Supply chain management is back!
When I began my career in the ‘90s into the early 2000s, supply chain management was a pretty hot topic. Manufacturing and distribution companies were focused on outsourcing functions to other locations across the globe, which led to a lot of business process management and improvement of global supply chains.
The trend faded away as companies focused on newer, more exciting processes and technologies. HCM systems, CRM systems, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and other technologies took center stage why supply chain dropped off the radar for many CIOs and executives.
But supply chain management has proven to be invaluable in today’s environment. Covid-19 exposed the vulnerabilities and rigidity of many supply chains that supported them. And now it has become clear that supply chain transformations of the future need to look a lot different than they did in the past. Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems are now top of mind for many organizations.
Our independent comparison of the leading SCM systems consider a number of factors. We evaluated our experience helping clients select and implement the systems, product innovation, flexibility, and overall product roadmap.
In addition, we evaluated a number of functional criteria that are critical to global supply chains, such as:
The evaluation also considers average cost, risk, and benefits, along with both quantitative and qualitative factors.
Oracle NetSuite is a common go-to supply chain and ERP system for small to mid-sized organizations – especially those with relatively vanilla and less complex business requirements. Unlike other SCM and ERP systems that have just recently migrated to the cloud, it is a mature SaaS ERP system that was built in the cloud. The product also provides a full-blown ERP solution even outside of supply chain management, as well as a large customer install base and the resources of software giant Oracle.
Microsoft is another mid-market favorite among those with relatively simple supply chain processes and needs. It is one of the top ERP systems with the familiar Microsoft look and feel. It is a flexible product that integrates relatively well with third-party systems, but it has its weaknesses as well. It struggles to meet more complex supply chain needs and its network of resellers and implementation partners is a mess, but it can be a good fit for many organizations.
Plex Systems was one of the first SaaS ERP systems to focus on supply chain and manufacturing capabilities. It is particularly strong among companies with complex supply chains, such as those in the aerospace and automotive industries. It is also catching on in the retail and distribution space as well. It is a mature cloud SCM solution, but one without a lot of supporting implementation partners.
In some ways, SAP S/4HANA is the gold standard of ERP and SCM systems for large, multi-national organizations. It is big, complex, and robust, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your needs. It handles full ERP functionality such as financials, inventory management, and CRM, while the addition of Ariba strengthens capabilities within procure-to-pay processes. The HANA platform provides speed and real-time visibility, but the functional maturity of the product is weak relative to its legacy ECC and R/3 products.
IFS is another SCM contender with full ERP capabilities. IFS is particularly adept at handling geographically dispersed supply chains, such as those involving field service crews in the utilities industry. Unlike many SCM providers, IFS offers multiple deployment options including cloud, on premise, and hybrid options. The biggest downsides? The company isn’t as well-known as some of the others and its network of implementation partners is relatively weak compared to others in the top 10.
HighJump, which was recently acquired by the software giant Korber, is another viable SCM system in the small business to mid-market space. It is particularly strong in warehouse management and retail distribution, while sister solutions within the Korber network can handle more complex shipping, vessel, and port scheduling needs. The biggest downside is that we have found it to be relatively expensive and less robust than some of its competitors.
Unlike many of the bigger ERP systems in the top 10, Blue Yonder (formerly JDA) has a narrow and deep focus on SCM. Its relative functional strengths are in sales and operations planning, retail, and workforce management. In addition, it has extended functionality to address manufacturing and shop floor planning, which is often used by companies in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. The downside is that it cannot address some of the broader functionality that some of its ERP counterparts can.
Of the “big” ERP and SCM systems, Oracle ERP / SCM Cloud is the more flexible of the bunch. Its strengths within SCM are stronger than ERP competitors such as SAP S/4HANA and Microsoft D365, while its cloud SCM offering is a big more mature than S/4HANA, D365, and some of the others in the top 10. Oracle is particularly strong in analytics and business intelligence, which many CFOs tend to gravitate toward.
Infor CloudSuite – along with its Nexus counterpart – can be a great supply chain and enterprise-wide offering for those looking for a more complete manufacturing, distribution, or back-office solution. The product suite allows for multi-party collaboration, along with innovative functionality such as its control center, predictive analytics, and working capital management. Infor’s recent acquisition by Koch is another strength, which gives the company R&D resources to continue innovation in the SCM space.
The top spot belongs to a product from a big company that is hyper focused on providing deep SCM capabilities. Manhattan Associates tends to fit particularly well with grocery, food, beverage, retail, and omnichannel companies. It is also strong in logistics and transportation, making it a good option for retail and distribution companies.
It is built on the .NET platform, making it easier to integrate with SAP S/4HANA, Microsoft D365, and other back-office ERP systems. The product’s biggest downside is that virtually all implementations run through Manhattan’s professional services arm, which can limit implementation options and resource availability for its customers.
While this top 10 list is based on average needs of a variety of companies, your specific needs and priorities may result in a different ranking. The two biggest factors that will influence your prioritization of these systems will be:
Regardless of your needs, the above systems are some of those we recommend as part of your short-list of options to help navigate your supply chain navigate the challenges of tomorrow.
Please contact me if you would like to arrange a conversation to discuss your SCM and/or ERP needs. My team and I are happy to be an informal sounding board for you as you consider your supply chain transformation and digitization journey!