This is the year! You have decided you are going to evaluate your existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or make the leap to buy a new one. Congratulations.
Now where do you begin? There are many tools available to help (internet sites, downloadable ERP questionaires, consultants) to evaluate and narrow the field of suitable suppliers. However, I would suggest that one of the best decisions will be to make "industry specific" a key determining factor in the overall evaluation.
In the first stages of vendor selection, often times immediate features, functions, databases, and cost are on the top of the list for review. They should be. But whether or not an ERP system is designed with your company business and manufacturing processes in mind should also be among your top criteria. Why? Because a highly effective ERP system cannot be eveything to everybody and still have the depth to meet the needs of specific industries. An ERP system that speaks the same language as your processes, your employees, and your business culture provide a competitive edge over ERP systems that don't. This criteria also gives you insight into what other companies in your industry are using their systems for. By this I mean that ERP systems that are industry specific have development driven by other companies in the same industry.
For example, in the medical industry does the ERP understand and handle complaint tracking? Do the ERP salespeople say "yes" because you can pick up the phone, take a complaint, and type it as a note somewhere in the software or is there a specific module for complaint tracking? What about the automotive industry? Does part of their electronic data interchange (EDI) process include any manual entry or is it completely automated? How about plastic injection molding? Does a family tool bill of material (BOM) require more than one BOM or more than one machine to schedule?
Industry specificity also translates to quicker ROI because implementation and training times are reduced. Choosing an ERP system that understands the industry you are part of makes it easier when comparing your needs to the software. The ability of a software to identify the subtle nuances associated to your industry make data transfer, data import, and the roadmap of implementation more concise. In addition, customer driven requirements that are inherent in your industry are known and therefore manufacturers don't have to hassle with "workarounds." Instead of modifying all the manufacturing processes to fit the software, it is simply the other way around.
So when you decide to evaluate whether your existing software fits your needs or an upcoming purchase, looking at industry specific ERP will give you a competitive edge.