What is Better? IEM-ERP Solution or a Specialized Manufacturing Software?

Dec 12, 2019 7:33:07 AM

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Industrial equipment manufacturing is a specialized sector where manufacturers have to look at various aspects to ensure that they are managing their businesses right at all stages.

Each stage of your industrial equipment manufacturing business, from the quote stage to engineering (design), production (manufacturing), operations, and maintenance, requires attention and a detail-oriented approach to ensure success.

Most industrial equipment manufacturing companies seek a technology-based solution that will help them meet the demands of customers, maintain a competitive advantage, and remain profitable.

Many of our customers reach out to us at To-Increase with a question of whether they should continue with the legacy system they have in place or if an integrated industrial equipment manufacturing solution is the way to go.

At To-Increase, we want our customers to make an informed decision, and they can only do this when they have the complete information they require to do so.

In this article, we will list all the features that can help industrial equipment manufacturers meet their conflicting requirements while still improving efficiency and rate how the options provide these features.

Since most of our customers have, at some point, considered the option of a specialized software solution, which they would develop in-house by their own IT department, we are going to use this for the comparison.

We will base our comparison of a specialized software solution with our product, which is an integrated industrial equipment manufacturing ERP software solution.

Cost

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

There is no doubt that an integrated IEM-ERP solution requires substantial investment. However, an IEM solution not only includes the various features of the solution like project planning, job and task management, supply chain management, service integration, BOM creation, etc., to help you plan better but also has the in-built expertise to help you with various aspects. The cost can range from as much as €129 to €199 per month per user, depending on the option you select.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

This software would be developed in-house and may seem like the more economical option since your own IT resources are developing it.

However, when you consider the additional expense you incur with the people you recruit to work on this project, the dilution of your business focus, and the cost of constant coding changes, this could turn out to be a costlier option.

The cost of maintaining an IT team can be almost as much as 5X the monthly subscription cost of an IEM-ERP solution.

The winner

While the specialized manufacturing software looks less expensive, managing all the elements to make it a feature-rich solution can have an impact on who the final winner is in this aspect.

Customization

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

A solution provider with a proven track record would base the software offering on the experience of having worked in the discrete manufacturing sector. The combination of deep industry experience and expertise would ensure that the solution meets the needs of customers. In case any customizations are required, these can be configured rather than coded, making it easier and cheaper.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

With specialized software, you can customize the product to meet your specific needs, which can be a definite advantage. However, a higher degree of customization can result in problems when your business needs to evolve with changing market demands.

Customizations in specialized manufacturing software will require coding support from the technical team while the operation teams themselves can do configuration. This can add to the cost factor and what is more, when a product is modified with coding rather than configuration, it may not address the exact issues that the operational team wants.

The winner

The specialized manufacturing software can offer more customization options, but the integrated IEM-ERP solution would only require minor customization.

Support

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

The support you receive from your solution provider is dependent on the agreement you have with them. In some cases, where continued support is not explicitly part of the contract, you may have to pay extra for the help you require.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

Since the software is developed in-house, the support aspect is going to be easy. You can seek immediate and extensive support from your IT team and resolve issues that you may face at any stage. However, this may require more time and resources, making it an inefficient process.

The winner

The integrated IEM-ERP solution offers better and more expert support.

Ease of use

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

In the case of an integrated IEM-ERP solution, you will find that the solution is easy to use since the inputs of the end user have been configured. What is more, the product would be updated automatically according to the changing requests of users concerning usability.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

While the software may be easy to use in the initial stages, it may pose some problems later on. This is because such products are often created from an IT perspective and not from the end-user perspective. Any changes that users require would need a longer explanation, and there would be a lag in the response time as the software department may not understand the industry requirements as much.

The winner

With years of experience and deep domain expertise, the integrated IEM-ERP solution is the clear winner.

Information Access

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

In an integrated IEM-ERP solution, users will find it easy to access information both at the technical and commercial end due to integration with ERP. There would be lesser chances of problems occurring due to information access.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

While the production staff would find it easier to access information, the operational team may find it difficult to access information. Often, this would involve paperwork, dependence on IT teams, and information that has been updated.

The winner

The integrated IEM-ERP is the definite winner for the information access aspect.

ERP integration

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

Under this option, ERP integration is a given as the premise of this solution would be based on the customer having a specific ERP in place. The connectors of the manufacturing solution with the ERP can be configured as per the requirements of the customer and their scale of operation.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

The syncing with ERP would not be automatic in most instances with specialized manufacturing software and would require additional steps in the process. In a few cases, this could create a disconnect between the technical and commercial functions in the company.

The winner

Once again, the integrated IEM-ERP solution is the clear winner with the automatic synchronization feature.

Change management

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

In the industrial equipment manufacturing sector, customers often come back with changes to the product at various levels. All this information needs to be integrated and shared with the finance department, the procurement team, and the production team so that the product meets the customer’s requirements.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

Since the software would, in most instances, work in isolation with the ERP and updates would not be automatic, you will find that change management becomes a manual process. With laborious paperwork, email chains, and in-person discussions, change management can become confusing and inefficient.

The winner

The IEM-ERP solution is the winner of this aspect.

Access and approvals

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

In the manufacturing process, there are several instances where the changes that are made need to be accessed by specialists and approved before further action can be taken. Access to approvers is easy, and they can review changes and updates on the move making the process seamless and quick.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

With specialized software, in most instances, the solution is often server-dependent, due to which access and approvals may take time in case the approving authority is traveling. It can translate to paperwork, email trails, and other means of communication to get approvals moving.

The winner

Both options can help you in this aspect, but in case of the specialized manufacturing software, there could be some limitations.

Security

Integrated IEM-ERP Solution

On-cloud ERP solutions have an inherent risk when it comes to security. However, these can be mitigated with robust measures in place by the solution provider. Furthermore, solution providers can help you configure role-based access to reduce security risks.

Specialized Manufacturing Software

Since the software is server-based, and there is no access beyond the premises of the company, the risk of security comes down considerably. What is more, you can further fortify security with the right firewalls, virus protection, physical security measures, etc.

The winner

In this instance, specialized manufacturing software could have the edge here. However, an integrated solution can be made more secure with some added security measures.

The way forward

Since you have many of the details that both options have, it is time to take a look at your business requirements, budgetary constraints, current, and future plans before you make a choice. Here is a list of questions that you need to ask yourself while deciding on the right option for your business:

  • Do I have enough resources in my IT department to select the in-house option?
  • How do I foresee my business going forward in the next decade? Can the solution I select support me?
  • Do I want to dilute my focus from discrete manufacturing to IT? Or do I seek the support of an expert and experienced solution provider?
  • Which option is more cost-effective for my business?
  • Does it make sense to make a considerable investment upfront in an in-house solution?
  • Should I focus on my core business and leave the ERP solution to the experts?

Learn how our IEM solution can meet the requirements of the discrete manufacturing business.

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About Author
Adri Cardol

Adri Cardol

Product Manager - Microsoft Dynamics NAV Adri Cardol is an experienced business consultant familiar with ERP implementations, distribution, and manufacturing. His expertise also includes integration of applications and e-business.

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