD

Extensive CRM functionality and integration with Microsoft products and LinkedIn.

BAD

Difficult to navigate for beginners and limited mobile app features.

BOTTOM LINE

Modular, cloud-based ERP and CRM solution that offers AI and mixed-reality tools, as well as flexible pricing options.

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Dynamics AX
VENDOR NAME: Microsoft
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GOOD

Multilayered manufacturing functionality, 360-degree visibility across sales and distribution, seamless Microsoft Office integration.

BAD

Payment processing can sometimes be clunky.

BOTTOM LINE

Mixed-mode ERP software that offers both process- and discrete-based manufacturing functions.

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Dynamics GP
VENDOR NAME: Microsoft
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GOOD

Inventory controls are accurate and reliable. SmartList reports provide valuable insights. Microsoft SQL, Power BI and many ISVs can be easily integrated.

BAD

The user interface is difficult to navigate and lacks customization. Customers report frequent error messages and freezing issues.

BOTTOM LINE

Modular ERP that helps SMBs track and manage their financials, supply chains and human resources.

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NetSuite ERP
VENDOR NAME: Oracle
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GOOD

NetSuite's breadth affords robust functionality, and its scalability gives it long-term value as a company grows.

BAD

Integration bugs with third-party platforms have been known to cause downtime.

BOTTOM LINE

NetSuite ERP may lead the market in financials/ERP functionality, but it is not without some frustrating drawbacks.

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NetSuite OneWorld
VENDOR NAME: Oracle
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GOOD

Flexible, comprehensive configuration, strong project management and financial consolidation tools, turn-key operation.

BAD

Customizations to meet business needs can be difficult to complete.

BOTTOM LINE

Capably handles business management duties for companies that have multisubsidiary and multinational operations, but it takes time to learn.

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Odoo ERP
VENDOR NAME: Odoo SA
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GOOD

Modular system, customizable free and open-source Community version.

BAD

Steep learning curve, set up can be difficult for users who aren’t familiar with an ERP system.

BOTTOM LINE

Odoo is an open-source ERP offering both free and paid versions. Its features and functionality can help companies streamline processes, cut costs and grow business.

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Oneir ERP
VENDOR NAME: Oneir Solutions Inc.
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GOOD

Multiple Selling Channel vertically integrates quotes, CRM and MRP to streamline sales funnel.

BAD

Could use HR and BI modules to complete total functionality, SaaS version to be released in early 2019.

BOTTOM LINE

Scalable, customizable, robust ERP offers tools to manage most key business functions for SMBs, but lacks HR and BI features.

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Priority ERP
VENDOR NAME: Priority Software Ltd.
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GOOD

The scope and breadth of various platforms and synchronization between them affords robust ERP functionality.

BAD

Custom reporting can be challenging, price can be prohibitive and customer support can be delinquent.

BOTTOM LINE

Abundant integrated capabilities maximize functionality, but its cost can be prohibitive and a few features are flawed.

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ProShop
VENDOR NAME: Adion Systems
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GOOD

"Paperless" process, from estimating to shipping. Robust interconnectivity with MES and QMS solutions. "Single-click" functionality.

BAD

Its depth of functionality extends the learning curve and can intimidate novice users.

BOTTOM LINE

ProShop's exhaustive scope, paperless design and simplified usability make it a viable purchase consideration for manufacturers seeking an ERP solution, even with its extended learning curve.

READ REVIEW

GOOD

Comprehensive tools are flexible for various manufacturing processes and industry-specific requirements. Implementation is streamlined for efficiency.

BAD

User interface is difficult to navigate, and customer support can be hard to reach.

BOTTOM LINE

QAD Enterprise Applications is a robust ERP solution customized for global manufacturing firms in multiple industries.

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Ramco ERP
VENDOR NAME: Ramco Systems
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GOOD

Ability to perform tasks on a single screen, mobile functionality with geo-location capabilities, HCM modules with robust features.

BAD

Too robust for a small business.

BOTTOM LINE

Agile and flexible ERP solution that streamlines and automates business processes for complex environments.

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Realtrac ERP
VENDOR NAME: Realtrac Performance ERP
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GOOD

Robust job order planner, electronic visual whiteboard, variety of ways to report data.

BAD

No way to identify cost per unit when estimating BOM or bill items, inventory feature isn't intuitive.

BOTTOM LINE

Robust ERP solution that helps small and midsize manufacturers track inventories, manage shop operations, and organize daily workflows for machines and floor workers.

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Sage 100cloud
VENDOR NAME: Sage Group plc
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GOOD

Easy setup, simple user interface, intuitive navigation, scalable

BAD

Sometimes slow response from customer support for troubleshooting tickets; challenging customizations, including reports

BOTTOM LINE

Sage 100cloud is a subscription-based plan with bundled modules and pricing for small and medium manufacturers, distributors and retailers that need to automate processes, connect employees and gain business insights.

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GOOD

Users can connect to and run queries from multiple data sources at the same time, allowing them to multitask and simplify a workload.

BAD

The user interface could be improved, and users say that it has a tendency to run slowly.

BOTTOM LINE

A comprehensive, integrated and user-friendly ERP solution that supports a wide variety of industries and is backed by SAP.

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Scoro
VENDOR NAME: Scoro Software
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GOOD

Intuitive web-based app with a mobile channel that team members can access from anywhere, avid customer support.

BAD

No offline mode available and can take an extensive amount of time and resources to fully implement.

BOTTOM LINE

A user-friendly, all-in-one business management software that brings all important company information to one platform.

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Sync
VENDOR NAME: iSync Solutions
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GOOD

Integrated Style Costing, Business Intelligence, Mobile Dashboards, and Follow Up Coaching modules.

BAD

Doesn't include a CRM.

BOTTOM LINE

Fully integrated ERP and PLM software that helps apparel & footwear companies streamline entire operations.

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SYSPRO
VENDOR NAME: SYSPRO
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GOOD

Artificial intelligence, comprehensive reporting, variety of modules.

BAD

Occasional crashes, doesn’t have a built-in HR/payroll module.

BOTTOM LINE

Customizable, industry-built ERP that allows companies to simplify, structure and streamline their operations.

READ REVIEW

GOOD

Clean user interface, variety of modules, comprehensive reporting.

BAD

No CRM, payment processing isn't robust.

BOTTOM LINE

Unit4 Business World is a people-centric ERP solution that boosts organizational growth with little disruption and low TCO.

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VersAccounts
VENDOR NAME: VersAccounts
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GOOD

Robust modules, ability to implement software quickly with self-service support, transparent pricing.

BAD

Some features are not optimized for industries outside of the solution's core target markets, but the vendor plans to extend into more addressable markets in the future.

BOTTOM LINE

Cloud-based ERP for smaller businesses that want to easily and quickly upgrade from spreadsheets or other legacy solutions.

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VISCO
VENDOR NAME: VISCO LLC
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GOOD

User-friendly interface, variety of integrations, top-notch customer support.

BAD

Multiple clicks are required to finish a task. Does not have its own HRMS module.

BOTTOM LINE

An integrated ERP solution with an emphasis on inventory tracking, landing-cost calculation, shipment, and a fully-functional document management module.

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WorkWise ERP
VENDOR NAME: WorkWise LLC
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GOOD

Built exclusively for discrete manufacturers.

BAD

High volume logistics planning requires an interface to a highly regarded third-party app.

BOTTOM LINE

A robust ERP that can be deployed in the cloud or on-premise with over 45 applications designed to improve productivity and decrease costs.

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xTuple ERP Review
VENDOR NAME: xTuple
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GOOD

Boasts one of the lowest Total Cost of Ownership for any ERP system on the market while still being fully-functional.

BAD

Bug fixes and patches can often take a long time, and many users complained that xTuple's customer service is lacking.

BOTTOM LINE

A very affordable end-to-end ERP that is full of features specialized for manufacturers and distributors.

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Zangerine
VENDOR NAME: Zangerine
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GOOD

Robust e-commerce platform, business intelligence module for real-time analytics into inventory and other data, automated workflows that help companies provide better customer service.

BAD

Zangerine doesn't offer an accounting module, however, it integrates to QuickBooks. An accounting module is in the pipeline for 2019.

BOTTOM LINE

Cloud-based ERP solution that helps e-commerce, wholesale and distribution companies manage sales, inventory and all other operations in a single platform.

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