Have you ever gone on the search for a new ERP-software system for your metal fabrication business?
If so, you know that it is difficult because there are many vendors out there all claiming they have the perfect solution, but you also hear about the horror stories of failed implementations.
So, what do you do?
Many people have been able to find success by starting out with an early independent analysis of ERP software systems, such as this guide.
Before you buy and implement an ERP system, there are a few things you should know to make sure the project doesn’t result in frustration, or worse- a failed project.
To help you get started, we’ve crafted this 100% independent and personally curated comparison of the top 10 ERP systems for metal fabrication.
We are convinced that will help you select which one will help you increase the efficiency of your business on the short term and for the years to come.
|Software||Price range*||Area(s)||Cloud Based|
|SAP S/4HANA Cloud||$$$||Global||Yes|
|Sage 100 Cloud||$||Global||Yes|
|ECI JobBoss||$$||United States||No|
|ProShop ERP||$||United States||Yes|
|ECI Ridder iQ||$$||Western Europe/Netherlands||No|
|Isah Business Software||$$||Western Europe/Netherlands||No|
*Pricing may vary based on your specific situation and is based on our project experiences and/ or internet reviews that we’ve selected for this article. In any case, always contact your vendor before making a buying decision.
Table of contents
- Modern ERP for Fabricated Metals
- What are the benefits of metal fabrication ERP software?
- What are the must-have software components for metal fabrication?
- Must-have modules for metalworking:
- Optional but recommended modules
- How to select the right software for you
- Factors to consider when choosing ERP System for metal fabrication
- Cloud, Hybrid Cloud or Native Cloud?
- Integrations and app exchanges
- Regional / local support
- Do they understand your shop?
- Quick Guide to 10 Best ERP Systems in the Market
- Best Metal Fabrication software in the Global market
- Infor M3
- SAP S/4HANA Cloud
- Dynamics 365
- Epicor Kinetic
- Sage X3 Cloud
- Best Metal Fabrication ERP in the US-market
- ECI JobBoss
- ProShop ERP
- Best Metal Fabrication ERP in the Western European market.
- ECI Ridder iQ
- Isah Business Software
- Other ERP-systems that could be interesting for you:
- ERP systems in DACH / German-speaking market:
- Conclusion: Pick an ERP-Software that Fits Your Needs and Budget
- Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by yourself
Modern ERP for Fabricated Metals
As global supply chains become more complex, the fabricated metal industry must find efficiencies in new technologies and processes.
Traditional practices have proven to be inefficient with the increasing level of complexity within these global supply chains.
Already thin margins are being further threatened by rises in raw material costs, shorter product lifecycles, and more stringent quality standards.
Many organizations are looking to adopt lean initiatives to bring down costs, reduce waste, and realize efficiencies across their complex supply chain to remain profitable. This might not be enough, though, and that’s where modern ERP for fabricated metals manufacturers comes in.
ERP is an integrated, powerful suite of software for an organization’s operations. It helps the organization to manage its workflow and help automate many processes.
What are the benefits of metal fabrication ERP software?
An ERP software for metal fabrication can provide many benefits. It can help with production and inventory management, which in turn will lead to a better utilization of resources and a more profitable business.
A metal fabricator who installs modern ERP software correctly can increase production output and without having to hire more staff. This will make it easier for the business to grow and be more efficient with operating costs.
It provides better inventory management and control, which makes it easier to forecast finished products. It also streamlines production planning and gives businesses more overview and control of their operations.
Do you want to read more on ERP systems in general? You might also want to check out our other article: Why Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is important for metal fabrication
What are the must-have software components for metal fabrication?
Metal fabrication is a form of discrete manufacturing. It’s a manufacturing practice that operates with bill of materials (BOM) to make individual parts of a product. The pieces are then often merged to form the final product at the end of production.
Therefore, metal product manufacturers face some unique challenges in their production units due to BoM’s and routes that are typically only partially defined, and a strong engineering function that governs product design.
There is usually a low-volume, high-mix approach, which requires data entry to be swift and ideally automated. For high-volume manufacturing, for example for cost-competitive laser centers, it is typically a challenge to deal with correct inventory levels, both in materials and finished products.
Planning to achieve shorter lead-time items and ensuring work is scheduled through the production facility in a timely and efficient way are key to success in this sector.
The right ERP software can help you save time and energy, as well as drive your success as a company. But why should you choose an ERP software over other alternatives? To answer this question, we must first know what the requirements are for a good choice.
Below, we’ve listed modules that we consider as must-haves and recommended:
Must-have modules for metalworking:
- Bill of Materials (BOM) and routing, often with support for Assembly structures.
- Material Requirements Planning (MRP)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Sales and Purchase order processing
- Basic inventory management (raw materials)
Tip: Make sure your BoM allows you to create relationships between materials and operations. If it doesn’t, you will have trouble creating integrations with your CAM-software.
Optional but recommended modules
- Product configurator and Product Data Management (PDM)
- Purchase requisition
- Pricing and quoting
- Shop floor control
- Time and attendance
- Financial management
- Enhanced Inventory Management (both finished parts and materials)
- Part tracking and traceability
- Quality Assurance / Quality Control
- Production Management
There are, of course, many more modules. For example, vendors often combine their ERP-offering with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).
This can be tricky, since there can be quite some overlap in functionality between ERP and MES. In general, it might be wiser to look for these features later down the line. When in doubt, contact us, and we can discuss your particular situation.
How to select the right software for you
Factors to consider when choosing ERP System for metal fabrication
One of the major factors in choosing an ERP is its pricing. It must be in line with the budget allotted for the purchase and set-up costs. Another factor to consider is whether it is flexible enough to accommodate changing requirements in business operations. Being able to customize your experience can be vital in this regard.
The software should also be easy to learn and use, or else it will only add to the existing office and production bottlenecks. Finally, make sure that accurate data flows unhindered through all stages of your company. If the software is very compartmentalized into separated software modules/databases, it will probably be hard to create a good collaboration in your business.
Tip: Any good ERP-software maker should let you try out their solutions, whether on a demo instance or a trial account. This is important because you need to experience how the flow of the system is and if it works right out of the box. A lot of customization up front is usually a red flag.
Cloud, Hybrid Cloud or Native Cloud?
With the advent of digitalization, more and more companies are moving their data to the cloud. But, there are many benefits and drawbacks of both types of cloud.
- On-premise solution: Installed on PCs and connected to a server in your business. Usually, a robust solution, but requires server specifications and maintenance. Can be complicated with multi-factory or multi-site solutions.
- Hybrid Cloud: Installed on PCs and connected to a server hosted by the vendor (externally). Commonly used for multi-factory solutions, less recommended for single-factory solutions. Performance is often slower than On-premise.
- Cloud (Native): No installations necessary, software is running from your web browser. Can be used by single and multi-factory solutions, and often has exceptional performance when designed well. Typically, requires on-premise integrations with other software such as CAM, MES, and CAD.
Integrations and app exchanges
It’s not common for your company to only work with ERP software; there is typically CAD, CAM, and MES software in your business. It has been shown repeatedly that integrating such solutions is crucial for the long term success of your implementation.
In our selection, we therefore look for systems that are easy to integrate. The easiest way to do this is if the vendor provides an API and an app exchange. Below are a few selection criteria you could consider.
To make integrations easier, look for :
- Are there off-the-shelf integrations for your software systems?
- Is there an API that is well documented?
- Does the company provide an app store?
- Does the company have a proven track record in your industry?
- Do they provide their own consulting, or are you dependent on third parties?
What integrations do you usually need?
Common integrations needed:
- CAM-integration, for example, the programming software of your machine
- MES-integration, for example, your machine job manager
- CAD-integration, for example: SolidWorks, Inventor, CATIA, etc.
Tip: Ensure you speak to your vendor about API-connectivity and the cost of this, so you can easily connect other apps or built your own. While not necessary, some great bonus features of great connectivity are the ability to import CSV, XML and JSON files, so you can import customer orders directly in your system.
Regional / local support
Can your software providers comply with your local and customer regulations and quality requirements for quality and security purposes? For example, think about data protection (GDPR), but also quality standards such as ISO 9001.
It’s not uncommon that countries or even states have vastly different requirements. If the software company does not have insight into the local requirements, you might be up for disappointment.
It is important to always be mindful of the safety concerns involved when it comes to selecting computer software. The best way to ensure you are playing it safe is by seeking a partner network that is global and trusted, and hiring a specialized third party with knowledge on the latest advances in technology.
Tip: Make sure your vendor has a 24-hour support service, so you can always reach them in case of an issue. Whether you’re working through a reseller or directly with the provider, you must make sure that your system comes with good personal service.
Do they understand your shop?
Many software solutions are not designed in workshops, but are instead designed by financial departments or for large enterprises. This can create friction when your daily smart work methods are not there from the start. Especially when you consider metal fabrication to be such a specialized industry.
Changing a generic product for a customized one is usually an expensive undertaking that most manufacturers and fabricators can’t afford.
Therefore, it makes sense to question whether the product has been developed at, by, or in collaboration with your industry.
In case you’re choosing a generic product, make sure that there are specialized partners and providers for your industry. In the comparison below, we will pay extra attention to this factor.
Quick Guide to 10 Best ERP Systems in the Market
Today, there are many ERP software solutions available in the market. It’s hard to make an informed decision. In this article, we have compiled a list of 10 best ERP solutions you should have a look at.
Note: All reviews are based on either the opinions of users in online forums, or our personal experiences. Your factory is unique and therefore it’s important to do your own research to find the right product that will work best for your business situation. This information may be out of date. Always check with your vendor about the latest opportunities and pricing.
Best Metal Fabrication software in the Global market
Region: Global | Price Range: $$
- Cloud based
- Generic platform
- Robust and modern system
- Industry-specific CloudSuite solutions for manufacturing
- Suitable for medium size to larger manufacturers
- Suitable for multi-company, multi-country, and multi-site ERP needs
Infor M3 is a powerful cloud ERP solution that uses the latest technologies to provide an exceptional user experience and powerful analytics in just a few clicks.
If implemented well, it can help you be more efficient and responsive. If you’re a medium to large organization, using a platform like Infor M3 can help you maintain a high level of efficiency.
In addition, it helps you manage your network of people, technology, activities, information, and resources efficiently and economically. We’ve experienced that it can be well-used by metal fabrication companies.
We like that it supports the whole manufacturing process of products, allows integration with other software through the number of APIs available.
Region: Global | Price Range: $$$
- Cloud based.
- Generic platform – not specialized for metal fabrication.
- High degree of customization.
- Embedded AI and machine learning.
- Aimed at large manufacturers and enterprise multi-factory approaches.
- Your company is recommended to already have a clear vision is clear and some maturity.
SAP S/4HANA stands for SAP Suite 4 HANA. It is a next-generation, integrated ERP software for businesses of all sizes, in all industries, that require deep and broad functionality combined with a high degree of flexibility. It is a fully integrated and configurable set of business applications and services. It provides faster insights and is made for scale.
The software is materially different from anything SAP has done before and represents the company’s biggest innovation since SAP R/3.
The new take is intended to provide a digital core for an organization. It is fully architected for the most advanced in-memory platform, SAP HANA, and is designed on the most modern design principles with the SAP Fiori user experience to create a personalized and simple feel on users’ device of choice (tablet, laptop, mobile).
The prediction and simulation AI based on big data sets helps you simulate future outcomes based on your current business conditions.
Region: Global | Price Range: $-$$
Dynamics 365 Business Central is a cloud-based ERP app designed for SMEs. It has been designed to work with the suite of Microsoft’s apps, such as Teams, Power BI, and more. It’s the sequel to many years of development on Dynamics Navision and AX, now integrated into an all-in-one solution for managing your company.
Dynamics 365 is best suited for mid-sized companies and large enterprises that manage customers, products, territories, orders, and inventory. As a small shop, you might be overwhelmed by the options, but there are options for you too due to a flexible pricing model and custom apps for small shops.
Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 has excellent manufacturing, engineering and planning functions. With it, users can easily handle short-term, medium-term and long-term planning. It also lets you control engineering changes and controls material allocation to specific orders. Business Central’s manufacturing module includes basic supply planning, demand forecasting, capacity planning, and machine centers.
Tools like built-in MRP make it easier for metal products’ manufacturers to control, plan, and execute orders passing through the production unit.
Region: Global | Price Range: $-$$
- Hybrid SaaS, Cloud Based, On-Premise options
- Primary, a manufacturing platform.
- High degree of customization
- Suitable for smaller and medium-sized companies
Epicor Kinetic is a cloud-based ERP that leans heavily toward the manufacturing industry. With their curated industry productivity solutions, it’s no surprise that Fabricated Metals is part of their core offering.
Epicor is a global company with many software offerings. They offer a wide variety of modules for purchase, including BI, MES, and quality modules, so there is always room to grow with them. We like that users have the option to start small and grow over time.
The product is promoted as an intuitive, configurable, and guided browser-based application that makes it easy to personalize your experience and access integrated capabilities like APS, CRM, and CPQ.
Region: Global | Price Range: $-$$
- Hybrid cloud, on-premise installation
- Primarily designed for accounting purposes
- Limited in customization from user perspective
- Suitable small to medium-sized companies
Sage Business Cloud X3 unites your accounting and other business tasks. It combines everything in your company easily in one affordable package. You can access everything through the cloud or on mobile devices.
Financials, budgeting, planning, inventory, supply chain, production management, reporting, and CRM are all part of the feature-rich solution.
The software has a focus on streamlining the financial aspects of your company and working closely with your financial services providers/accountants.
Region: Global | Price Range: FREE-$
- Cloud, On-Premise
- Generic platform
- You must customize it yourself (DIY)
- Free, open-source software – or a paid hosted version including support
ERPNext is simple, intuitive, and open-source. Yes, you read that right! It’s a DIY, modern ERP for metal fabricators that you can get started with without needing to talk to a salesperson.
It can bring many benefits to companies. Not only that, but it can be used in accounting, project and task management, sales, purchase, inventory, customer relationship management, administration, human resource management and more.
The real-time Gantt Chart interface enables users to track the progress of their projects. The sales management tools enable users to track leads and opportunities, as well as create price quotes. And users can send targeted emails to their leads and prospects.
What’s unique about ERPNext is that’s it designed for self-implementation. However, the company provides organizations that sign up for a paid account one-on-one sessions with its support team to help configure the system. There are also videos and other resources to assist with the implementation process.
Unlike many other larger software vendors, this is one for the makers and coders. You need to roll op your sleeves to get going with this one. That being said, we are amazed by the product so far regarding what you get for the pricing being basically free. We do recommend conducting thorough research and testing before implementing ERPNext. You should also consider the cost of module customization and potentially writing your own integrations.
Best Metal Fabrication ERP in the US-market
The US market has common requirements for ISO 9001, AS9100, ISO 13485, ITAR, and CMMC compliance, which make it unique and therefore make many global players not (directly) suitable for this market. We’ve come across two good players in the market, but always make sure you check with your vendor about your specific situation.
Region: United States | Price Range: $$
- Cloud-based or on-premises solution.
- Platform specially created for the manufacturing industry
- Customizations supported through ECI
- Many modules and workflows in one package
ECI JobBoss is a cloud-based ERP solution for small and midsize manufacturers in North America. It’s a complete system with modules for finance, HR, production and inventory control, distribution and customer service. JobBOSS covers all aspects of quoting, manufacturing, and final accounting. There are many tools and features for job shops in this application which make it very diverse and unique product.
All data is located in a single database, giving networked users simultaneous access to the collective information. This allows decision-makers to be informed and aware of what is happening on the shop floor and in the office.
This solution places a strong emphasis on costing, productivity and scheduling. It is suitable for custom, make-to-order, and mixed-mode shops and handles everyday situations based on the manufacturing flow in these types of facilities.
It can be used to manage any size of metal manufacturing company with a focus on jobs.
Region: United States | Price Range: $-$$
- Cloud based
- Developed from a shop
- Extensive integrations, for example to Paperless Parts
- Combines ERP, MES, QMS and more in one system
ProShop ERP is presented as a comprehensive web-based and 100% paperless shop management system for small to medium manufacturing companies. The vendor states it’s built to manage complex manufacturing environments, a system to give users insight into every detail of a manufacturing company.
What’s unique about this product is that it offers enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), and quality management system (QMS) functionalities within a suite. In this way, ProShop is designed to replace 3-6 other disparate software systems, bringing managing the whole company into a single system.
The company presents itself as true job shop software, in the sense that the product has been developed from a shop to help machine shops, fab shops, composites and assembly-based manufacturers. The reviews on this product are highly rated. The job management software helps you create all the necessary documents for a job, from start to finish. Profound understanding of the metal fabrication market due to the team’s background in the industry.
Best Metal Fabrication ERP in the Western European market.
The market for Western Europe, for example, the Benelux, is recognized by a wide variety of business types that usually perform fast deliveries. Common norms include ISO 9001, EN-1090, and GDPR data compliance.
Many global vendors are not compliant by default for these norms, and vice versa, these providers seem not suitable for the US market at this time. Below, we’ve listed two vendors that are well represented in the Western European market.
There are many more systems, and since we’re from the Netherlands and Germany, this list will be extended in a separate article.
Region: Western Europe / Netherlands | Price Range: $$
- On premise
- Developed from a shop / from practice.
- Highest degree of customization possible.
- Available in Dutch, English, Flemish, French, and German
ECI Ridder iQ ERP software presents itself as originating from the best possible way, namely from practice. The software comes with a manufacturing industry template and implementation methodology that is specifically aimed at discrete manufacturing.
Ridder iQ offers a complete CRM system with integration to Exchange and Outlook, the ability to keep track of your purchasing, sales, inventory, and payroll, calculation and work orders, and a document management system. Additional modules can be added for financial, business intelligence, and shop floor control.
At Sheet Metal Connect, we have extensive experience with implementations and integrations for this software and have had a great experience so far. That’s why this is the only ERP we’ve given 5 stars at this stage.
Visit the ECI website for more information about Ridder IQ.
Region: Western Europe / Netherlands | Price Range: $-$$
- On premise.
- Manufacturing focused system.
- Available in Dutch, English and German.
- High degree of customization.
Isah ERP is a complete information system that ensures more efficiency. It includes all the functionality to manage customer order-driven processes. From the initial client contact through to financial handling: Isah ERP ensures that your processes run more efficiently. The software has add-ons for: CRM, Product Configurator, Shop Floor Control, Supply Chain Integrator and Time Registration.
Other ERP-systems that could be interesting for you:
The following products didn’t make our selection due to lack of information, industry-specific usage, or regional limitations. If your system is not listed, and you think it should be there, reach out to us to demo your product, and we’re happy to revisit our listing for 2022!
ERP systems in DACH / German-speaking market:
Conclusion: Pick an ERP-Software that Fits Your Needs and Budget
It can be difficult to figure out the best ERP system for your company. There are many different systems on the market, and it can be difficult to choose which one will work best for you.
You can’t achieve the maximum benefit of an ERP without a number of different systems working together.
This includes ERP, CAM, MES, CRM, and BI tools. Every software package has its strengths and weaknesses. As such, it is important to get an idea of what your business needs before deciding on your digital transformation journey.
Choosing the wrong ERP system for your company can have a huge impact on your production quality – from increase lead times, to lower accuracy in resource scheduling, to a lower level of customer satisfaction.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by yourself
Sheet Metal Connect offers a free first advisory call, so you can have a professional talk through how all of these systems play a role in streamlining your production process and helping you produce the same quality products without any sort of systems integration hassle.
We help companies around the world with independent advice in English, Dutch, and German. Get in touch today for your first free of charge call.