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