Five questions to ask discrete manufacturing ERP vendors

Discrete manufacturers make products that can be counted.  But that count can range from one to millions and the needs of a discrete manufacturer vary with where they fall along that volume spectrum. These questions should help determine whether a potential discrete manufacturing ERP will serve you well and meet your production needs.

1. Does this ERP fit my business?

Your business is engineer to order.  You see a specific product your customer wants and you design and build it to match your customer’s vision.  Your product is the only one of its kind anyone will ever see so you are a discrete manufacturer.  If your ERP salesperson shows examples of discrete manufacturing of cell phones, there might not be a good fit.  Each of those cell phones is unique and we can see the serial number if we look for it and the phone number on the display is also unique.  Your business is not the same.

2. What is my production style?

Some discrete manufacturers make each product to a customer order and others make each product to stock for an order they expect to see in the future.  You might have products that fit into both categories.  Ask your vendor to show how their ERP satisfies your needs. Beware of any ERP that seems to lean too far on the other side.  If it looks wrong, it probably will be.

Select the right software for you with our seven-step guide to selecting manufacturing ERP

3. How can we use this ERP?

Every discrete manufacturing ERP is designed to capture transactions. The result of those transactions will allow you to see what in on hand in inventory right now.  You can look at financial statements that show your P&L or your cash position at any time.  Using a discrete ERP requires reports and dashboards that can be easily seen and lead to some desired action.  Knowing how many red widgets are on hand is nice.  Seeing that you need to order more next week is actionable.  That is the reason ERP is valuable.

4. Can I integrate this ERP with other systems?

Your new customer orders for products and quantities due on certain dates are seen on your web storefront software.  You look at the status of parts and materials on order through your supplier’s portal.  You watch the carrier’s tracking numbers to ensure product deliveries are on time.  You want these views to come from your ERP so that you have a single place where your whole enterprise has the same view of necessary knowledge.

5. How will this ERP help me react to market changes?

Your production workers look at a schedule dispatch report each morning.  That schedule uses your best estimate of production.  Your workers expect to see the job waiting at their station at a certain time but reality is that some jobs will be early and others late.  Your receiving people should see the supplier’s truck at the dock now.  It isn’t there and now they can expect to see someone from production asking when they will get the material needed now for production.  You want your discrete manufacturing ERP to have alerts – like a bright red flashing light that can be seen before some real-time event becomes a problem and can be quickly corrected and the problem solved is visible to all concerned.

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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

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Tom Miller

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