inventory management

What is Manufacturing Software?

Let's deep dive into exactly what manufacturing software is all about, and how it can make your small maker business make more money

Dedicated manufacturing software is quickly becoming a must-have for small to medium sized businesses looking to improve their operations. In this post, we’ll discuss what manufacturing software options are available to smaller businesses in particular and how they can help your business grow.

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What is manufacturing software?

“Manufacturing software” is a bit of a nebulous term that can incorporate inventory management systems, MRP, and ERP systems. Some software options can be a bit of all, while others focus just on a core set of features.

In a nutshell, manufacturing software is any software that assists with a company’s production process. It helps to streamline your supply chain, and increase efficiency and accuracy in production.

The features usually seen across manufacturing systems are:

Inventory management and tracking

The ability to keep track of what you have in stock and anticipate future needs. This can involve tracking raw materials inventory, bill of materials (BoMs) and product stock.

Cost tracking and forecasting

An important feature, especially for small businesses that need to control costs and cash flow. Can also be useful to see your profits per product and order so that you can optimize your material purchasing activities.

Production planning

Automated scheduling and routing capabilities ensure the entire production process is managed correctly.

Quality assurance

This can involve batch and lot tracking for traceability, and also incorporates stocktaking.

Workflow/task automation

These manufacturing software features help automate complex processes and tasks to reduce manual data entry and time. It can involve things like automatic workflows, integrations and other ways of creating shortcuts to minimise the number of steps you need to take to achieve a goal.

Productivity and shop floor monitoring

This involves features to allow you to see your internal and external labor costs, how efficiently your products are being made and who is making them.

How can manufacturing software benefit small businesses?

As a small business, it can be hard to keep on top of everything. And with a manufacturing business, it’s an even harder task.

Manufacturing software can potentially do a lot of the “heavy lifting” in your business: if you are feeling the strain of taking on and managing too many tasks in your business, it’s probably the right time to start exploring how software can help. Let manufacturing software free you up to concentrate on more of the critical day-to-day tasks that will move the needle for your business.

Manufacturing software options for smaller businesses

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best manufacturing software for small businesses:

  1. Epicor – This comprehensive solution includes modules for managing inventory, scheduling, costing, and more. Epicor also includes powerful analytics tools that can be used to track key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s definitely a solution that includes every feature you would ever need in an ERP system, however for this reason it is one of the more pricier options. Great for manufacturers that have already reached a certain scale and are very aware of their requirements.

  2. Craftybase MRP – This popular cloud-based solution is tailored to the needs of in-house DTC manufacturers. It’s easy to use, has a huge range of integrations available, and also has highly affordable price points. It’s particularly great for raw inventory, component management, BoMs, orders and production planning.

  3. JobBOSS – This robust manufacturing software solution focuses heavily on shop floor automation and real-time tracking of jobs and orders. It also includes powerful reporting tools that can be used to track key performance metrics.

  4. Fishbowl Manufacturing – This comprehensive suite of solutions covers everything from maintaining accurate inventories to automating repetitive tasks in the accounting department.

  5. KatanaMRP – This relatively new solution stands out for its user-friendly interface and excellent reporting tools. It’s an ideal option for small businesses who want a comprehensive and easy-to-use solution that can be integrated with other systems.

These are just five of the many great options available to small manufacturing businesses.

Tips for choosing the best manufacturing software for your small business

Write a list of the core features that your business needs: do you need lot tracking features, bill of materials, order tracking or other specific features? This is helpful in narrowing down the potential options to try out.

Make a map of your data flows to see what integrations are important for your manufacturing software to support. If you are selling on WooCommerce and Shopify, finding a solution that integrates with both of these channels is important.

Most of the options above offer a free trial period, so try to take advantage of that, along with contacting their support to see how responsive and helpful they are.

Don’t forget to consider the implementation and training costs associated with the software. You’ll want to ensure that all your employees are well-trained in how to use the software effectively, so factor this into your budget as well. The more “feature complete” the solution, the more training should be factored in when implementing your manufacturing software.

Try reading customer reviews of each product before making a final decision. This will provide you with a better understanding of the software’s features and in particular how easy it is to use. It can also be a good way of assessing how well supported the software is.

In sum, if you’re looking to streamline production processes, save time and money, and get better visibility into your operations, investing in the right manufacturing software is a no-brainer.

Nicole Pascoe Nicole Pascoe - Profile

Written by Nicole Pascoe

Nicole is the co-founder of Craftybase, inventory and manufacturing software designed for small manufacturers. She has been working with, and writing articles for, small manufacturing businesses for the last 12 years. Her passion is to help makers to become more successful with their online endeavors by empowering them with the knowledge they need to take their business to the next level.