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What Is Manufacturing Software?

Manufacturing software is a suite of comprehensive technology tools designed to improve the entire end-to-end process of designing and building a product. From engineering and planning, through production and quality control, manufacturing software packages offer all the tools a business needs to create the best possible product in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

What is Manufacturing Software?

Manufacturing software suites typically serve five primary functions. They can be used to:

  • Streamline product design and configuration.
  • Track and manage product components.
  • Automate production scheduling.
  • Accelerate the manufacturing process.
  • Improve product quality.

Key Benefits for Your Company

One of the key benefits of a manufacturing software package is that it facilitates many tested and proven best practices in production and manufacturing. For example, manufacturing software applications make it easier to anticipate demand, and can increase the accuracy of bill of materials. Additionally, manufacturing software helps companies better determine what components they will need and when they will need them. As a result, it allows for effective implementation of a just-in-time manufacturing model that can dramatically reduce inventory storage costs and improve cash flow.

Other common benefits of manufacturing software include:

  • Optimized resource utilization.
  • Increased throughput.
  • Minimized “downtime” and production delays.
  • Decreased cost over-runs.
  • Reduced product variations and defects.

Does My Company Need Manufacturing Software?

While service organizations, wholesalers, and distributors may have little or no need for a manufacturing software application, any business that designs and builds or produces a product – whether its large machinery, auto parts, small household appliances, clothing, or software – can achieve tangible productivity and cost reduction benefits from the implementation and use of one.

However, the manufacturers that will benefit most from the use of manufacturing software are those who currently use manual processes to manage key production related activities such as demand forecasting, scheduling, and materials management. Additionally, those businesses that have a hard time predicting and balancing demand, or who frequently experience production delays, materials shortages, or large inventory surpluses should also strongly consider a manufacturing software solution.

Common Manufacturing Software Features

There are many different types of manufacturing software on the market today. Most provide a broad range of features designed to address the full range of production-related processes such as:

  • Engineering to streamline product design and configuration, automate the creation of bill of materials, and provide effective change control.
  • Material requirements planning to balance supply with future demand, manage component requirements changes, and identify and prevent potential material shortages or surpluses.
  • Capacity planning to identify growth trends and analyze how both current and anticipated demands will impact production centers.
  • Production management to create automated manufacturing processes and workflows, and streamline the scheduling of people and equipment based on current and forecasted work orders.
  • Quality control to enable the implementation of proven, repeatable quality assurance processes, ensures compliance with quality standards such as ISO, and provides thorough quality-related documentation.
  • Cost management for understanding how design, sourcing, procurement, and production decisions affect products costs, and effectively managing expenses across the entire product lifecycle.

What to Look for When Choosing a Manufacturing Software Solution

Usability is crucial when selecting a manufacturing software application. Shop floor employees, even those at the management level, are typically less computer-savvy than office workers. Therefore, the solution must have an intuitive, navigable, and easy-to-learn interface.

Additionally, since manufacturing processes vary greatly depending on the type of product a company produces, it is important to choose a solution that is very flexible and configurable, or one that offers workflows and functionality specific to the type of production being performed. For example, solutions can be found for light assembly, discrete manufacturing, made-to-order manufacturing, process manufacturing, and job-shop manufacturing.

Most importantly, make sure the manufacturing software package can be tightly integrated with other core business systems across the company, particularly accounting and financial applications.