What Is Manufacturing Software?

Manufacturing software has the ability to oversee multiple functions that help the manufacturing process go smoothly. Discover the types of software out there and how they boost efficiency.


Manufacturing in the United States is changing daily.

Recent developments in operational technology for manufacturers make increased efficiency and production in all facets of the supply chain a very real possibility; however, there’s a stark difference between knowing that innovative technology exists and actually putting it to use for your business. That’s where manufacturing software comes in.

In manufacturing, your money is made on the shop floor. Shop floor control is needed like never before. It’s where your business either booms or busts, and manufacturing software offers your organization a heightened potential for boom by maximizing the manufacturing technology that’s available in order to streamline and optimize certain operations like production developments, stock control, allocation of tasks, and more. Manufacturing software is the bridge between your business and Industry 4.0 technology. It automates tedious tasks, maximizes workflows, whittles down unnecessary tasks and increases throughput by giving you complete visibility into processes on the shop floor, and provides real-time solutions for any inefficiencies.

Benefits of Manufacturing Software for Manufacturers

The reasons to implement manufacturing software are plentiful, and specific. What you need manufacturing software to do is going to be different from what someone else may need because it’s pliant and customizable. It’s built for business management and business needs of many varieties. Generally speaking, you can expect manufacturing software to speed up production, reduce downtime, reduce unprofitable operations, monitor production, and reduce waste. It’s different from ERP software due to its specificity, but we’ll get to that particular topic later on. Now, let’s discuss the details of how manufacturing software will optimize your manufacturing.

Speed Up Production Processes

Manufacturing software can help manage sales, production planning, stock control, purchasing, and shop floor operations. For cost estimation, quoting, and customer relations, there is a CRM section. For production planning, tools like visual production calendars and drag-and-drop scheduling make estimated time a simple task. For stock control, manufacturing software contains a stock module that monitors and optimizes inventory control by analyzing stock movements, tracking serial numbers, monitoring distributors and shipments while providing real-time updates on stock status. Also, you can manage purchases and increase structured orders with a single click. And the best part is that all this critical data is presented to you in an easy-to-understand dashboard that provides an overview of the production process from start to finish.

Reduce Unexpected Downtime and Unprofitable Processes

A major factor of manufacturing software is automating the time-consuming tasks that are absent-mindedly performed, yet necessary for production and functionality. Things like inventory check-ups, data entry, dissemination of information to specific employees, etc. By automating certain tasks, employees can focus on innovation and increase profitability by doing so. This reduction in downtime is necessary to compete in 21st-century manufacturing.

Production Monitoring Across Different Locations

With manufacturing software, all operations and materials planning are compiled and carried out in one system. This guarantees that every user has a clear view of tasks and duties. This is great for your employees, but it’s especially excellent for managers because this single-source approach allows you to monitor production in real-time across as many locations as you need. No longer are you making phone calls or driving long hours to check on other facilities. With manufacturing software, you can witness the ebb and flow of any warehouse in real-time, and make any necessary adjustments from the dashboard.

Waste Reduction

Your inventory is monitored, controlled, and tailored to fit your production schedule. Manufacturing software that oversees inventory control – like fishbowl manufacturing – will notice low levels of any type of material and either immediately and automatically trigger a re-order, or ping you to do so. This approach reduces over-orders which saves money and can affect pricing for your consumers down the line. Also, manufacturing software coordinates with suppliers, manages lead times, job shop vitality, and communicates exactly what is needed and where – reducing waste and maximizing efficiency.

This all may seem too good to be true. But rest assured, it’s both good and true. Manufacturing software is revolutionizing the industry. The following features will explain this in more detail.

Manufacturing Software Features

Manufacturing Resource Plan

Manufacturing resource planning is a software feature that uses real-time data to create highly detailed production schedules and coordinate materials arrival with existing machines and labor. Additionally, it is a useful feature for cost control, inventory management, and design engineering.

Asset Management

Manufacturing as a whole is an asset-heavy industry. Asset management is a software function that is designed to maximize your physical assets. Asset management software’s primary functions are to forecast infrastructure costs and noticeably reduce maintenance overhead. With the proper software, your company can effectively monitor and manage equipment and inventory (IoT enabled devices included), automatically schedule maintenance which reduces repair costs, predict future maintenance costs and a budget for future equipment needs, and simplify the asset lifecycle management process.

Work Order

This crafty manufacturing software is a modernized management tool that allows organizations to monitor preventive maintenance as well as organize and report incoming and outgoing work orders. This software tends to show up in travel, delivery, or facilities maintenance industries. It creates digital documents that can be tracked and viewed from anywhere, and shows what should be done, how, and by whom. This is a tool used for the long haul, and over several years it provides a critical look at how well the overall system is operating.

Work Center

All manufacturing activities are carried out in the work center, and this software feature is used to oversee scheduling, production cost, pricing, and capacity planning. Think of the work center as a single source point for an amalgamation of master data. This data covers the manufacturing floor and is situated by predefined requirements. It can be either one person, several people or it can be a machine or group of machines.

Cost of Materials

Cost of Materials, otherwise known as Bill of Materials, is a manufacturing software tool that accurately forecasts the costs of materials. It allows the user to check on the availability of materials, immediately calculate availability dates of purchased items, and house all estimated data in one location in order to predict the actual cost of a finished product. This is done by calculating manufacturing operations costs, labor costs, and material costs.

Reporting Procedures

Production reporting procedures automatically collect, organize, and report any and all data from any production machine. This manufacturing software feature, in particular, is one of the most exciting ones, because it allows the plant floor to become completely visible, and completely efficient.

What is the Difference Between Manufacturing Software and ERP Software?

The first and foremost difference between manufacturing software and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is that, typically, manufacturing software is a subset of an ERP. Although, it is important to understand that ERP, including cloud ERP such as Netsuite, is a manufacturing software. But even though ERP itself is a type of manufacturing software – manufacturing ERP software to be specific – the bulk of manufacturing software is included as a part of ERPs. So in short, ERPs include manufacturing software even though it is manufacturing software itself.

The nuanced difference lies in the areas of emphasis for each. Manufacturing software hones in on shop floor management or anything on-premises. Areas like production, capacity planning, plant floor processes, scheduling features, and physical operations fall under the realm of manufacturing software. ERPs on the other hand are a more complete system with a holistic approach designed to target those physical operations, but also general business processes like finance, management, marketing, customer interaction, lifecycle management, sales management, quotes and estimates, human resources, and more.

The acronyms are similar, and they both exist to make manufacturing better for any business – so it’s easy to see how the two may be confused. The main message to remember here is ERPs go well beyond the capabilities of most manufacturing software. They connect and integrate all aspects of your business operations and condense them into a single database which allows the company to optimize and streamline processes. Additionally, it allows the business the ability to share accurate information across the entire organization, from anywhere.  All in all, it boils down to this: manufacturing software applies to the physical manufacturing process and any peripheral operations, while ERPs apply to every domain of your business as more of a manufacturing execution system. Think: does an ERP solution sound like a good idea for your manufacturing management and business?

Types of Manufacturing Software

Enterprise Resource Planning

As you just read, Enterprise Resource Planning is designed to aid in manufacturing management and oversee the main business operations in order to streamline information across the organization as a whole. It can be used with, and between, any department such as HR, logistics, sales, and any others. ERPs like Netsuite handle large quantities of projects at a time and include features like email marketing, customer help desks, pricing forecasts, financial management, marketing automation, etc. Netsuite, and other ERPs, are a more expensive, more robust system than a Manufacturing Resource Planning software, which you’re about to read about.

Manufacturing Resource Planning II

Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP II) is designed for production management. It’s created to manage manufacturing business operations like scheduling, materials control, planning, and more. This software is designed solely for the manufacturing department of the business. Given it is less robust than ERP, it usually handles smaller projects and is an overall simpler software. MRP II and other MRP software is a manufacturing solution that does not include any customer-facing features and usually comes as a feature within an ERP system.

Process Control Software

This type of manufacturing software is used wherever there is continuous production in manufacturing. So in any industry where a type of material is produced without any interruptions, a.k.a. “batch processing,” you can likely find Process Control Software (PCS). It is designed to prioritize a higher quality and efficiency of production. Take the oil and gas industry for example – the transportation of oil through a pipeline is a continuous process. System requirements for the oil to flow consistently are controlled through process control software by remote monitoring and management of the pipeline data from the control center, streaming real-time data across the entire organization, and ensuring constant operation.

Product Lifecycle Management

This manufacturing software refers to the management of data and processes used in the design, engineering, manufacturing, sales, and service of a product across the entire lifecycle and supply chain. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has a long history in the manufacturing space, but as it stands today, the term generally refers to a software solution. Companies that manufacture goods experience a range of issues outside of the scope of design and manufacturing. Product lifecycle management (PLM) mitigates those issues and helps align and integrate key resources, quickly making product information accessible to teams across the organization.

Manufacturing Software in Supply Chain Control

Supply chains are no easy feat to master, and an obvious assumption is that the larger the organization, the more difficult it is to keep the supply chain on track and making money. But even for a small business or an SMB, the best manufacturing software or ERP platform can erase monstrous headaches. Supply chain complexity varies from business to business, industry to industry; but the emphasis of the supply chain remains the same regardless of which one you’re talking about. Supply chain management aims to optimize planning, production scheduling, developing, manufacturing, and delivering goods and services. Given that manufacturing software covers any and every part of that definition, it’s easy to see why manufacturing software is a key component of a successful supply chain. The following components of a supply chain operate more efficiently with a quality manufacturing software implementation.

Development of a Supply Chain

If you are still molding your supply chain, you need a good manufacturing software strategy. Implementing a manufacturing software like PLM or ERP from the get-go will set you up for the best possible outcome, especially if you’re producing highly technical products like medical devices that need maximum traceability, quality raw materials, accurate procurement details, and efficient warehouse management. By coordinating, integrating, and reporting necessary data in the form of operational solutions for your supply chain’s efficiency, this software will set you on the right track from day one. You will skip over several steps of confusion, and several errors by using a manufacturing software to develop a supply chain.

Efficiency in Manufacturing

Manufacturing efficiently is what it’s all about, right? This article, your business – it all hinges on how to manufacture efficiently. MRP II and other manufacturing softwares are designed to highlight the dark spots of a manufacturing process at the ground level. Operations like maintenance management, incoming/outgoing shipments, purchase orders, and materials scheduling are all made better from MRP II or others. Manufacturing efficiency in supply chains is a great goal to have, and it’s a much easier goal to reach with the right mix of software solutions.

Consumer Product Demand

After you’ve optimized your manufacturing process, you’re ready to do what we’re all here to do: sell the product, fill a need and make some money! But you’re not done yet. Once you’ve produced the goods, there is still more work to do. Ensuring the product is serviced and satisfactory after the sale is crucial to your company’s good name. Furthermore, monitoring demand for the product can save your business large sums of money if a sudden dip in demand can be matched by an immediate counteraction at the point of production. That’s where PLM comes in. Product Lifecycle Management provides you not only the data but the ability to enact decisions based on that data – all in real-time, for the entire lifecycle of the product. It’s the catch-all every manufacturer ought to have in their tool belt.

Additional Services and Goods

Manufacturing software like ERPs and PLMs don’t just put the latest technology to work for the production of goods and quality management, they emphasize the entire supply chain of a manufacturing company from end to end, start to finish. And that includes any software as a service, and customer service interactions, preventative manufacturing measures…anything. Manufacturing software is designed to maximize your profitability in all sectors of the supply chain.

Manufacturing Software and Artificial Intelligence

Manufacturing is a historically rigid industry. But the new age of industry technology is changing what it means to manufacture and is doing so at an exponential clip. Flexibility is the new norm, and manufacturing on the edge is soon to take over the assembly line as the hallmark of success. Artificial intelligence (AI), as well as other Industry 4.0 technologies like Machine Learning (ML), are baked into the operational systems of any high-quality manufacturing software. This software embedded with AI is aiding businesses in defect detection, supply chain forecasting, and adapting to new business models in ways never seen before.

The goal for any organization in manufacturing is continuous quality improvement. Assessing performance is a cyclical process and includes implementing improvement plans and constantly re-assessing results and productivity. Identifying and removing defects as early as possible in the supply chain via effective testing from emerging technologies like AI and ML are making a significant impact on performance and quality of production. By analyzing product quality as it is being produced, AI can alert personnel to any defects before they get out of hand. This saves time, money, and materials.

The growing presence of connected devices and algorithms to assist in efficient production is growing daily. ML is a key component of automation and establishing new business models, as well as quality management. The proliferation of technology can sift through a vast amount of digital data, allowing businesses to rely on algorithms to solve large problems in a flash that would take a team of humans weeks to unravel. ML aids businesses in adopting new business models. The supply chain is an ever-evolving entity, and the ability to accurately forecast details in all areas of the chain is one of the most exciting details about AI. AI actively assesses your supply chain volatility and quality as it operates, signifying any issues and predicting necessary tasks before humans could. Forecasting supply chains using AI is allowing business to operate at peak efficiency.

Is Propel Manufacturing Software?

Propel is a PLM software that approaches your operation with a holistic mindset, determined to optimize your efficiency using the latest industry technology. We specialize in lifecycle management from concept to customer, and have affected massive change for organizations all over the world using our end-to-end approach to manufacturing. With Propel, you will accelerate time to market and quickly respond to increasingly volatile conditions and changing regulations thanks to a collaborative cloud platform built for manufacturing world-class products.

Propel PLM provides optimal manufacturing industry solutions so your business can do things like: shorten delivery timelines while increasing margins up to 20%, provide data accuracy and complete visibility into your products, configure your platform any way you need to optimize your operations, and much more.

Explore the Propel product success platform here.

Disclaimer: I am the author at PLM ECOSYSTEM, focusing on developing digital-thread platforms with capabilities across CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, ERP, and IT systems to manage the product data lifecycle and connect various industry networks. My opinions may be biased. Articles and thoughts on PLMES represent solely the author's views and not necessarily those of the company. Reviews and mentions do not imply endorsement or recommendations for purchase.

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