There are many ERP features in the enterprise software market, more so when you consider apps and modules for industry specific systems. Whilst those industry centric companies - such as distributors or process manufacturers - will have specific modules to meet those needs, it can be difficult to know what ERP features you need on a more general scale. 

So without further delay, here are 10 core ERP features to consider as part of your selection process.

1: Integration

This list includes many individual, core ERP features of modern ERP systems. What makes them a system is the way they integrate. Sales, engineering, accounting and other business functions cannot live in their individual silos today. ERP keeps a common flow of in sequence available to all the singers in the choir and lets them all sing from the same sheet even when they are in different buildings or on different continents.

2: Finance and accounting

Considered by some, mainly accountants, as the true core of ERP. Included are components such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, financial reporting, and often payroll.

3: Sales Management

This is where it all begins. Sales orders are entered and this triggers procurement and production and eventually leads to shipping a product or delivering a service to a satisfied customer. Tools for quoting are often included in core ERP functionality. Customer relationship management tools are included frequently as this formerly stand-alone tool is integrated into ERP. CRM aids marketing and prospecting to ensure that the business will continue.

4: Jobs and projects

Job orders are the most common method used to control manufacture. A job is opened to build a finished product or a subassembly. Material and labor are charged to the job and at the end, a measure of profitability is done. Jobs can run for a few hours or a few years in businesses such as ship building or construction.

5: Process controls

Some businesses make products incessantly. Machinery is started and motor oil or corn flakes starts coming out at the end of the flow. These businesses will not use job numbers to capture costs and control production. Process businesses make products that cannot be disassembled as the form changes when production begins.

6: Inventory management

Whether they buy it or make it, businesses need to know what they have on hand to sell at all times and where it is. It is important to a modern business that inventory be quickly moved to where it is needed and to manage the velocity of those movements. Too much inventory means cash is invented where it isn’t needed. Too little means that production cannot begin or maybe a sale is lost. The value of inventory is a key component of financial statements too.

7: MRP

Material requirements planning are the systems allowing a business to keep supply and demands for every material item in inventory in balance with sales and forecasted sales. Sales create parent demand for a product someone wants to buy. The top level demand flows through all the subassemblies in inventory or in process to individual purchased components. Are they in inventory already? Is there another order already requiring that inventory? When can we buy more and have they in inventory? Over years MRP which helped manage inventory components evolved and developed into ERP that helps manage all the resources and components within a business.

8: Business intelligence (BI)

Business intelligence includes a set of tools that has moved from the ability to download a report to a spreadsheet where it could be parsed and analyzed. Today’s BI tools allow a user to move exactly the data needed to be written directly to the same spreadsheet. Other tools include dashboards where executives and others can quickly see the condition of their interests in real time and can make adjustments immediately to keep the business on course.

9: Engineering

Engineers are usually the owners of bills of material and routings. They will maintain these data structures that enable production to work time after time and product quality products on time. Engineers also use tools such as product lifecycle management while working with marketing ensuring that products stay up to date delivering value to customers and that the best and most available component materials are used.

10: Core manufacturing

Manufacturing core ERP features put all these tools to use. They use a dispatch tool to know what work needs to be done next at any workstation. They record time against jobs and projects and track percentage completion. They record materials issued and adjust inventory. In the most sophisticated systems today’s manufacturing might be associated directly with the retail sale of a product today in a store owned by the manufacturer’s customer.