Which production management software / ERP is the best for a small manufacture?

Practical guide to help you choose the best production planning and production accounting software, and which will protect you from bad investments.

Production management software – this is a phrase you probably typed in Google searching for a solution to your production problems,  but soon were surprised to find thousands of search results, each company offering you their great product, so now you are none of wiser and still have a dilemma what’s best for your business.

That’s why here, we are going to help you to choose the best for you production planning  tool, calculate work, get rid of paper orders, and last but not least improve efficiency and gain control over processes at the production hall.


This guide will tell you:

PLEASE NOTE: This guide is addressed to MICRO and SMALL PRODUCTION MANUFACTURERS (5-40 people at the production hall), which intend to achieve positive effects quickly, without involving complicated, hundred of thousands dollars pricey system. 

This is the summary which sets out the main points of the whole article:

1. Which production management software is the best to choose (graph)?

 

 

2. Which production management software is the best to choose (table)?

The size of your company

When you offer: 
simple products / production services

When you offer:
complex products with a big share of purchased parts 

Large
( +50  people)
  • Corporate MES with automated scheduling and connection to machines, ex. Queris or Żbik
  • Complete production system ERP + MES + WMS, ex. SAP Business One
    with extentions
Medium 
(25-50 people)
  • Advanced production management software such as MES, ex. Plan-de-CAMpagne 
  • User friendly production management software which uses RFID cards, ex. getprodio.com – premium package
  • Advanced production system with MES and accounting integration,  ex. Qcadoo
  • Simple ERP class system , ex. Modus

Small
(10-25)

  • Advanced production management software with accounting integration, ex. Qcadoo
  • Simple ERP class system , ex. Modus
Micro company
(up to 10)
  • Using completion in accounting software
  • Extended spreadsheet / free Google Docs
  • Simple production addition for calculation and accounting systems such as ex. MRPeasy

Short explanation of basic terms used:

  • Accounting and inventory software probably you’ve already got it, for production it only offers a completion outlook (it shows what consists of which elements).
  • Production management software (MES) – apart from production planning we get an access to a production hall, where employees register their work.
    • simple (MES) – enables easy production planning, registration of working time at the production hall or calculating efficiency and finally abandoning paper production orders;
    • advanced (MES) – advanced production planning (including semi-automatic), extended registration, services, full materials cycle  – however less flexible. It is very often integrated with accounting and replaces a full ERP;
    • corporate (MES) – it usually requires co-operation with ERP system. Automatic planning is very often connected to machines with artificial intelligence elements.
  • ERP system  – a wide array from a few hundred, to a few milion dollars; practically speaking the difference between ERP and a good accounting and inventory system is that based on orders ERP plans what and when should be purchased. Please note: it doesn’t reach to a production hall, so it requires an addition of MES or other module.
  •  RWT system – registration of working time (check ins and check outs). It is usually a component of production management software or you can buy it separately, ex. with the check ins/check outs monitoring system. 
  • WMS system  – for advanced inventory management, usually works together with bar codes and high stock piling.

Why ERP systems are not suitable for small manufactures:

  • ERP will not work well if it doesn’t get lots of (even sometimes obvious) information. Hence you will have to spend long hours adjusting this system to your needs;
  • You have to run everything perfectly or your stocks will show so great discrepancies, that you will need to prepare separate documentation;
  • Forget flexibility – in the ERP everything must be prim and proper, with accompanying document;
  • ERP-s  usually don’t have a production extended module, so you need to buy an external MES module or the one recommended by the software producer;
  • Be prepared for high cost at the start, and multiply the offer you got by two.

Potential traps for small manufacturers: 

  • Free production management software is usually a cheap marketing gimmick. Only the licences for basic modules are free, and companies make fortune on implementation services, and you get a product without any technical support.
  • Production management software integration with the accounting and inventory system  – as it happens, due to imprecise technologies systems will not integrate, and you may waste lots if time on detailed technology descriptions.
  • Lack of online access –  in practice, the smaller a company is, the more SECURE, futuristicaly thinking, data storage in the cloud should be.

Which production management software, ERP do you need?

The idea to have an ERP production system, which is “all in one” solution, in practice doesn’t work so well for small manufacturers as it seems at the first glance. Look at the graph and choose your situation, to find the best solution (the vertical line indicates the number of employees, the horizontal line describes, how complex the average product is).

 

 

1. For simple products, produced mostly in-house:
(ex. machining / CNC, plastic / injection molding industry, rubber products, cardboard packaging, simple woodwork and carpentry, printing shops / printing, steel constructions)

Challenges to deal with: better production management, work planning: the employees must know what to do, how and when, real-time production registration – you know what’s completed, how efficiently, in which time frame and at which cost.

Suggested solutions Micro company (<10 people):  

Suggested solutions Small company (10-25 people): 

Suggested solutions Average size company (25-50 people):

  • If you intend to keep it simple and you don’t need a connection with warehouse and accounting:
  • getprodio.com/pl optimal packageRFID reader (Read more: simple production management software).
  • If you wish to have an accounting module and a connection between warehouse and materials used: advanced production management software – simple MES (read more), ex:
    • metal industry, plastic ex. Plan de CAMPagne,
    • other industries ex. Qcadoo, MES.

2. For more complex products, where there is a need of externally purchased elements/ operations:
(ex. robots production, exhibition stands)

Challenges to deal with: better inventory-purchase procedures, especially if the product consists of tens of elements, often purchased externally.

Suggested solutions a Micro size company (<10 people):  

  • Extended Google Docs sheet shared with the office staff;
  • Using completion module in accounting and inventory software, ex. Sybiekt GT or ERP Optima XL.
  • Suggested solutions a Small size company (10-25 people):
  • Production addition to accounting and inventory system targeting inventory planning, ex. MRPeasy.
  • Suggested solutions an Average size company (25-50 people):
  • If you wish to keep your present accounting system: advanced production planning and registration system integrated with Optima / Subiekt, ex. Qcadoo.com (from about 1 400 zł PLN per month + implementation).
  • If you wish to implement an accounting system from the beginning:  simple integrated system with ERP, or RHO Modus funcionality.
  • If you estimate, that your company will grow fast: wit’s worth to consider investing in complex tools offering cloud storage such as ERP-s.

What is what exactly and how it can be used
(production management software – MES, ERP system and so on)

We have to make an exeption here, because there were numerous situations, when a company spent 50 – 200 ths. dollars on ERP system, only to discover later, that it doesn’t reach to a production hall!

1. Accounting and inventory software with additions

Perhaps you already use it in your company. The best known on Polish market is Comarch Optima, which gradually had been more and more expensive, and suddenly became an ERP Optima (it’s an ERP only by name 😉 ) and Insert Subiekt GT, which is a good value for money. Both programs can be recommended, although neither of them is a masterpiece nor is a flop. What’s important they are going to move to a cloud – which might generate future problems.

The basic functions of accounting and inventory software are:

  • Sales (which is everything connected with issuing invoices);
  • Orders (which means accepting Client’s order and making a product reservation in the warehouse);
  • Stock  (states, WZ / PZ, also very often orders from providers);
  • Completions  (based on completed order and product parameters, the stock updates automatically);
  • Simple CRM (which funcionality leaves a lot to desire). If you don’t know what CRM is, click here to read a great article prepared by Rafał from  informatykawfirmie.pl website.

If you wish to have access to production you buy a simple but separate (or integrated with accounting program) production software.

Simple production additions to accounting software 

Example software:  Apator Mozart

Apotor Mozzart - Widok ze strony producenta

The price is based on offer presented on the producer’s website:  licence from 1 950 zł PLN per working station + implementation

The principles are to expand your accounting and inventory for easy planning of purchase and production to make complex products to fulfill your orders.

 Main target: 
  • to faciliate production of sophisticated, multi-element products / complex products, where managing the inventory is of a key importance,
  • to create work schedules in connection with ordering parts (usulally those schedules are for the manager, not for a production hall).
Functions:
  1. Materials planning / products balancing.
  2. BOM-s (products “tree” – which parts it consists of).
  3. Inventory and calculation of semi-products / products.
  4. Advanced cost calculations.
  5. Work scheduling according toBOM-s.
It’s recommended for:
  • the size of a company:  practically speaking form 2-3 employees at the production hall up to about 10 people (when number exceed, it might prove uncomfortable to register production),
  • industries: complex products, where more important is purchase planning and monitoring of semi-products then production management at the production hall ex. if you produce sophisticated farming machines in a small scale.

2. Production planning software (MES-es)

Acronyms and abbreviations tend to be quite fashionable, so majority of companies which have independent production management system at the production hall boast to be a MES (which stands for a “Manufacturing Execution System”). The role of MES-es is much bigger and includes complete production service, planning and accounting.

For example, even the simplest monthly subscription to Prodio.pl software (197 zł PLN per month) can be called MES: it reaches production, employees cansee working plan and there is a real-time registration of work.

2.1 Simple MES-es – production planning, registration and accounting software dedicated for small manufacturers

The principles are simple – you leave behind your accounting and inventory system, and start to monitor production comfortably an easily with a new production management software. This tool is great if you want to abandon paper production orders and ahave a full control over your production from any place in the world.

The example software: getprodio.com

The prices based on offer from the producer’s website: monthly subscription from 197 zł PLN net per company

  • Implementation costs / set up: 0 zł PLN. The Client can set up the software themselves using configuration tool,
  • Update costs: 0 zł  PLN (it is always updated),
  • Equipment needed: simple laptop / computer with Internet access, RFID readers + key-fobs.
Target:  

To monitor and better organize production at the production hall, your employees know what to do, in which order (they have a schedule at the production hall), and you know lead times and efficiency.

Functions:
  1. Creating a production plan, where orders are displayed at the production hall.
  2. The production employees can register operations (and check ins / check outs).
  3. Registration of check ins and check outs in production management software.
  4. Working history display and order’s calculation.
  5. Managing orders and monitoring progress (not including warehouse).
It’s recommended for:
  • industries with simple products: metal working, CNC, injection moulding, elastomers, carpentry, cardboard packaging, printing shops, tooling departments, other simple production and production-support processes (ex.plating process),
  • from 2-3 people at the production hall up to about 30 people.
 The example software: getprodio.com  (click here to get a free trial)

 production planning trial

2.2 Advanced MES-es with a possibility of accounting and inventory integration

This narrow group is dedicated to larger companies, which prefer to keep their accounting and inventory system or even a simple ERP (which doesn’t have as interesting production as ex. Comarch CDN XL).

Integration isn’t often as comfortable and lacking daily problems, as in case of unified ERP, but it’s possible to make some great savings. We get a good production management software, without a necessity of buying a whole accounting system.

The example software:
  • Online version of production management software Qcadoo MES
    Qcadoo MES - screen ze strony producenta
  • Advanced online version of MES OptiMES
Typical pricing – how much costs advanced production management software:
  • For SaaS as paid monthly subscription: from 1 200 zł PLN + about 6 – 10 tys. PLN implementation;
  • For offline systems from about 20 do 40 tys. PLN for implementation + 10 – 20% of this amount for annual licence;
  • Equipment: it requires a sophisticated network infrastructure.
Target:

Advanced calculations of product making, production scheduling with accounting for inventory and integration with accounting.

Functions:

  1. Everything, what a simple production management software has PLUS:
  2. Advanced planning, including machine calendar, employees competencies matrix, Gantt’s graphs, etc.;
  3. Advanced monitoring, including bottlenecks, downtime, and OEE factor;
  4. Calculations and offering (including margines and provision / mark-ups on department costs);
  5. Warehouse management (inventory documentation, disbursement methods and attributes in documentation);
  6. Integration with accounting and inventory systems.
It is recommended for:
  • companies, which would like to have a complete functionality of ERP, but wish to keep their present accounting and inventory software,
  • planners, who wish to use advanced planning functions, including automatic scheduling,
  • companies aware of the number of data necessary to provide for the system,
  • companies, which products are divided into small elements, where each of them needs a separate management.

2.3 Corporate MES systems (mainly as an addition to advanced ERP)

Are you surprised ? You shouldn’t be, as it was mentioned earlier, that most of ERP systems don’t reach a production hall and need additional extensions. That’s why MES additions were originally invented.

Machine integrated MES

The truly extended MES has usually connection to machines to register their work and all working parameters at real-time (the example of simple and accessible for small companies solution can be a Polish production system – Żbik). There is a graphic below from the producer’s website, which shows a production hall with several dozen machines and their updated status.

 

This is probably a dream of many owners of production companies – however it’s worth to consider, especially at the beginning, if the level of complexity and the cost of implementation will pay off. Those systems also prove to be the most useful in unified production processes – ex. if you have several dozen similar machines and alike products.

Planning systems with automatic scheduling and the basics of artificial intelligence

The truly “all in one”. Form independent production planning to connection to machines, service works scheduling and complete registration of all processes at the production hall. Once combined with ERP system (preferably with automatic system based on robots), you have a complete factory 4.0 🙂

This marvels and wonders of technology can be introduced in a small manufacture  – when there’s a will, there’s a way, and it’s not even about the costs, but the number of data required to provide for the system to be able to give tips and operate, is immense. However the strength of this solution allows ex. car factories work successfully without hold-ups, despite thousands of configurations and elements.

4. ERP systems – basic „processors”

This is one of the best marketing products in the IT history – a software which can do practically anything, but in standard version offers almost nothing, because the company, which is responsible for implementation has to make money. The best example, are the companies, which decided to change from Comarchow’s Optima, and go through a few thousand zlotys worth implementation of  Comarchow’s ERP CDN XL. It turned out that some functions or reports are available in simpler software and for the ERP they have to be written on request.

Other examples of the most popular ERP systems for smaller companies include SAP Business One and Insert Navireo. 

What is a PRACTICAL difference between operating of ERP system, and accounting program?

It isn’t the access to production or human resources (this modules you can buy as addition to simple accounting software), but basic ERP system usually doesn’t have any production module and you have to buy it as an extra

The difference between accounting and inventory software and ERP is the way of calculating material from the warehouse (which is called material demand). For example, if you produce a bed, which consists of a frame and a matterrace, the earlier mentioned CDN Optima, will show you a total number of frames booked, based on number of beds ordered. However it won’t use this information while making a purchase plan connected to production process, until CDN XL, from the same producer, will point it, but you have to spend tens of thousands before.

Please remember, that practically none of the ERP-s reach production hall as a standard 


The idea is, that you buy a basic version of ERP, and next upgrade or modify it to suit your needs better. Usually you end up buying additional modules to get your ERP system work: 

  • Production module for ERP – it enables creating products technology and work planning;
  • MES registration module for production employees, where they can click completed works / operations to appear on the production plan;
  • CMMS  (managing maintenance, machine service, etc.);
  • WMS (warehouse managing system, operating on bar codes). 

To sum up, the newest ERP-s are sophisticated tools, where you buy a “foundation” and build on it a perfectly tailored system, adding as many “building blocks”, as you need. If you wish to have an ERP for production, you have to search for ERP + MES.

Typical cost of ERP for a company with 35-50 people

  • Base and licenses: from 20 000 – 50 000 tys. PLN + on average 1 500 – 4 500 for each working station;
  • Adjusting cost and production additions: on average twice as much as the cost of licence;
  • Maintenance and updates: about 20% of the cost of the licence;
  • Safe budgeting:
    • the simplest solutions such as Modus – 35 – 40 tys. PLN,
    • market standard: 250 tys. PLN,
    • market leaders: 400 – 600 tys. PLN.

Production management software – be aware of traps 

Watch out for “free production management software” or “open source ERP”

  • Free are usually only basic modules licences (such as ex. OpenOffice), any dedicated modules must be purchased at additional costs;
  • Independently installed systems usually don’t have any guarantee and technical support, and they might not be developed any further;
  • Imagine, that possibly you managed to install some open source ERP, and there is another JPK, which you have no idea about;
  • Software implementation and adjusting it to your needs as well as maintenance are paid, and fees are very high – this is the “revenge” of free licence policy;
  • It turnes out in total balance, that “free” software is more expensive then the paid one, and involves higher uncertainity.

The smaller the company is, the faster it should move to a “cloud”, as sooner or later that’s the way all business will go 😉

  • Installing any software in your company, you have to realize, that in a few years time, you might have to start from scratch;
  • Practically speaking, for small companies, without IT department and advanced network, an online service is much safer than storage data at their premises.
  • The term “cloud” for production software shouldn’t scare you, because the data is on particular server in secure location (as it is in Prodio), it isn’t all over the Internet, as in other cloud services.

Integration with accounts and warehouse isn’t always worth doing 

As an entrepreneur you strive to have work automated, and you fight to eliminate dispensable procedures; you wish to pay once only and have everything in one place – this thinking is like grist to the mill of companies, which want to sell you the idea of “integration”.

Integration is great, but it requires precision and the system should be tailor made for the company.

Each waste and what is going to happen with it (to go to the warehouse or to the trash), each technological change or different raw material used by an employee MUST BE ACCOUNTED FOR in the system, otherwise, just after 2 months it will be impossible to count your stock, which was automatically calculated and based on production. No products can be taken without being physically ordered and all actions must be put in the system (it will be blocked otherwise).

You might now think, it’s great and that finally your small manufacture will be organized – but when there are really many orders and the machines can’t work, because you didn’t enter all necessary data into the system, you may go back to old good paper orders, and leave this new system behind, although you spent on it a several dozen.

Automatic planning – won’t pay itself off!

Gantt’s graph and a dream of one magic button setting a production plan is a topic of many talks between company owners.

Meanwhile, although there appeared many different programs, which promise to plan everything themselves, so far it is still necessary for the software to know before it starts planning process:

  • calendar of avaliability of production employees, time off work, their work presence,
  • matrix of competencies, to know who and in which scope can perform operation on which machine,
  • service and maintenance schedule,
  • perfectly prepared technology of product, including changeovers, with exact lead times, possible replacement by other machines, types of tools used for a particular machine
  • properly run warehouse and inventiry system and raw material- products allocation.

If you fail to provide any of the above parameters, you can forget about even the best of algorythms automating the production for you 🙂 The software in a small company should tip you on your machines occupancy and estimated lead time of production. And this is exactly what we wish you 🙂

Try Prodio - the easiest production management software.

You have full 14 days, to test the benefits, which gives you online production planning and production monitoring. Click, and in less then 8 minutes, you can put the first order on your production plan!

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