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Working in the metal fabrication industry requires you to be detail-oriented, nimble in response to changes in the industry, and well informed about the technologies that can improve the work experience of everyone on your team.

Whether you work in metal fabrication, metal supply, manufacturing, distribution, or some other related part of the industry, you are affected by the ins and outs of manufacturing software, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

Choosing the right ERP software isn’t always easy. There are so many options out there to choose from and plenty of voices where you may seek out advice.

How do you know which ERP program is the best for your business?

Today, we’re looking at the 8 things you need to know before you purchase ERP software as part of your metal fabrication business.

  1. Metal fabrication software makes your life easier.
  2. Not all ERP programs include the same features.
  3. When it comes to choosing ERP software, experience matters.
  4. Record-keeping is an essential part of the job. Your ERP software should do it for you!
  5. Inventory management gets a whole lot easier when you have a great ERP system.
  6. ERP software prepares your facility for inspections and other mandated regulations.
  7. A good ERP system improves your quality control processes.
  8. NetSuite leads the ERP industry for manufacturing companies.

Let’s jump right in!

1. Metal fabrication software makes your life easier.

If you are not already using metal fabrication software, it is time to take the leap.

ERP software ensures that you have the right amount of inventory on hand — not so much extra inventory that you’re wasting space and funds, and not so little that you encounter production delays. It also allows you to schedule vendors, acquire skilled labor, determine training requirements for your employees, make and meet deadlines, work within narrow margins, fix scheduling issues, and so much more.

One of the greatest things about using a good ERP system is that everything is in one place. You don’t have to constantly switch between platforms and interfaces just to find what you need. Plus, the master data that your ERP collects can be quickly implemented into every aspect of your business!

Some of the common reasons that managers cite for needing to switch to a cloud ERP include:

  • A lack of real-time knowledge and analytics
  • Too much time wasted searching for spreadsheets and generating reports
  • Too many manual and paper-based processes
  • Unhappy customers because too much of their information ends up being incorrect
  • Overall sluggishness of business processes within the company
  • The generation of error-prone and out-of-date reports

There is no need to suffer through the process of scheduling, training, inventory management, and other day-to-day obligations in your facility.

Your ERP program should be the workhorse of your office, supporting you every step of the way.

2. Not all ERP programs include the same features.

Even though we just talked about all the ways that ERP programs streamline your daily operations, that doesn’t mean that every ERP system is created equally.

Some ERP designs are definitely better than others.

These are some of the main areas of difference between different software options:

  • Price. Like anything else, prices vary from provider to provider.
  • Platform size. Is the ERP system you are considering appropriate to the size of your business? If you grow, can it scale up with you?
  • Robust programming. How many features do you need, and does the ERP program have them all? Is it a simple, streamlined service, or does it have everything you could ever need?
  • Design purpose. Some ERP software is designed with certain industries in mind. Software designed with healthcare workers in mind likely isn’t going to meet your needs in the manufacturing industry. Even if there is overlap between some essential functions between industries, there is no need to have extra features that aren’t relevant to your workplace.

Our manufacturing clients have shared with us that some of the best advice we can pass on is this: select a software vendor and partner that has the capability to meet both your current needs and future needs and does not require a replatform or migration as you grow. Almost all the software vendors in this space have separate ERP products for different sized companies with NetSuite being one of the few exceptions.

3. When it comes to choosing ERP software, experience matters.

Innovation drives the industry, and software start-ups often launch by promising new and innovative features. At the same time, established companies provide expertise and a long track record of proven results.

When choosing an ERP system, be sure to look at the reputation of the developers you’re considering.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this company have a good reputation among its own clients? (Check consumer reviews and client testimonials for insights on this.)
  • Do they have a good reputation in the ERP industry?
  • Do they have a good history in the manufacturing industry? (Look at their list of clients.)

This kind of information helps you find a company that doesn’t just talk the talk but also walks the walk of great customer service and industry-specific knowledge.

The manufacturing industry has unique business needs. When you’re the one manufacturing goods, your inventory is far more complex than someone who is just a wholesaler or service provider. Do your developers know how to optimize your chosen ERP for your specific industry? What about your specific corner of the manufacturing world?

4. Record-keeping is an essential part of the job. Your ERP software should do it for you!

Production details. Inventory statistics. Sales numbers, tax records, payroll, and employment information. Plus research & development details, business development strategies, and a history of all of your policies and how they have evolved over time.

What do all of these things have in common? They are all part of the record-keeping responsibilities of a manufacturing company. And unfortunately, some companies are still doing far too much work on paper!

Manual processes are slow, labor-intensive, and prone to errors. It also takes far more time to collect and calibrate information that is spread out through thousands of pages of paper.

Think of all the paper that companies used to produce and the massive amounts of filing space that was required. Today, of course, most record-keeping is done digitally. Your responsibility is to keep all of that electronic information safe and secure against file corruption, data failures, and even cybercrime.

ERP software makes this easier, safer, and securer, as long as you choose one with excellent record-keeping functionality.

That way, you can access a wealth of information to pinpoint specific pieces of information, identify supply chain issues, improve employee experiences, and solve problems.

An ERP program also stores purchase orders, labels, bills of lading, shipping documents, employee records, and much more.

5. Inventory management gets a whole lot easier when you have a great ERP system.

Inventory! It’s a huge pain point for managers in the manufacturing industry. A recent NetSuite seminar uncovered these issues as the biggest issues that manufacturers deal with when it comes to inventory problems:

  1. Short and/or incorrect shipments from suppliers
  2. Lack of visibility and supply chain responsiveness
  3. Inaccuracies caused by disconnected systems
  4. Poor demand forecasting

NetSuite resolves these pain points by offering an ERP framework that solves inventory management issues and streamlines the inventory process.

  • Centralized tracking
  • Transparency
  • Stock auditing
  • Accurate demand forecasting
  • Preventive control
  • And more

Inventory is always going to be a big piece of the job for manufacturing businesses. You have to keep track of what you have in stock, what you need to acquire, and what is shipping out. Using an ERP system designed with inventory in mind alleviates the stress of this part of the job.

6. ERP software prepares your facility for inspections and other mandated regulations.

Inspections are anxiety-inducing for a lot of people. Whether you are being inspected by an outside agency or preparing for your own quality control processes, it feels a lot like you are studying for a difficult test where the stakes are high!

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released data that there are 297,696 federal regulations that govern the manufacturing industry. You may not be subject to every single rule because some of those regulations are industry or task-specific, but the sentiment remains: that’s a lot of rules.

ERP software prepares your workplace for inspections and other mandated regulations.

Access reporting data right at your fingertips to hand over to any inspector. Review all of your historical records with a simple file request. Create useful checklists in anticipation of scheduled visits. You can even customize your dashboards to easily access everything you need on hand during an unplanned visit.

Many companies even integrate their inspection software directly into the ERP program to make things even easier.

7. A good ERP system improves your quality control processes.

Not all inspections are from outside agencies. Every metal manufacturer has its own quality control processes to protect its reputation, maintain production excellence, and troubleshoot problem areas in any stage of production.

The ERP software you select should alleviate the workload of your internal quality control team.

NetSuite, for example, offers a Quality Management solution that has been designed to deliver high-quality products with minimal overhead. It allows you to easily define which tests you want to perform, determine the parameters that will be used to evaluate the results, and apply all of that collected information to relevant operations throughout the company.

If concerns arise during your internal quality control procedures, easily access information about all of the employees and processes involved.

The main benefits of NetSuite’s solution are:

  • Centrally managed list of tests/inspections
  • Enforce minimum Inspector qualifications
  • Capture measurements and compare them to pass/fail limits

8. NetSuite leads the ERP industry for manufacturing companies.

We have mentioned NetSuite a few times here because NetSuite is the industry leader in ERP systems. At Cumula 3, we’ve been providing customer-focused NetSuite solutions since we launched in 2014.

These are just some of the benefits of working with an agency that implements NetSuite for you.

NetSuite has a stellar reputation when it comes to satisfying their customers.

Check out the customer service testimonials on their site to learn more about the customers that NetSuite has satisfied, including many in the manufacturing and metal industries.

One example is MedalCraft Mint from Wisconsin. They wrote about their experiences with NetSuite: "NetSuite has helped us across the board, but the customer center, in particular, has helped us grow by taking a lot of the labor out of custom order handling. And our shipping automation now lets us handle larger customers — organizations that might want to ship products to 200 locations — much more easily."

Another manufacturing company, Accuserv, credits NetSuite’s ERP with their growth into an industry leader in manufacturing electrical switchgear and lighting for multiple commercial industries.

One of the main reasons we choose to work with NetSuite is that they provide such great products to their customers.

NetSuite is known for being fully configurable and user-friendly.

When you do a Google search to find out what NetSuite is known for, two words come up frequently: configurable and user-friendly.

Before you configure NetSuite to meet your needs, your decision-making actually starts at the purchasing level. You don’t have to buy the exact same product as every other NetSuite ERP user. Instead, choose the tier that is right for your company:

  • NetSuite Limited Edition: Limited Edition is NetSuite pricing for small businesses. It's ideal for companies that have a single legal entity and do not require more than 10 user licenses and have less than 50 employees.
  • NetSuite Mid-Market Edition: NetSuite Mid-Market edition is the right fit for companies that require more than 10 named users and/or have two or more legal entities that need the ability to perform consolidated financial reports across multiple currencies.
  • NetSuite Enterprise Edition: NetSuite's Enterprise edition is designed for companies with more than 1,000+ named users.

Beyond this, configure NetSuite’s ERP to meet your specific industry and company needs. Because NetSuite is built on a unified data model, there is one main source of programming code that governs everything else. Instead of writing new code every time a change is needed, users configure that master code.

Want to build new features or remove redundancies? It’s all attainable because of NetSuite’s configurability.

Benefits of configuring NetSuite include (but certainly aren’t limited to!):

  • Tailoring the platform to meet your precise business needs
  • Increasing functionality of your ERP system
  • Customizing end-to-end processes
  • Implementing the use of third-party apps, legacy systems, and content providers
  • Creating a unique-to-you dashboard
  • Giving appropriate access to each team member, based on what they need to access

Configuration means everything these days!

NetSuite is ideal for the global metal manufacturing industry.

NetSuite is the number one cloud ERP for manufacturing companies.

NetSuite offers the infrastructure you need to grow your business, improve your supply chain, and strengthen your manufacturing process. It’s not just a service for manufacturers located in the United States, either. NetSuite has a global focus, ensuring that your business runs smoothly even if you have workers and facilities in different parts of the world.

Metal manufacturers often work internationally, with global offices, facilities, distributors, and partners. Even though each location requires unique support because of languages, currencies, tax regulations, and local regulations, NetSuite brings it all together.

NetSuite’s ERP Features

So what are NetSuite’s features? We have spent a lot of time talking about what to consider in an ERP software decision, but what are the features that NetSuite brings to the table?

Before we wrap up, let’s look at the 11 key features of NetSuite’s ERP design.

  1. General Ledger
  2. Accounts Receivable
  3. Accounts Payable
  4. Acceptance of Credit Cards, ACH, EFT
  5. Bank Management & Reconciliations
  6. Multi-Currency & Multi-Language
  7. Item & (basic) Inventory Management
  8. Project Management (basic capabilities)
  9. Order Management
  10. Purchasing
  11. Employee Center (Time & Expense Management)

General Ledger

This bookkeeping document, sometimes called a nominal ledger, tracks your overall financial data, including accounts payable and receivable, cash management, fixed assets, purchasing records, and project expenditures. It is a living document.

NetSuite’s General Ledger includes all of the features you need: a home dashboard, KPI scorecards, accounting periods, a chart of accounts, journal entries, deposit tracking, bank statements, reconciliation forms, financial reports, and miscellaneous statements.

Accounts Receivable

Streamline your Accounts Receivable processes. Track customers and buyers, manage invoices and sales orders, create customer deposit forms, generate receipts, and more.

Acceptance of Credit Cards, ACH, EFT

Attain full credit card payment implementation without leaving the NetSuite software that you trust. There is no need for third-party apps or programs.

Bank Management & Reconciliations

In 2018, NetSuite started to offer banking services to their users, explaining: “NetSuite customers will benefit from direct access to financial services such as embedded payments, reconciliation, and lending delivered as an extension of their ERP. This will help increase operational efficiency and improve workflows, driving down cost and creating peace of mind for NetSuite customers.”

Mini-Currency & Multi-Language

NetSuite’s global focus is supported by its use of mini-lots and multiple language features. Mini-lots allow you to conduct international business with less risk, and multi-language support promotes clear communication and support across international borders.

Item & (Basic) Inventory Management

ERP inventory management is one of the most important features of the platform. It improves planning, provides strategic insights, and strengthens relationships between you as a vendor and your customers.

Project Management (Basic Capabilities)

The basic project management capabilities that come with NetSuite’s ERP system unify your business operations, evaluate your consumption model, adjust your business needs, streamline the sales process, manage your supply chain, and unlock new opportunities.

Order Management

The order management system automates and manages the life cycle of every order that comes into your system. It tracks all possible data related to order fulfillment and shipping.

Purchasing

Another area that is ready to be streamlined in most metal manufacturing settings: Purchasing! Use workload-driven approval routings to optimize your procurement processes!

Employee Center (Time & Expense Management)

Tracking your employees’ time and expenses has never been easier.

A Case Study for the Manufacturing Industry

Cumula 3 worked with one industrial manufacturer to reduce its inventory levels by 40% within a few months by implementing the NetSuite ERP solution.

Southern Rebar & Supplies (SRS) is a leader in the industries of rebar fabrication, construction materials, and steel fabrication. CRS takes pride in providing excellent customer service as well as high-quality products. SRS sells concrete stamps, cleaners, sealers, insulation, expansion joints, and other essential projects they need to install residential and commercial foundations alike.

SRS was founded in 2018 when there was a major merger between several companies. All of the companies were using a different ERP company at the time, but the merger meant that there would be massive amounts of work to combine into one ERP environment. They decided to implement a new ERP system at the start of their new venture.

That’s when they came to us here at Cumula 3. We handled the full implementation of NetSuite. That’s because SRS realized that Cumula 3 possessed the expertise required to make all the moving parts of their new company work together.

Working with four distinct business models, SRS structured the NetSuite implementation around those four categories: product/cash sales, rentals, structural steel, and rebar.

Cumula 3’s implementation of NetSuite’s ERP system created a new level of visibility that has pushed inventory on-hand down by about 40%! This means that SRS can manage its cash more effectively and be more strategic in its spending.

Additionally, SRS uses NetSuite’s ERP to gain visibility into its own sales pipeline and make new, actionable business goals for its continued growth.

Are you ready to learn more about how Cumula 3 can implement NetSuite for your metal manufacturing business?

Check out our automated NetSuite pricing calculator tool to help you start thinking about the budget dollars your company would need to use for a full NetSuite implementation. The tool only takes a few minutes to fill out.

Questions? Want more information? Let’s talk!

Contact us today, and we’ll be in touch right away to talk about your unique circumstances and how a great ERP system can streamline your processes, reduce your overhead, give you actionable data, and increase your productivity!

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Eric Smith

Written by Eric Smith

Eric is a tech blogger & digital marketer with a background in helping companies evaluate and purchase NetSuite software and services.