No matter what product you’re manufacturing, the best software for small manufacturing businesses is one of the most essential tools in your business. Selecting the right software for your company goals and objectives can offer numerous benefits, so you need to know you’re choosing the right one.
- IT solutions, such as software, are as critical to a business as an actual piece of equipment.
- There are multiple types of manufacturing software options available and it’s critical to select one tailored to your specific manufacturing needs.
- Manufacturers face increased challenges in today’s economy, but the appropriate software can offer you advantages over the competition and grow as your business grows.
What is Small Business Manufacturing Software?
It’s impossible for a manufacturing business to coordinate multiple steps, equipment, production schedules, and manage people across the manufacturing process without the help of digital solutions. One of these solutions is software dedicated to manufacturing. It’s typically cloud-based and it performs critical tasks ranging from inventory management and tracking, to risk assessment and identifying potential profit killers — and gives a company a way to manage all of these critical tasks.
Types of Software Used by Small Manufacturing Businesses
Not all software offers the same benefits or is appropriate for each type of business. Before selecting the best manufacturing software, it’s helpful to know the differences between each type.
Inventory Management Software
Inventory management software is designed to track and manage inventory levels, orders, sales, and deliveries for businesses. It helps streamline inventory operations, such as evaluating optimal stock levels, reducing stockouts, and preventing overstocking. This software is ideal for inventory tracking, stock alerts, order management, barcode scanning, reporting and analytics, and integration with point-of-sale (POS) or e-commerce platforms.
There are numerous benefits of using inventory management software, including improved inventory accuracy, cost savings through better inventory control, increased customer satisfaction thanks to greater number of in-stock products, and overall increased productivity. Zoho Inventory, inFlow, and Fishbowl Inventory are examples of popular inventory management software options.
Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Software
MES software is used to manage and control manufacturing processes on the shop floor. It provides real-time visibility into production activities, monitors equipment, collects data, and optimizes production efficiency.
MES software typically includes unique features such as production scheduling, resource allocation, work order management, quality control, performance analytics, while integrating with other manufacturing systems. When you implement MES software, you can experience multiple benefits including improved productivity, reduced downtime, better quality control, and enhanced compliance – a must for any manufacturer.
A few examples of MES software include Kinetic, SAP Manufacturing Execution, and Katana Cloud Manufacturing.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software
As the name suggests, product lifecycle management software helps manage the entire lifecycle of a product, from conception and design, to manufacturing, service, and disposal of the product or by-products. It encourages collaboration among different teams across the company and departments involved in the product development process, plus it can be used across a wide variety of industries.
PLM software aids in crucial tasks such as product data management, design and engineering collaboration, document control, change management, and regulatory compliance. As a result, the company can experience better product quality and increased efficiencies, faster time-to-market, reduced costs, and improved collaboration.
Some common examples of PLM software include Siemens Teamcenter, OpenBOM, Aras Innovator, and PTC Windchill.
Supply Chain Management (SCM) Software
Supply chain management software makes it possible for businesses to manage the flow of goods, information, and finances across the entire supply chain. Because there are so many “cooks in the kitchen,” it helps identify more streamlined processes, gives increased visibility to all the teams involved, and improves coordination between suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and customers.
You’ll typically find SCM with features such as demand forecasting, inventory management, order fulfillment, logistics planning, supplier relationship management, and performance analytics. The manufacturers who rely on this type of software can experience reduced costs and increased supply chain efficiency.
Examples of SCM software include Oracle SCM Cloud, SAP Supply Chain Management, and JDA Software.
Quality Management System (QMS) Software
QMS software is used when you need to focus on consistent product quality and compliance according to the various quality standards and regulations. It can help a variety of manufacturing industries, from healthcare and automotive, to aerospace and any industry where safety is a top concern. It helps companies establish and maintain quality processes, track non-compliance, manage corrective and preventive actions, and conduct audits and inspections.
QMS software typically includes features focused on these quality objectives, such as document control, risk management, training management, quality analytics, and compliance tracking. When a company chooses to incorporate QMS software, it can positively impact product quality, better regulatory compliance, increased customer satisfaction, and overall efficiency.
There are numerous examples of QMS software including Greenlight Guru, SAP ECC, and Trackwise.
Accounting and Financial Management Software
Accounting and financial management software helps businesses keep track and manage all of their financial transactions, recordkeeping, and reporting. It automates tasks such as bookkeeping, invoicing, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, budgeting, and financial analysis, which lessens the chance of human error.
There are numerous accounting software options available but the key features include general ledger, financial reporting, tax management, bank reconciliation, and integration with other systems like CRM or inventory management. When a company relies on this type of software, it improves accuracy, time savings, and better financial visibility— which is ideal for all employees, not just a few. Examples of accounting software include QuickBooks, Xero, and NetSuite.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
CRM software such as Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, and Zoho CRM, helps businesses manage their interactions and relationships with customers. It offers companies a way to store customer data, track interactions, and analyze customer behavior so they can ultimately improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Key features of CRM software include contact management, sales pipeline tracking, customer support ticketing, marketing automation, and analytics. CRM software offers multiple benefits, from enhanced customer engagement and improved sales and marketing effectiveness, to increased customer retention, and improved customer service.
Human Resources (HR) Software
Your company can’t run without the human touch and HR software is designed to put people first and optimize the many HR tasks within an organization. It helps manage employee information, track attendance, process payroll, handle benefits administration, and streamline recruitment and onboarding processes.
HR software may also include features such as performance management, training and development, time and attendance tracking, and employee or contractor self-service portals, so your HR department can respond quickly to work situations or pull data when needed. HR software offers a range of benefits, including better efficiency, improved compliance and workforce management, and enhanced employee engagement.
Common examples of HR software include BambooHR, Workday, and ADP.
Project Management Software
If your business relies heavily on creating and executing projects, then this is the type of software you need. Project management software helps companies plan, organize, and track projects from start to finish while providing tools for scheduling, task assignment, collaboration, document sharing, and progress tracking.
Focusing on the details is key with any project and the right project management software improves overall project visibility, enhanced team collaboration, and increased project success rates.
Popular versions of this type of software include Asana, Trello, and Microsoft Project.
Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
If your company relies on a maintenance department for operations then a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a must. It’s used mainly for managing maintenance activities within a company, but also schedules and tracks maintenance tasks, manages work orders, and maintains maintenance records.
CMMS software often includes features such as preventive maintenance scheduling, inventory management, asset tracking, work order management, and reporting. When your company is running smoothly thanks to a CMMS, you can expect increased equipment uptime, improved maintenance efficiency, and better maintenance cost control.
Examples of CMMS software include eMaint, Fiix, and Maintenance Connection.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software
Enterprise resource planning software is the workhouse of all the software options. It combines various business processes and functions into a single, centralized system, such as finance, inventory, manufacturing, sales, procurement, and human resources. If you need to streamline data and sharing across multiple departments, ERP software is the best option for providing a unified view.
ERP software includes financial management, supply chain management, inventory control, order management, CRM, and reporting and analytics all in one. When you can see all of these components together, it gives your company improved productivity, better data for decision-making, and increased operational efficiency.
There are numerous examples of ERP software such as SAP ERP, Oracle ERP Cloud, and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Why is Software Important to Small Manufacturing Businesses?
Software may not be top of mind when you’re first establishing your business, but you may quickly find out it’s a tool your company can’t survive without. Automating and streamlining company processes through software not only improves your company’s performance, it may prevent downtime and reduce errors.
One of the most important aspects of software for manufacturing businesses is the access to real-time data. When you have the right data in front of you, you can make decisions based on reality, and not simply on a whim.
As your business grows, most cloud-based software offers opportunities to grow with your business, so you can add features as needed.
Challenges Faced by Small Manufacturing Businesses
There is no shortage of challenges in today’s economy and business environment. Owners deal with a variety of challenges, including:
- Limited resources and budget constraints
- Compliance and regulatory requirements
- Competition with larger manufacturers who have deeper pockets
- Fluctuation with both supply and demand
- Rapidly changing technology
Facing these challenges head on and overcoming them is one of the exciting aspects of operating a business, but this means you have to use the right tools, including software tailored to your specific business needs.
Benefits of Software for Small Manufacturing Businesses
The best software for manufacturers offers numerous advantages though, even in the face of today’s challenges. The right software provides:
- Streamlined operations and increased efficiency
- Improved inventory management and production planning
- Reduced costs and better cash flow management
- Enhanced visibility and control over the manufacturing process
- Better compliance and regulatory adherence
- Competitive advantages in the market
- Delivers quality data so you can make informed decisions
- Eliminates unprofitable operations
How to Select the Right Software for Your Small Manufacturing Business
Before you select the software, you need to clearly define your business needs and goals – otherwise it makes it harder to narrow down your choices. Once you find software options within your business category and objectives, contact each one and ask for demos and references. You can even ask for user feedback from those in your company with previous experience.
What to Consider when Choosing Small Manufacturing Business Software
- Budget and cost considerations: Not only is there an initial investment, there’s often an ongoing fee. If your company can’t currently afford it, a small business loan or manufacturing loan may be the best option for payment.
- Scalability and flexibility: Is this software that grows with your company over time? Ask about ongoing options and how often new features are added.
- User-friendliness: Be realistic about who can use the software most effectively. If it’s too cumbersome or complicated, you won’t have company buy-in.
- Integration capabilities with existing systems: This is likely one of several systems you use, so it’s important to confirm which existing systems it can integrate with (and easily).
- Vendor reputation and customer support: It’s natural to expect hiccups and problems along the way. The manufacturer should confirm what customer service options are available and how much support will be provided both during and after the sale.
Implementing Software in Your Manufacturing Business – Best Practices
You can add software at any time in your development, whether you’re launching your new business or are growing at warp speed. These best practices make the transition even smoother, including:
- Involve all stakeholders in the implementation process, including employees, IT staff, and management.
- Provide adequate training to employees to ensure they understand how to use the software and maximize its benefits.
- Develop a detailed implementation plan to track progress.
- Ensure your new software is compatible with your other data solutions.
- Regularly evaluate and assess how well the software is working in everyday applications, and make adjustments as needed to optimize performance and ROI.
- Get feedback from the stakeholders on a regular basis, so you know what areas need the most improvement from the people who use it the most.