The best ERP systems for process manufacturing

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Process manufacturers create their goods by combining ingredients and supplies using a formula or recipe.  Process manufacturers frequently produce bulk quantities of their products such as petroleum, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, chemicals, and plastics.  The use of tracking and scheduling tools to maintain peak efficiency is critical.  With such specific needs, of course, process manufacturers' ERP systems must deliver the required tools.  Because of the variety of process manufacturing businesses, we find many ERP systems developed for specific niches and limited to only a single niche such as food and beverages.

A beer brewer, for example, will mix grains, malts, hops, yeast, and sugar according to a particular recipe for their desired product and the quantity required for their immediate demands.  These ingredients then ferment following the recipe under exact conditions for the right length of time and then can be bottled and sold.

Here are a few leading process manufacturing ERP systems to consider.  Keep in mind: the single best ERP system for process manufacturing is the one that meets the requirements of your business.

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Best ERP systems for process manufacturing

Sage X3 is an excellent provider of process manufacturing ERP systems.  Sage is available around the world. You get complete global compliance.  You can navigate the maze of laws and restrictions and simplify compliance across currencies, regions, and regulations.  With web-based access, you can use Sage on any connected device anytime, anywhere.  Sage will help ensure the consistent quality of products while maintaining the flexibility to act on any opportunity.

As a complete ERP, you get accounting and financials, purchasing, inventory, supply chain, sales, and customer management. Business intelligence tools and the ability to customize as needed is included.  There is an extensive list of quality control features included.  You will manage batches, lot numbers, and sub-batches in the way you need.  Use-by and expiration dates are ready to use to control your inventory.  Upstream and downstream traceability is included and you can drill down into your quality inspections as needed.

Plex is another well-established ERP system that serves process manufacturing and the food and beverage industry.  Plex advertises end-to-end quality, instant traceability, and industry-leading cost and inventory management.  Flex allows an electronic HACCP program that can meet any regulatory compliance demands.

Food and beverage manufacturers face many challenges and demands that seem to constantly increase.  Your ERP must support nonconformance, corrective action, preventative action, and statistical process controls.

DELMIAWorks Manufacturing ERP (formerly IQMS) offers a comprehensive set of process manufacturing tools including food manufacturing ERP and MES system.  Every aspect of your business from human resources and financial management to warehouse control and quality assurance is continuously connected.  IAT supports recipe flexibility and multiple units of measure so that you can produce in whatever volume your customers demand.  As a food manufacturer, you need lot tracking from the field to the grocery store shelf and back for complete transparency and quick recalls if needed.  DELMIAWorks Manufacturing ERP can provide first expiry first out inventory logic and valuation in addition to other common methods.

QAD has for years been providing ERP to a wide variety of business customers including process manufacturers and food and beverage producers.  Bottlers, canners, and packagers use QAD.  Distilleries, wineries, and breweries face difficult forecasting requirements and strict export regulations.  Frozen foods require traceability to ensure they are stored and transported at the correct temperature.  Creameries and fresh foods have very short shelf lives.  Meat and fish processors require tight inventory management to ensure quick order flow and optimal cost controls and profits.  Candy and confectionery makers must manage multiple distribution channels to many different customers and even company stores.

Aptean Food & Beverage ERP JustFood Enterprise Edition is another ERP that serves process manufacturers including food and beverage companies.  Whether you co-pack, private label, or produce your own line of food or specialty items you have unique requirements in product development, production, inventory, costing, lot traceability, compliance, planning, scheduling, and warehousing. 

If you need to dynamically adjust recipes to meet nutritional, physical and cost target values you need process manufacturing ERP software.  Maybe your need is to dynamically adjust specs based on available inventory or reserve product for a specific customer.  Do you need employee role-based dashboards with drill-down capabilities with graphical components?  You need a process manufacturing ERP.

People everywhere today are much more nutrition-friendly and want to maintain their robust health.  Food and beverage businesses must now change to meet the change in their customers and ERP systems for process manufacturers must change along.  Demands have changed toward purchasing foods without added preservatives and genetically modified ingredients.

Demands for organic food of all kinds bring ERP requirements to assure that all the ingredients are organic as well as all the processes involved.  Businesses must rely on the capability of their process ERP systems to adjust their recipes in the face of uncertain and changing demands while maintaining the quality of the products and keeping the nutritionally beneficial ingredients that customers still want.

Food and beverage concerns

Consumers today want to know what goes into their food and meaning ingredient labeling is becoming an important factor in product packaging.  Those ingredients are unique to each batch and recipe and ERP systems supply the list for the needed label.

Food and beverage manufacturers along with many process manufacturers, are very stringently governed by regulations.  Organizations such as the FDA, EPA, OSHA, and FTC are rather diligent in enforcing norms related to the launch of healthy products, regulating food labels, and maintaining a clean, and hygienic environment.  ERP systems for process industries must provide business intelligence and reporting tools that make such compliance as simple and routine as possible ensuring no reporting errors.

Inventory management is critical in the food industry and in other process-related businesses.  Food is susceptible to pathogens if not stored properly.  ERP inventory management is not just about quantity and money, but the quality of stores as well.

Process manufacturers must document and use cGMP current good manufacturing practices.  These capabilities should be built-in and not bolted onto ERP for process businesses.  Keep a culture that is preventative and not reactive to issues that will arise.  Electronic document management is an excellent way to use ERP to meet cGMP.

Food and beverage companies are only part of the process manufacturing world.  Pharmaceutical manufacturers need to deal with extremely long development times for their products and then deal with the risk of constantly changing market environments.  Regulatory agencies almost dictate the production processes in this industry.

Formula management and traceability are as important as recipe management in food and beverage.  Non-conformance management is somewhat shared too.  Pharmaceuticals need to work with variable specifications depending on a particular customer or country where a product might be sold.  The same product might be sold in a variety of strengths, each with its own formulation.  Often pharmaceuticals need multiple billing processes.

Plastics manufacturers

Plastics manufacturers must manage by-products and co-products throughout their production cycles.  Plastics are made to order most frequently where other process manufacturers more often make to stock.  Customer products can have extremely short life cycles which require careful management of inventory and the supply chain to avoid future overstocks of component or formula materials.  Many of the materials in the formulae are hazardous.  Plastic manufacturing ERP has to deal with factors specific to this business.

Chemical

Chemical manufacturers have their own set of constraints.  Chemicals can relate to adhesives, explosives, glycerins, print ink, and cleaning solutions along with many other products.  Chemical manufacturers sell to consumers and at the same time, much of the output is sold as an intermediate product to another manufacturer.  Regulations, compliance, formulation, quality control, and inventory management are important to chemical manufacturers and their process ERP systems.

Oil and gas

Oil and gas, too, has many facets.  This industry includes exploration, refinement, distribution, and consumer sales.  Oil and gas business is worldwide and localization is extremely important.  Each region will have tax structures and ERP for this business requires that the business be managed to minimize the tax burden.  Assets have to be managed around the globe in real time.  Those expensive assets bring no return when they are not actively drilling or sailing with cargo. 

Inventory has actual costs related and, at the same time, inventory is subject to a highly volatile world market that can reduce or increase value overnight based on unrelated factors such as politics.  Refineries must be scheduled to meet the demands of customers and retail.  Pipelines and ships are scheduled to meet the demands of a refinery.  Exploration then has to be scheduled ahead of the distribution channels.  Compliance with regulations and requirements that vary with countries and cities is a constant constraint.  Process manufacturing ERP for oil and gas businesses has a demanding job to complete.

Conclusion

The best ERP system for process manufacturing is the one that meets the unique requirements of your business.  No matter what kind of process manufacturer you are, there is an ERP that will fit your requirements.  Devote time and resources necessary to build your list of requirements and there will be at least one ERP provider to help.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller

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