If you are a manufacturing organization and are looking for ways to improve efficiencies in your operations, it’s helpful to understand the various tools on the market that can help you.
Before I continue, it’s important to first establish that Third Stage Consulting group is a technology-agnostic independent consultancy, and we do not have any ties or affiliations with any of the systems discussed in this article. These rankings and product reviews are a result of our real-time experience in helping hundreds of clients from around the world implement the best fit technologies for their organization.
With that, let’s get back to it.
Manufacturing Execution Software, or MES systems, automates shop floor operations. As you define your digital strategy for your manufacturing organization, this list of execution systems should help you understand the value and functionalities of the top systems on the market today.
E2 Shop Systems focuses specifically on shop floor automation. Its functionalities fit well for companies manufacturing a low volume of custom products. If you are a made-to-order or made-to-engineer organization, E2 might be the best solution.
In addition to that, E2 Shop Systems is a smaller company itself. With that, they will inherently provide better customer service than the larger organizations you’ll find on this list.
On the other hand, the reporting capabilities are not as strong as other systems on this list, and the breadth and capabilities are not as versatile. It's also one that will cost more over time.
SAP Manufacturing Execution is one module or system within the greater SAP suite of products. If you are looking for a broader solution that will help you manage the shop floor in addition to warehouse management, inventory management, CRM, accounting management, etc.
This is a good solution for larger-scale, more complex manufacturing environments. It's a great tool to provide visibility into operations due to its strong reporting capabilities.
On the other hand, SAP is a powerful tool that inherently comes with complexity in its user interface. Data archiving and data management can be more difficult as well. Due to that added layer of implementation, user adoption may be a bigger challenge with this solution.
This software is not for small to mid-size organizations, but rather a solution for larger manufacturing organizations with complex operations.
Fishbowl serves smaller to mid-size manufacturing shops. It's relatively intuitive when it comes to its user interface, so the user adoption more seamless. Even so, you will still need a strong organizational change management strategy as you would with any digital transformation.
If you are a more complex operation, this system is likely not the best fit for your organization. It’s also important to understand that the reporting capabilities are weaker than others on this list. Even so, this best-of-breed software solution is been designed and crafted to serve the manufacturing floor and does a great job in doing so for the right fit company.
The fact that this is a Microsoft product makes user adoption a bit more seamless since the user interface (UI) resembles all other Microsoft products that many people have grown accustomed to. It's also a very dynamic and open platform, enabling customizations that can fill your organization's unique needs.
Now, because it's a broad system, it could take time to implement. Digital transformations implementing larger ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365 will take a bit longer than a best-of-breed implementation. In addition to that, the cost will be a bit higher than other products on this list.
Although Oracle NetSuite isn't known as a manufacturing system, it's still a great option that can help automate operations for smaller to mid-size companies that are looking to automate their shop floor. This software has the ability to help automate more than just manufacturing and warehouse management but can also help streamline accounting, customer relationship management, and other enterprise functions.
On the other hand, there are costs that creep up over time. As transaction volumes increase, the cost to leverage this technology will also increase.
Aptean is a software vendor whose core focus is on manufacturing. This system is particularly useful in a food and beverage manufacturing environment, but even if your industry is outside of food and beverage, it can still drive great results. Beyond just manufacturing, it also does financials, supply chain, accounting, etc. as well.
The feedback from our clients is that integration can be a bit more of a challenge than expected. It's also known to be a bit slower when it comes to research and development.
Infor is one of the largest software vendors in the world, and they focus specifically on manufacturing. It has a relatively easy-to-learn user interface and it is fairly customizable. There are constant updates and improvements that will help your company stay relevant. It's also a greater enterprise software solution, and if you want something that brings more to the table than just warehouse automation, Infor could be a great option.
With that said, it can be a pricey option. The overall cost of this system can be more expensive over time than other solutions on this list.
Epicor is another software vendor that focuses heavily on the manufacturing space. This is a product that is fairly easy to use relative to other products on this list. There are also a handful of add-on functionalities that enable more options to better fit the need of the organization integrating the solution. In addition, there are versatile deployment options. A business can choose to integrate the cloud version of the software, the on-premise version of the software, or a hybrid deployment model with attributes of both that serve the greater company.
On the other hand, the more advanced capabilities are a bit harder to figure out. The reporting takes time to set up and the system itself tends to be a bit slower than other products on this list.
This is a software vendor that has a very large manufacturing base, IQMS is a very scalable solution. If you are a small to mid-size business that projects a high growth rate in the coming years, IQMS will be a good solution that you can grow into.
It’s important to note that this system has been built specifically for manufacturing rather than trying to be everything to everyone else. With that, it can be a bit more pricey than other systems. There has also been chatter that the reporting functionalities do the job, but aren’t as good as they could be. Many times, people have trouble with updates to the system pushed out by the vendor, and it could potentially result in short operational disruptions.
Plex is a product that is built specifically for manufacturing, and it is one of the only native cloud solutions. As software vendors migrate from on-premise to the cloud, Plex takes ownership of the fact that they have been there since their inception, leading to inherently more optimal cloud functionality.
Although it's number one on this list, there are still some downfalls. There are elements of workflows that are not necessarily the most intuitive. In addition, it’s a smaller company with fewer resources. With that will likely come good customer service, but the chance for more bugs in their code.
As you can see, there are pros and cons no matter the technology you select. It all comes down to your priorities as an organization and finding the best way to bridge the gap between your current and future state. If you have questions when it comes to software selection, feel free to reach out to us. We are always happy to be an informal sounding board.