As a small business owner, you know that it’s essential to make the most of every penny. As a small manufacturing business, you also have to optimize your entire supply chain - that’s a lot to take on in between making sure you are making and shipping quality products to your customers. That’s why having the best manufacturing software to help you track your production is essential for your small business success.
There are a lot of different options out there for manufacturing software, so it can be tough to decide which one is right for your business.
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the five best manufacturing software for small business. We’ll also go over the top five features that small businesses should look for in a manufacturing software system so that you have the knowledge you need to make the best decision.
So, if you’re ready to take your small business manufacturing to the next level, read on!
Why do small businesses need manufacturing software?
Let’s first go through why you need small business manufacturing software (and what exactly it is!).
As an (important) first step, manufacturing software will allow you to truly be up to speed with your inventory levels. While eye-balling stock levels on your shelves may have cut it when you are first starting out with your small manufacturing endeavor, if you are growing you’ll soon see that this approach has some pretty major drawbacks.
By having a way to manage your inventory, you always know how much stock you have on hand and what you need to order to keep things making and moving along without overstocking (and wasting money).
You can simply adopt basic inventory management software for this task, however as an in-house manufacturing business you’ll soon realise that knowing your stock levels aren’t quite enough to keep your entire supply chain working correctly.
This is where manufacturing software comes in (unless you are willing to seriously wrangle with some pretty hefty excel macros, which we do not recommend!).
ERP software vs. MRP software
As with inventory management systems, not all manufacturing software is cut from the same cloth (excuse the pun!). Depending on your own workflows and needs, as a small manufacturer, you’ll want to be looking at either ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software) or MRP (Materials Resource Planning) software.
As a quick primer on the differences, Manufacturing ERP software is generally best for large organizations because they manage all back-end tasks including finance, accounting, HR, and more. They typically require significant financial investment and can be complex to implement.
An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is not necessary for every small business, but if you have outgrown your current inventory management system or if you are expanding your product offerings, an ERP system may be a good investment for your small business.
MRP systems, on the other hand, are designed specifically for manufacturing operations and managing the production process. They will help you plan production schedules, track inventory levels of raw materials, and manage finished goods.
While MRP systems can be complex, there are many options available that are designed specifically for small businesses. These systems are much more affordable and easier to implement than ERP systems and can provide you with the tools you need to manage your manufacturing process effectively.
Now that we’ve gone through why you may need manufacturing software and the different types of systems available, let’s take a look at five of the best small business manufacturing software options for small businesses:
Designed from the feedback and suggestions of thousands of small-scale manufacturers, this easy-to-use MRP software is best for small businesses that want to track their manufacturing and inventory processes in one place at a cost-effective price.
Features include raw material and finished product inventory management, multi-level bill of materials (BoM), full GAAP-compliant COGS and inventory valuations, order tracking, consignment / wholesale location tracking, and much more.
Craftybase offers a free 14-day trial on all subscription plans so you can see if it is a good match for your small manufacturing business.
Craftybase offers 3 different subscriptions as at Sept 2022, designed for situations that range from single workshop makers to small manufacturing teams:
- PRO: $24/mo
- STUDIO: $37/mo
- INDIE: $74/mo
Katana is an MRP software that’s best for small to medium-sized businesses who want to manage their production process from start to finish. It includes features like inventory control and management, manufacturing scheduling, and real-time tracking of your production progress.
Katana also offers a free trial so you can try it out and see if it’s a good fit for your business.
As of September 2022, Katana MRP offers 3 pricing subscription plans:
- Essential - $129 USD/mo
- Advanced - $349 USD/mo
- Professional - $999 USD/mo
Tip: There are also discounts to these prices if paying annually in advance.
Fishbowl Manufacturing is best for businesses that need a comprehensive manufacturing software solution. It includes features like inventory management, bill of materials, and work order management.
It can be a little more pricey than some of the other options in this list, but it’s a good choice for manufacturing businesses that need a lot of features and functionality and are looking to scale.
MRPEasy is best for small businesses that want an easy-to-use and affordable small business manufacturing software solution. It includes features like inventory management, manufacturing planning, and supplier management.
MRPEasy also has a free trial so you can try it out and see if it’s a good fit for your business.
As of September 2022, MRPEasy offers the following subscription plans (be aware that all plans are per user, so if you have a number of people on your manufacturing team the costs can quickly add up):
- Starter: $49/user/month
- Professional: $69/user/month
- Enterprise: $99/user/month
- Unlimited: $149 /user/month
ERPAG is a cloud based MRP solution that is best for small businesses that want an all-in-one manufacturing solution. It includes the usual features like inventory management, order management, manufacturing planning, and much more.
Its interface is a little tired and dated, however, contains all of the major features most small business manufacturers need so will do the job in most cases.
ERPAG offers a free 15-day trial on all subscription plans so you can see if it is a good match for your small manufacturing business.
Top Features to Look for in Small Business Manufacturing Software
Ease of use
The best manufacturing software should be easy to use and understand. It should have a user-friendly interface that makes it simple to input data and track your manufacturing process. Why? The more user-friendly the manufacturing software is, the least likely you and your staff will have issues with training and using the system. This leads to better quality data getting added to the system.
The manufacturing software you choose for your business should be able to track your manufacturing process accurately. At the minimum, you’ll want to look for a system that uses perpetual inventory tracking techniques to provide you with real-time awareness of your raw material and product stock levels.
Look also for manufacturing systems that indicate that they are tracking costings and stock to a number of decimal places, and also use GAAP-compliant techniques for generating inventory valuations and COGS.
The best manufacturing software for small businesses will integrate with your existing business systems. This way, you can avoid having to enter data into multiple systems manually and risk making mistakes.
Some of the most common integrations that manufacturers look for are:
- eCommerce: By ensuring that you can import your sales and expenses automatically from your online marketplaces and channels to your manufacturing software, you’ll save on a lot of data entry.
- Accounting software: so that you can automatically generate invoices, update your books, and track payments
- CRM software: so that you can keep track of your customer orders, sales history, and contact information in one place
- Shipping software: so that you can automate the shipping process and print labels directly from your manufacturing software
The best manufacturing software for small businesses will be affordable and offer a pricing structure that is flexible to the needs of your business. When considering manufacturing software, be sure to look at the big picture and compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the system, not just the monthly subscription fee.
The best manufacturing software for small businesses will offer a variety of features and functionality without breaking the bank. It will also offer a pricing structure that is flexible to the needs of your business, whether you’re just starting out or are ready to scale up.
Manufacturing software should be flexible enough to adapt to your unique business needs. It should be able to grow with your business as your manufacturing process changes.
When you’re choosing manufacturing software, make sure to select a vendor that offers excellent customer support. This way, you can be sure that you’ll always have someone to help you if you run into any problems.
A couple of last tips for your manufacturing software search…
There are a lot of great options for manufacturing software for small businesses. The best one for your business will depend on your specific needs and budget, so it’s important to take the time to research and compare the options.
When choosing small business manufacturing software, ensure that the plan you can afford has the feature set you need. Also, be sure to take advantage of free trials or sales demos if available so you can fully try out the manufacturing software before you commit to it.
Now that you know the top manufacturing software for small businesses, it’s time to take the next step and find the perfect system for your business!