Free Manufacturing Software: Do or Don't?
Nobody objects to a good deal, but sometimes the promise of a sale can trick consumers into buying a less-than-stellar product. Affordable software poses similar fears—does the reduced price mean fewer features? Can a cheap solution offer enough functionality to satisfy a company’s needs? While some software segments boast numerous high-quality free solutions—stop by our No-Cost Office free software series for a long list of the best software—manufacturing and ERP software are traditionally expensive with high up-front costs. And while midsize and large manufacturers rely heavily on these solutions to keep operations afloat, smaller manufacturers don’t necessarily need the functionality of a high-cost solution.
Here, we’ll uncover whether a small manufacturer will benefit from free manufacturing software, or if the price of buying a robust solution is truly worthwhile. Although the options are limited, manufacturers can consider the completely free solutions below.
The Benefits & Features of Manufacturing Software
While free software is great in terms of budgeting, your manufacturing business can’t sacrifice functionality for cost savings. To determine whether a free manufacturing solution can handle the complex needs of your business, let’s first discuss the top features high-quality manufacturing software will provide. Most manufacturers seek a solution with these standard features:
- Inventory management
- Production and purchasing functionality
- Shop floor control
- Reporting and analytics
- Supply chain management
- Demand planning
- Real-time updates and notifications
Ideally, manufacturing software offers companies deeper, clearer visibility into end-to-end business functions. Manufacturers utilize these specially designed ERP solutions to better manage inventory, preventing bottlenecks and maintaining quantities for optimal efficiency. Manufacturing software likewise facilitates communication between suppliers, customers and distributors. While some small manufacturers rely solely on Excel to manage distribution and the supply chain, spreadsheets are ill-equipped to solve manufacturer’s unique challenges.
Free Manufacturing Software Solutions: Are They Worth It?
While some free manufacturing solutions provide enough features to simplify operations and streamline manufacturing processes, a free solution won’t provide the same level of functionality as its paid counterparts. Still, if you’re a small manufacturer with simple, straightforward needs, utilizing a free solution is worth a try. Here are a few free manufacturing software solutions to check out.
FreeData ERP is a complete ERP software solution with modules that can manage all aspects of a business. While financial management, HCM and document management are all beneficial, small manufacturers will find the most use in a number of manufacturing-specific features. FreeData ERP provides tools to manage work allocation and production scheduling. The warehouse management module handles inventory tracking, as well as warehouse reporting.
One of the benefits of FreeData ERP is the inexpensive lifetime support fee. For $51, users gain email, live chat and remote desktop support for life. Free standard email support is also available. Unlike other free manufacturing software, FreeData ERP is robust enough to handle the needs of many small business manufacturers. The company also sells FreeData ERP with source code and re-branding and reselling rights, for those who have in-house developers that can build off of the free code.
Advanced Enterprise (produced by Xpress Software) is a free manufacturing ERP software that helps small manufacturers manage production orders and invoicing. This no-cost solution maintains order statuses, tracks ship dates, manages changes and maintains list price for manufactured goods. While Advanced Enterprise provides a grossly simplified suite of manufacturing tools, an SMB manufacturer with simple needs may find this ERP solution useful. This free manufacturing system is not for companies with complicated supply chain and inventory needs.
While the core Advanced Enterprise software is free, there are various affordable add-ons that companies can purchase to beef up the free offering. These add-ons include tools to provide advanced bills of material, workflow management and financial management.
faves-ERP is a cloud-based manufacturing ERP solution that businesses can download for free. This software provides various functions including product configurator, advanced BOM, sales solutions and product lifecycle management tools for complex products. faves-ERP also manages the supply chain, offering scheduling and planning solutions, as well as tools to handle MRP and work orders. Inventory functionality includes inventory tracking by lot or serial numbers.
faves-ERP, while simple, offers a variety of tools that can help a small manufacturer manage end-to-end business processes. This free manufacturing system works with Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems.
Ready to Find Manufacturing Software for Your Business?
At the end of the day, free manufacturing systems aren’t for everyone. Aside from the few small manufacturers that can make do with limited functionality and pared-down features, most businesses will need to find a robust manufacturing solution that can manage complicated needs and offer solutions to manage inventory, distribution, supply chain, production and more. To compare the leading manufacturing software, download one of our free Top 10 manufacturing software reports. We offer targeted solutions for job shops, discrete manufacturers and process manufacturers to help you find the right solution.