Questions to Ask Your Discrete Manufacturing ERP Vendor

Today is the day you will start talking to discrete manufacturing ERP vendors about the new system that you want. It’s a scary day. You have put the moment off for too long but…Here it goes. Where to start? Here are a few questions that you should put to your shortlisted vendors.

Does your vendor understand the scope of discrete manufacturing? Discrete includes job shops that make one of something unique for each customer. Discrete also includes repetitive manufacturers that make millions of the same product for a variety of customers. Be sure you can define your business and that your vendor understands the differences and can help with the discrete manufacturing ERP you need.

How well can the ERP handle MTO / MTS / or the particular mix for your business? If your business only makes products for specific orders from specific customers, your needs differ from those of another who make products for stocking in inventory, waiting for a customer to order something. But you also might be a mix; you make components for stock and only finished material for orders. Understand how the proposed ERP handles these distinctions and be sure your discrete manufacturing ERP vendor knows what they are talking about.

Is there a configurator tool? Your products are in similar families and the unique features that a customer wants can be selected as they place orders. You don’t need a unique BOM for every possible product, only a unique BOM for each customer order.

Is the ERP based on production capabilities or accounting? Both are important but the design of the overall ERP will be different. You need to understand the basis for the design of the ERP proposed.

How flexible is the ERP? Can it handle the use of alternate bills of material? How about alternate routings? Can it make the changes easily and quickly as orders are processed? Can it track which alternate was used for an order?

Will the ERP help with capacity planning? How? Capacity planning is essential within discrete manufacturing ERP. You know there are days when you have more to make than time to make the needed orders. The ERP should help with advance awareness when those days are coming. The ERP should also help prioritizing the orders to get caught up quickly.

Does the ERP offer lot number controls? Can you choose which orders need lot controls when only some orders require the control? Lot or batch controls are often needed but these will make processing orders much more complex.

Can you use the ERP for data collection? That data might have nothing to do with resource or requirements planning today but is important for you to control your business. It is often better to have your data of all kinds in a single database rather than many separate systems under varying controls.

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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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