Tips & Tools

How to evaluate ERP | MRP features for Custom Design Manufacturers

Total ETO


There is a lot of ERP Features for Custom Machine Builders to Consider


Decision makers within custom design manufacturers need to consider a variety of ERP features, and understand how much each one might benefit the organization; all while staying within budget. It is essential to be diligent during each of these steps, given the rates of failure and uncertainty about ERP project success. Panorama pegged them at 7% and 36%, in its 2016 report.


What features should custom design manufacturers focus on as they evaluate ERP | MRP solutions? Here are a few of the important ones:


1) Engineering – Dynamic and Nested BOMs

The heart of every ETO (engineer to order) organization is engineering. Yet engineering for Custom Machine Builders is vastly different than any other type of organization, including the MTO (make to order) industry. It’s important that the ERP | MRP support a nested and dynamic BOM (bill of materials). This cannot be understated. The dynamically changing nature of custom design manufacturing makes this requirement compulsory. Without this functionality, implementation cannot be successful.

2) CAD Integration

Where would your BOM be without CAD integrations? Most of your BOM is designed by your engineers in your various 3D and electrical CAD systems, such as SolidWorks, Catia, Creo, Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical, EPlan and SolidEdge. Integration with your various CAD systems is key to picking the correct ERP | MRP system to avoid data duplication.

3) Procurement\Purchasing link from Engineering

Project designs at ETO organizations change… a lot. They change due to challenges in manufacturing, material sourcing and change requirements from clients.  Managing the procurement of these parts and materials in an ever changing world is incredibly time consuming and prone to errors without a system designed to handle this.

Long lead items need to be communicated early to purchasing.  The system must also have a way of allowing partial releases of your BOM to purchasing. This is the best way to ensure that custom design manufacturers don’t end up with an avalanche of parts to buy all at once.  Time is a buyer’s best friend to ensure they have the best pricing and delivery possible for required materials.

4) Real time job costing

Custom Machine Builders need to know as soon as possible what they can expect for material costs. This means “preliminary costing” – as the designs are being completed before you have even ordered your materials. This means “committed costing” – as soon as you materials are ordered and labor is incurred.  And this means Actual costing.  Most systems are good at Actual costing, but very few can provide committed costing, and even fewer can provide preliminary costing. It is crucial to know at the design stage what your project’s material costs are looking like. At this stage, it’s possible to redesign and even renegotiate with your customers. Knowing the cost at the Actual stage is too late.

5) Expediting

If your materials arrive late, your project will ship late. If your materials don’t arrive at all, you can’t ship at all. It’s imperative to keep on top of open orders, ensuring vendors are committed to delivering the materials you need, when you need them.

6) Everything else

The above 5 are the most significant ERP features for Engineer To Order manufacturers to consider when shopping for a system. But this is far from a complete list. The system needs to have all major functions covered to help your business grow. Functions like Sales and Prospecting, Spares and Parts Orders, Change Orders, Non Conformance Reporting, Shipment and Packing Slip tracking, Fabrications\Work Order tracking, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Time tracking, Receiving, Quality Inspections, Various Reporting and the list goes on.

Custom Machine Builders need to have historical data available, whenever needed. This saves you time and costs by reusing previous designs and preventing previous mistakes in the event of similar future jobs.

Managers should be able to pull data for forecasting upcoming material costs, examine and produce reports that help evaluate all the key aspects of the business.

The system should fit your business needs today, and going forward as you grow. The system should flow with your business, and not make you adapt to fit the software. Highly specialized systems do just that, and in turn, they reduce implementation and training costs because they are intuitive to your business and easy to work with.


Total ETO

Total ETO is the only ERP | MRP platform built by and exclusively for ETO manufacturers. Affordable, easy to implement and highly automated, it helps custom design manufacturers scale their businesses while reducing inefficiencies that otherwise drive up costs and delay project delivery. An automated software agent even helps avoid the setup issues that beset many other ERP systems.


Total ETO has everything listed above, and a whole lot more! Learn more about Total ETO by requesting a demo today!