When it comes to adopting ERP, manufacturers and other types of companies have a slew of options available to them from numerous providers. As such, it's not always easy for those who are entirely new to ERP – or simply upgrading their existing legacy systems – to know where to turn. The good news, though, is that when it comes to a number of factors, Microsoft Dynamics NAV systems seem to be the most popular and effective for many smaller companies in particular.

In general, there were six factors by which a number of ERP platforms were analyzed, including compatibility, complexity, efficiency, best practices, training, and empowerment, according to a study conducted by Elsevier Ltd. Across all those standards, Dynamics NAV came through with a score of 3.64 out of five, ahead of three other well-known options, the best-rated of which scored a 3.5 out of 5. Of course, each aspect of these platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses, and where Dynamics NAV blew its competitors out of the water was with compatibility, scoring a 4.17. In fact, this number was the single highest rating for any factor observed in the study. The next-closest option only scored a 3.7.

Other areas of performance
Further, Dynamics NAV also ranked first among the four options in best practices and training, with scores of 3.71 and 3.95, respectively, the study found. However, it's also worth noting that this ERP option also never finished lower than second in the other three categories.

On a broader basis, though, the study generally found that the reason companies typically adopt ERP is that they're trying to improve worker productivity, and that the six factors studied here all tend to correlate with overall efficiency in the long run, the study's authors concluded. As such, small businesses might be wise to focus on the ERP options that are specifically designed to cater to their needs.

"When referring to the characteristic to the sample and the focus on SMEs, one has to remember that Microsoft Dynamic NAV has had a focus on SMEs from its inception," the authors wrote.

Different industries, same issues
The value of ERP is becoming increasingly clear to companies not only in the manufacturing sector, but other less traditional markets as well, according to new data from Black Book. For instance, nearly 1 in 3 hospitals now use ERP to make themselves run more efficiently. However, of that number, 35 percent say they haven't done as much as they should to keep up with their evolving ERP needs.

Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book, noted that this was likely due to the fact that hospital executives are concerned about the cost of upgrading legacy systems, the report said. That issue should sound familiar to many in the manufacturing field as well.

The fact is, upgrading ERP often isn't as costly as some might imagine it to be, and at any rate it's an expense that typically pays for itself over time. As such, the more companies can do to evaluate their needs and take that next step, the better off they're likely to be.