In recent years, ERP technology has evolved significantly along with the range of devices on which those systems can be used. Now, many of these software offerings are well beyond the kinds of legacy systems many smaller manufacturers in particular may be relying upon to this day. The good news is that many of these options are now becoming more affordable to smaller companies that see them as worthwhile investments.

When it comes time to upgrade ERP capabilities for the 21st century, smaller manufacturers now get to weigh a growing variety of options that can help them run their production processes as smoothly as possible, according to a report from Advanced Manufacturing. Oftentimes, the ERP that's specifically designed for smaller operations will work to upgrade systems previously based on spreadsheet documentation – and sometimes even paper – for both short- and long-term benefits.

Getting costs under control
The initial cost of adopting ERP is a large one, and it's why many smaller companies simply haven't made the step to update, the report said. But with a greater industry focus on developing tools for operations with far fewer employees, the price is coming down and systems can be adopted on a more piecemeal basis. That way, the benefits of adoption can be realized without breaking the bank, and allowing these systems to more effectively pay for themselves over time. That, in turn, can help small firms keep up with their bigger competitors.

"Feature-wise and functionality-wise, we have capabilities that are found in the larger systems," Rich Henning, president of Henning Industrial Software in Hudson, Ohio, told the site. "The depth and breadth of what we cover is large."

The benefits are growing
And because ERP systems are now available for focusing on an ever-expanding number of business aspects, companies can focus in on their areas of need with greater ease, according to Assembly Magazine. Efforts to streamline the manufacturing process and boost productivity are just one of many issues companies can address with something as simple as bar code systems.

And the good news is that many such software platforms are now being designed specifically to fit on top of data culled from years of legacy ERP systems, meaning that the newer programs will integrate and evaluate this information on an ongoing basis to ensure a smooth transition, the report said. This can also be helpful as manufacturing efforts grow and change in years ahead, especially because utilities like Microsoft Dynamics NAV add-ons can be incorporated into existing systems on an as-needed basis.

With all this in mind, it's vital for small manufacturing executives to consider all their options when it comes to modern ERP adoption. By doing so, they will have a greater chance to transition as quickly and simply as possible without having to spend a lot of money on features they may not need.

Learn how to define your ERP strategy by downloading the white paper entitled "ERP in Manufacturing: Defining the ERP Strategy" from the Insight Works website.