How to identify the best ERP for your discrete manufacturing business

Selecting a discrete manufacturing ERP system that fits your method of operation is absolutely critical. At the beginning of your search, this may have seemed like a simple task but as you begun researching products for your shortlist the enormity of the task will have become clear.

Each decision boils down to an ERP requirement

The key to simplifying the task of selecting discrete manufacturing ERP is to break every decision down until you are discussing a specific requirement within your business; whether that is rule-based component purchasing or machine-to-ERP communication.

The key to simplifying the task of selecting discrete manufacturing ERP is to break every decision down until you are discussing a specific requirement

Having broken each decision down to requirements, you can now begin to assign priorities to each existing or prospective ERP feature linked to a business process. It is this context and priority which will guide you through shortlisting, request for proposal, demos and the final purchase.

Seeking out challenges and identifying solutions

Most discrete manufacturing occurs based on specific sales orders rather than creating products that are kept in inventory until they are sold. ERP systems should therefore link production jobs to sales orders. The component inventory used for those jobs should also be able to be tied to customers and their projects, and the ERP system should help manufacturers analyze profitability for each customer.

Recommended reading: 7 steps to selecting discrete manufacturing ERP

Staying lean in production is important to many discrete manufacturers. Cost pressures are always present, so ERP systems should help avoid overproduction, excess inventory, and unnecessary transportation. An ERP system that is tightly connected to a customer's precise demands can help manufacturers build more products that customers ask for and are willing to pay for.

If a discrete manufacturers has many production jobs open and running in parallel, their selection would prioritise an ERP which can schedule all work to ensure that each operation is ready for the following operation. The ERP system also needs to help control the actual work to ensure that shop floor personnel follow schedules and alert management of variances.

What’s next?

These are just a few examples of the challenges that face you during your selection process and the solutions which ERP can present. Applying the methodology outlined will allow you to identify areas in which your current ERP system is lacking as well as processes which will require the support of ERP in the future.

Some ERP systems provide point solutions for discrete manufacturers, and other systems include optional modules for the sector. Research all prospective systems thoroughly, weighing your needs against their features. Check the providers' financials and product development track record to ensure they will meet these needs for the considerable future. Check references for your shortlisted products and talk to those in your discrete manufacturing peer groups. There are many comprehensive discrete manufacturing ERP solutions on the market, the real challenge is identifying the one which you can apply to your processes in a positive and effective manner.

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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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