When we think of manufacturing, we may imagine big factories, assembly lines or fast-moving, automated processes. This is the world of big company manufacturing, however. Not all manufacturers are like that. Small-to-midsized (SMB) firms are often engaged in more flexible, custom manufacturing. This creates a different set of needs for manufacturing management software, prompting the question, “What is the best software for SMB manufacturers?” Acumatica, which offers specialized Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) software for manufacturers, has published a useful whitepaper on this topic. We will explore the subject here.
First, What Kind of Manufacturer Are You?
There is no “best” manufacturing software for two reasons. For one thing, manufacturing software is always adapted for your unique business. It’s better to talk about manufacturing software suites that can be customized for your needs. Also, manufacturers vary significantly in the kind of operations they run.
Figure 1 – Different kinds of manufacturers, as categorized by their relative levels of variety and volume – which also correlate to speed and flexibility
The best manufacturing software for SMBs will vary according to a company’s manufacturing operation. The chart shown in Figure 1, which is taken from the Association for Supply Chain Management (www.ascm.org), offers a great way to categorize different kinds of manufacturing business. It plots manufacturers according to the relative levels of variety and volume, which also correlate to speed and flexibility.
A project shop is one with low volume and speed but a high degree of variety and flexibility. A company that makes custom equipment falls into this category. A job shop moves a little faster, but has less variety. Job shops usually sets of similar products, known as “jobs” for individual clients. A batch operations business is sort of like a job shop, but it has less variety and flexibility, but higher volumes and faster speeds. A mass, or continuous manufacturing operation is high speed and high volume, but with low variety, e.g. makers of soda cans or mass-production auto parts.
Matching Software with Manufacturing Category
In our experience working with manufacturers, software selection and configuration flows from a detailed, nuanced analysis of the company’s operations. In this context, operations span the full gamut of the business, not just the shop floor. The analysis should include a close look at the sales process and how the company supports customers after orders have been placed. All of these have a bearing on how manufacturing software is set up. And, the end results will vary based on the type of manufacturing that’s being done:
- A project shop will likely need manufacturing software that’s configured for in-depth project management and project accounting capabilities. This may mean integrating software modules for manufacturing management, supply chain and project accounting. A software suite that doesn’t offer this should not be considered for a project shop. Depending on the complexity of the project, the software may need sophisticated supplier management and scheduling, e.g. if components are expensive and manufactured abroad.
- A job shop needs similar functionality to a project shop, but, in our experience, usually also requires more customer relationship management and logistics features. Delivery of finished jobs may be time sensitive, split into multiple sub-orders and so forth.
- A batch operations business tends to need strong supply chain management capabilities. They’re moving quickly and cannot afford to run out of manufacturing inputs, nor do they want to hold inventory longer than they need to.
- A mass, or continuous manufacturing operation needs good supply chain management and logistics support in its manufacturing software. These companies also may need effective financial management, particularly if they’re running at lower margins. They’re often managing money as much as they are inputs and end products.
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Getting Manufacturing Software right for the SMB
The challenge with getting manufacturing software right for an SMB is to provide the feature depth they need without overwhelming them with the complexity of an enterprise ERP system. After all, a large manufacturing enterprise might have more IT admins on staff than an SMB has employees. The SMB manufacturing software package has to be scoped right for the customer in question.
Acumatica Cloud ERP is a good option for SMB manufacturers in most cases. It can adapt to the needs of the four kinds of manufacturers. It’s also flexible enough to meet the specific requirements of a given firm—while offering ease of implementation and management that suits the operations of a smaller firm. To learn more about how we can help you with SMB manufacturing software, contact us today.
Additional Manufacturing Resources
5 Things Manufacturers Need in ERP
The Advantage of True Cloud Manufacturing
Manufacturing Challenges—How Acumatica Can Help
The release of Acumatica 2019 R2 means even more opportunities to increase productivity and accelerate growth. Improvements to the software (of which there are over 100), aim to make the cloud ERP system more user-friendly. Its latest upgrades are based on feedback from customers, developers and partners. There’s a cool roadshow for the new release hitting selected American cities in October. They cover the following aspects of Acumatica 2019 R2:
Worldwide SMS Support is now available, enabling users to be updated on business events via mobile text notifications. Conveniently, the recipient’s device doesn’t need the Acumatica mobile app installed. Other platform upgrades include enhancements to contract-based APIs, so developers can obtain multiple detail lines in a single request, while integration with HubSpot enables real-time syncing.
With the Pivot Table Widget, pivot tables can now be displayed on dashboards. Users can quickly summarize large quantities of data when creating reports. Also, lines, columns and dashboards can be highlighted for faster identification of relevant data. Users can highlight desired items via the customization feature on the Generic Inquiry screen.
Predefined roles are available to financial users, allowing them to quickly access system functions. Other enhancements to usability in Acumatica 2019 R2 include:
- Autogenerating of expense report receipts directly from images
- User-defined field enhancements for mobile devices
- Conditional formatting to adapt the style of dashboard rows or columns (supports formulas)
- Selection of a company/branch in a single click
- Sorting and filtering of file attachments in a table/entity
Acumatica 2019 R2 now allows Application of Payments to Particular Lines of Accounts Payable Documents. Users can assign a partial payment to an entire AP document or individual lines within the document. Payment assignments can be performed in various proportions as well. The system also supports the ability to track retainage by document.
Users can now approve AR invoices, credit memos and debit memos within the software. The Accrual of the Costs of Non-Stock Items function enables revenue and expenses to be posted to non-stock items. Calculating the approximate net income of these items is therefore more straightforward. Acumatica’s new software applications also include corporate credit card support and reconciliation.
Detail Level of the Project Budget options include task, task and item and task and cost code. Data here can now be updated at the summary and detailed levels. Users can also receive warnings when a saved document exceeds the budget, while the system can forecast project budgets by period, allowing the comparison of actual costs/incomes with budget amounts previously forecasted or revised. Two-Tier Change Management has also been added. Multiple change requests can now be grouped, with markups, into a single change order.
Inventory and Order Management
Buyers can now review item prices and select/change vendors from the purchase orders screen. Acumatica also allows direct sales order invoices to be linked with external point-of-sale systems while customer orders are automatically validated in the system. The prepayment system has been enhanced to allow one or more prepayment requests to be added to purchase orders (which can be added to prepayment documents). A Warehouse Management System and international shipping options have been integrated as well.
To learn more about Acumatica 2019 R2, register for a roadshow event near you or request a demo today!
Additional Acumatica Resources
Moving from QuickBooks to Acumatica
Better Financial Reporting with Acumatica
Understanding Acumatica Pricing
Process management, inventory management and accounting are just a few important features of manufacturing ERP software. By implementing a manufacturing-specific Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, you can streamline business processes while more accurately generating prices and calculating total costs. Acumatica Manufacturing Edition has what manufacturing companies need to operate efficiently. However, for an ERP system to work in manufacturing, it must have these five things:
1. A Way to End to Blind Scheduling
Blind scheduling, i.e. scheduling without reference to actual orders, can lead to excess inventory and inefficiencies in plant operations. To foster efficient planning, ERP software must use real customer orders and demand forecasts to plan purchases and create realistic production schedules. A manufacturer can then assure all materials, products and parts are available when needed, in the right quantities. Coordinating activities, completing work on time and using resources more efficiently can avoid this even as demand changes or unexpected disruptions occur.
2. Ability to Reduce Expediting
In the manufacturing sector, expediting is the least efficient way to run an operation. Costs quickly go out of control as companies pay premium prices for materials to accommodate favored jobs. Acumatica Advanced Manufacturing Edition integrates costing functions in all operational subsystems. An ERP system must also collect/manage cost data for materials, labor and overhead in a production environment, while offering traceability of items, barcode data collection and tracking of labor.
3. Ability to Control Engineering Changes
The demand for product complexity and variety has increased. Therefore, an ERP system must account for complex product designs in multi-level bills of material (BOMs). Detailed routing and support for multiple product revisions are needed to track anything being designed, assembled or fabricated. A revision control system improves coordination, record keeping and tracking of pending changes. With visibility into complete, accurate data, companies can better manage material procurement, production scheduling and field service in the face of engineering changes.
4. Elimination of Outdated Business Information
Manufacturers need the most current information to improve decision making. The visibility provided by ERP software supports the manufacturing of complex, customized products; adoption of new manufacturing methods and technologies; and balancing of supply with demand. Acumatica integrates information across applications while updating data immediately system-wide, via the cloud, and ensuring the required data are always available. It also has dashboards for reporting and viewing key metrics, which provides accurate decision support and insights into trends.
5. Ability to Grow with the Business
Scalability means the same dependable, feature-rich platform is available as a business expands. For example, a scalable ERP system can support your business if it expands globally (i.e. contains tax and regulatory compliance and language translation functions). It should also support significant changes in transactional volume and contain software modules that allow an expansion of services. Otherwise, an entirely different software package may eventually be needed, which can cause problems ranging from data compatibility to learning curves.
Acumatica cloud manufacturing ERP software has everything manufacturers need for production planning, cost management, engineering change control, data tracking and scalability. Learn more by browsing our website or by leaving a message with us today.
Additional Manufacturing ERP Resources
The Advantage of True Cloud Manufacturing
Technology for the Mid-Sized Manufacturer
If you manage manufacturing operations, you know the kind of pressure you can be under to produce product on time and at the right cost. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software has helped guide the manufacturing process as well as related areas of work like supply chain management and Materials Resource Planning (MRP) for a generation.
Today, however, the manufacturing sector is at a moment of change. On one level, time and cost pressures have grown more intense. At the same time, technology innovations like cloud-based software promise greater control over the process. Not all cloud software is the same, however. There is an advantage to using true cloud software in manufacturing. This is the subject of Acumatica’s useful white paper, True Cloud vs. Fake Cloud: How Manufacturing Companies Can Tell the Difference.
The Potential for Cloud Software in Manufacturing
Cloud-based ERP is a good fit with manufacturing for a variety of reasons. It tends to be more flexible than legacy ERP, which is helpful given how rapidly manufacturing circumstances change today. Manufacturing ERP software needs to keep up with rapid change cycles affecting product design, suppliers, logistics and so forth. The cloud is well-suited to this role.
Specifically, in addition to performing basic functions like accounting and financial management and procurement, ERP for manufacturing has to contend with many challenges. For instance, manufacturing management software has to integrate broadly with suppliers’ and customers’ systems, with logistics providers and more. An effective cloud ERP system for manufacturing can serve as the hub for all your business applications. It can connect your software, data services and equipment. Outcomes of this approach include:
- Streamlined order processing across multiple channels
- Ability to view material requirements and create schedules and work orders to meet demand
- Digital document signing and document management
- Automated warehousing
- Support for multi-carrier shipping with automated shipping rules
- Automated transportation management
- Efficient management of human capital and payroll
Looking ahead, cloud ERP for manufacturing can make it easier to adopt future technologies than its on-premises legacy counterpart. New technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) promise to affect manufacturing. Security and compliance issues will continue to be significant. Similarly, data analytics as a component of manufacturing operations management will likely grow more sophisticated as time goes on. A good cloud ERP platform keeps you ready to deal with what’s coming.
Understanding True Cloud in the Manufacturing Setting
There are differences between the various cloud ERP offerings. Not all of them are what we call “true cloud.” Indeed, some cloud ERP solutions are actually just cloud-hosted versions of their original legacy instantiation. This leads to some fairly serious differences in functionality and the ability to deliver on the promise of the cloud for manufacturing.
A true cloud ERP solution is one that was developed natively for the cloud. It’s designed to leverage many of the cloud’s built-in advantages. For example, a true cloud solution will offer full functionality and reporting on common mobile devices as well as on the desktop. It will enable extensive customization, such as with dashboards and reports. A true cloud ERP solution features full integration of spreadsheets, apps, equipment and data services. It will feature robust security, but do so in ways that do not limit extensibility or integration. True cloud is also easy to upgrade.
Is true cloud ERP software the right solution for your manufacturing business? We can help you answer that question.
Acumatica offers a number of advantages over QuickBooks. If you do want to migrate, you won’t be alone. A lot of companies have done it. And, best practices have emerged for the process of moving from QuickBooks to Acumatica.
Why Make the Move from QuickBooks to Acumatica?
Replacing QuickBooks with Acumatica is usually advisable if your company needs a more fully-featured Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) capability than is currently available in QuickBooks. Acumatica is also a cloud-native application, with the improvements in performance and functionality that brings. Other benefits include having a full relational database export feature, flexible licensing and better scalability.
Compare QuickBooks to Acumatica
When comparing QuickBooks to Acumatica, consider the following key differentiators. Learn more in Comparing Acumatica vs QuickBooks.
- True cloud: Acumatica works on premises or in the cloud without additional equipment or software. QuickBooks Enterprise can be accessed over the internet, but even Intuit acknowledges that QuickBooks has not been optimized to be a true cloud product.
- Full function ERP: Acumatica offers your organization a complete ERP and CRM solution. While QuickBooks Enterprise contains some of these elements, it is ultimately an accounting solution and not a full function ERP solution.
- Full relational database export: QuickBooks uses a proprietary database and does not provide a true export function, requiring a third-party utility to access the underlying database. Most of the next level financial management solutions for small- to mid-sized businesses use more robust databases, such as Microsoft SQL Server, SAP HANA, or Oracle. However, these other solutions also expect the client to eventually move to some kind of ERP solution. QuickBooks is designed strictly for accounting.
- Flexible licensing options: Every company is different, and some prefer a depreciable capital expense versus an ongoing operating expense. Both products are available through subscription licensing, but Acumatica also offers perpetual licensing.
- Scale as you grow: Acumatica allows you to scale as your company grows and can accommodate multiple companies and multiple currencies. QuickBooks Enterprise limits you to a maximum of 30 users and handles multiple currencies but not multiple companies.
- TCO: Because both products serve different purposes, it would be difficult to say which one has the best total cost of ownership. We recommend, however, that you apply due diligence when selecting a replacement product for QuickBooks to ensure you get a product that can continue to grow with your company for several years.
The “Easy” Part
Technically, migration from QuickBooks to Acumatica is fairly simple. An admin sets up an entity in Acumatica. Then, using built-in migration tools, Acumatica extracts the chart of accounts and other transactional data from QuickBooks and imports it into the correct areas of Acumatica. The process is a bit more involved than this, but the bits and bytes aspects of the migration are generally straightforward. This is the “easy” part. Where best practices come into play is around business processes and requirements.
Scoping Out Your Acumatica Install
Acumatica is a suite of products. As part of migrating from QuickBooks, it’s necessary to figure out what your team will need from the accounting module, and from there, what other modules you’ll need. You may want to add Acumatica Project Accounting, financials, CRM, eCommerce, Distribution and so forth. At that point, the questions will be about how much to integrate the various modules you’ve installed. Learn more about each of those products below:
Determining How Your Workflows Will Translate to Acumatica
Moving to Acumatica means porting over your business processes. However, given the expanded feature set in Acumatica, it’s a good practice to take the opportunity to improve the way you do things. You might be able do more than you currently can with QuickBooks. For example, if you look carefully at your Accounts Payable workflow, you might determine that there’s a more efficient way to do it in Acumatica. You could probably automate certain workflow steps.
You may go through an iterative process to match up the migration with the workflows. Your workflows can affect the way you import data from QuickBooks. Working with an experienced migration advisor, you could cycle through multiple version of your workflow and Acumatica setup.
Making It Work for Everyone
Moving to Acumatica is definitely not a “set it and forget it” operation. For one thing, you’ll have to train your people. Everyone who touches the front end of the system needs to be confident in their ability to use the software. This may involve teaching people new sills, like data analytics and reporting as well as cross-functional workflows like logistics-to-accounting transactions in Acumatica.
From there, it’s necessary to monitor how things are going – on both the front and back ends. Having worked with many businesses on the transition from QuickBooks to Acumatica, we recommend running Acumatica for about a month and then reviewing how things are going. Of course, if there’s an issue sooner, you have to deal with it. We can help with that, too. However, in general, we’ve found that a solid month of use will reveal any difficulties in the new workflows or missing pieces of the data transfer that need to be rectified.
Implementing Acumatica can move forward in increments after the migration from QuickBooks. It’s a highly dynamic and multi-faceted solution. As your team gets more comfortable with it, you might find you want to add new feature sets or modules. Alternatively, you might discover that it’s too much all at once.
We can help scope the installation down, giving everyone time to get used to the new toolset. Contact us to learn more.
There’s a question you frequently (and unfortunately) hear from managers when they are presented with financial reports: “Thanks. Now, what do these really mean?” An income statement and a balance sheet will reveal some basic facts about a company’s financial condition, but their ability to communicate meaningful information is usually quite limited. For example, imagine that the income statement shows earnings equal to 5% of revenue. Is that good or bad? How does that compare to the business plan? That is a matter for a separate analysis. Now, however, advances in financial reporting from Acumatica provide a much-needed new level of context and detail.
What is Financial Reporting All About?
All accounting packages create financial reports. They contain standard modules like General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable. From these functions, the package is able to generate all the major reports: income statement, balance sheet, statement of cash flows, accounts receivable aging and so forth.
What is the purpose of these reports? They’re needed for tax reporting, at a minimum. They offer managers and shareholders a picture of the company’s financial condition, e.g. is it profitable or in a loss situation? Are expenses higher in the current period compared to earlier periods, and so forth. These are essential facts, but they don’t usually tell the whole story.
What’s Missing in Conventional Financial Reports
Financial reporting should go further than just stating the financial state of a business. Financial reports are about more than just managing money. They should be about managing the business. To be of true help to managers, reports should reflect how the business is performing in a variety of contexts. How is it doing compared to the annual plan? Do the reports reflect the unique structure of the organization and the nature of your markets?
A Better Kind of Financial Reporting
A new kind of financial reporting, available from Acumatica, gives you the ability to create a number of special reports that align with the specifics of your operations and resulting financial transactions. To achieve this outcome, Acumatica can potentially integrate features for cash and currency management, tax management, deferred revenue accounting, fixed assets, payroll and more. Deployed as an integrated suite, Acumatica allows events and transactions to be entered once, but then processed through a single, shared database infrastructure. Financial reporting flows from there, with a sophisticated complete drill-down capability and audit trail.
Using financial management reporting to support business management decision-making requires taking a close look at data sub-sets. As a result, financial reporting software needs to create multiple versions of any standard report, e.g. a departmental P&L or product- or customer-specific income statements and so forth. You will also need analytical capabilities, the capacity to build additional views of the data. These views should be available in reports, on-screen, Excel downloads and so forth.
Acumatica delivers these capabilities. It enables flexible reporting that gives you the ability to act as financial planner. You get the ability to see cause-and-effect, sorting out significant trends and effects. You can project possible results of strategic and tactical changes. Acumatica provides you with powerful and flexible financial reporting tools that transforms your day-to-day financial tracking software into a resource for business value.
Acumatica is one our specialties. We’ve worked with many clients on specialized Acumatica financial reporting projects. If you are interested in learning how Acumatica can help your business with better financial reporting, let’s talk.
Additional Acumatica Resources
Manufacturing Challenges—How Acumatica Can Help
Understanding Acumatica Pricing
Signs You Are Outgrowing Your ERP Solution