SMBs certainly don't lack choices when it comes to ERP systems, with a veritable who's who of vendors coming out with solutions geared toward their needs.
There's Microsoft, with its Dynamics line, along with still emerging product lines from Oracle and SAP. While their SMB ERP strategies aren't exactly fully formed yet, the vendors are obviously expending a lot of effort toward getting them there. Another option is Workday, a software-as-service solution for ERP, developed by a company headed by the ex-CEO of PeopleSoft.
Blogger Keith Meyer, writing on EvolvingExcellence, advocates a simpler ERP solution for small manufacturers -- far simpler. He suggests buying a whiteboard, markers, eraser, Webcam and copy of QuickBooks, all of which should be available at the local office supply store.
The cost of this solution vs. an on-premises (not SaaS) ERP implementation? "A couple grand... maybe," compared to $500,000, Meyer estimates.
The keys to making it work? It's simple, highly visible and, perhaps most important, owned by all of the folks on the shop floor, Meyer says.
It's important to do a value stream mapping exercise first, to figure out where the status quo workflow works and where it doesn't. Then you draw the improved flowchart on the whiteboard and post it where it can be seen by all.
Sound too simple? Some comments following the post come from folks who have tried it and liked it. "Life really can be that simple," says one.