The automotive industry is unique in its ERP needs. Unlike other comparable industries such as aerospace, the consumer-driven nature makes the processes extremely difficult and unpredictable in this industry. These behaviors drive the need for newer products and modifications to the existing products. In addition, they have a further downstream impact on the whole value chain.
Due to these behaviors, most OEMs spend significant R&D dollars on consumer research to differentiate from their competitors. This research drives the processes such as demand for their suppliers and the need for tighter collaboration with them. Additionally, most automotive production floors have much higher efficiency requirements due to tighter margins. They also have unique scheduling challenges, such as having the right skills at the right time at the right work center.
Finally, servicing and warranty needs are fairly involved, with significant nesting of serviceable parts, which might have their own lifecycle. These units may also have several players that might be involved in servicing the components. These factors make the automotive industry extremely unique with its need for an ERP system. And using an ERP system not designed for the automotive industry may require you to invest significantly in custom development or integration. So which are the ERP systems for the automotive industry?
This article outlines the top 10 automotive ERP systems that should be part of your evaluation. To finalize this list, we have analyzed hundreds of ERP systems and their capabilities through publicly available information. The list also relies on our teams’ experience in evaluating these ERP systems for our customers.
The purpose of this article is not to recommend these ERP systems. Instead, you must carefully analyze your requirements and find a suitable product from this list or a list from your industry/market segment.
- Definition of an automotive company
- These are the companies in the automotive ecosystem, including OEMs, aftermarket service providers, manufacturers, and distributors. The list considers companies of all sizes in this ecosystem.
- Overall market share/# of customers
- The higher the market share among automotive companies, the higher it ranks on our list.
- The more committed the management to the product roadmap for the automotive companies, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of development: legacy vs. legacy dressed as modern vs. modern UX/cloud-native
- The more cloud-native capabilities, the higher it ranks on our list.
- The larger the community with a heavy presence from automotive companies, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Depth of native functionality for specific industries
- The deeper the publisher-owned out-of-the-box functionality, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of publicly available product documentation
- The poorer the product documentation, the lower it ranks on our list.
- Automotive company market share and documented commitment of the publisher through financial statements
- The higher the focus on automotive companies, the higher the ERP system ranks on our list.
- Ability to natively support diversified business models
- The niche products designed for specific industries struggle for companies with diversified business models. So the more diverse the product, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Acquisition strategy aligned with automotive companies
- The more aligned the acquisitions are with the automotive companies, the higher it ranks on our list.
- User Reviews
- The deeper the reviews from automotive companies, the higher the score for a specific product.
- Must be an ERP product
IFS is a solution targeted at mid to large field services and MRO companies. While IFS can provide basic mix-mode manufacturing capabilities, it might require custom development or ad-hoc arrangements for automotive-specific capabilities. These capabilities may include PPAP compliance at the line level.
Also, unlike other solutions such as QAD, IFS may not be as efficient with automotive-specific supplier collaboration features. These collaboration features are applicable when you might need to perform joint planning with your suppliers. Also, the automotive program management processes where the R&D inputs may be required may not feel as natural as they would be with Plex or QAD. Finally, while IFS may support the generalized supplier approval flow, it might not have automotive-specific KPIs and processes as you might find in QAD, Plex, or IQMS.
While IFS might not be as suitable for automotive OEMs or distributors, it may have deeper capabilities for companies that are purely in the aftermarket business due to its strength in field service capabilities. Finally, it might not have out-of-the-box automotive capabilities such as MMOG/LE, ITAF, and recall management. For these reasons, IFS lands at #10 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
9. Oracle ERP Cloud
Oracle Cloud ERP is a solution targeted at large global enterprises. It has deep capabilities such as integrating the voice of the customer with the R&D data. It also has strong mixed-mode manufacturing and international supply chain capabilities. But it might struggle with the automotive-specific capabilities.
Also, Oracle Cloud ERP would be suitable for automotive companies that prefer financial capabilities over operations. And they plan to develop the last mile functionality on top of the core platform or use another ERP at the plant level. Additionally, while it might be similar in capabilities to other leading solutions on this list, Oracle Cloud ERP may not have as strong a financial perspective as SAP.
Finally, while both solutions might struggle with automotive-specific program management capabilities, Oracle Cloud ERP’s vanilla program management capabilities may not be as strong as Microsoft Dynamics F&O. For these reasons, Oracle ERP Cloud lands at #9 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
8. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations
Similar to Oracle cloud ERP, Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O will struggle with the last mile functionality required for automotive companies. So it may require custom development or automotive-specific add-ons. Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O does offer an extension for the automotive industry. But the extension would not be enough for automotive manufacturers to run their operations without further custom development.
Also, MS Dynamics F&O would not have as deep finance capabilities as SAP S/4 HANA for the larger automotive companies. So F&O would not be suitable for companies that plan to use it at the corporate level while using another automotive-specific package at the plant level. But it might be suitable for companies that prefer solution flexibility and have internal development teams to develop features on top of the core platform. For these reasons, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations ranks at #8 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
7. SAP S/4 HANA
Like Oracle ERP Cloud and Microsoft Dynamics Finance and Operations, SAP S/4 HANA would not have as rich last mile functionality such as PPAP compliance, FMEA analysis, or recall management as with other richer automotive solutions.
But large, global companies might use SAP at the corporate level to integrate general ledgers and interact with another system at the plant level. The integration works by sending a purchase order to produce parts or service order to service at the subsidiary level. The plant-level solution for the subsidiary might be an automotive-specific solution designed for automotive operations such as Plex or Infor LN.
Additionally, SAP S/4 HANA would have stronger financial control and cash flow planning capabilities for the large conglomerates. Compared to Oracle ERP Cloud and MS Dynamics 365 F&O, SAP ME is also a superior manufacturing execution system. For these reasons, SAP S/4 HANA ranks at #7 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
6. Epicor Kinetic
Epicor Kinetic is a mixed-mode manufacturing solution targeted at small-to-medium-sized automotive companies. Like Infor CloudSuite Industrial, Epicor offers a lot more last-mile functionality out-of-the-box for automotive companies. For example, Epicor Kinetic includes a much richer MES system out-of-the-box. The other companies on this list may struggle with the scenarios such as reporting for machines separately from labor. They might also struggle with scheduling resources based on specific skills. Epicor Kinetic would offer these capabilities out-of-the-box without add-ons or custom development.
While the MES and commerce capabilities are stronger with Epicor, it utilizes a third-party quality module to support the PPAP and in-process quality management. And this reliance on the third-party module may cause integration issues. Epicor is not as friendly to work with as some of the other companies on this list. The users typically report significant issues working with Epicor and getting support from them.
Moreover, Epicor Kinetic may include some automotive-specific features such as FMEA and PLM capabilities. It may also support end-to-end integration with CAD tools. But it might not have as deep Honda and Toyota supplier ecosystem functionality as with QAD, Plex, or Infor LN. For these reasons, Epicor Kinetic ranks at #6 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
Similar to Epicor, IQMS/DELMIAworks targets discrete manufacturing verticals, and automotive is a very strong vertical for them. Like other automotive-specific solutions on this list, such as QAD and Plex, IQMS offers very deep capabilities for automotive companies out-of-the-box, including MMOG/LE, APQP, gauge R&R, and PPAP compliance.
As for their product strategy, unlike other legacy solutions on this list that have been rearchitected for the cloud-native experience, IQMS still has a very patchy and legacy interface in some application areas. Additionally, IQMS offers deep capabilities for the Honda ecosystem. It is also an approved solution for Honda suppliers, it might not be as strong in the Toyota ecosystem.
IQMS also doesn’t have an as vibrant community as some of the other solutions on this list, which limits options for companies if they want to find talent in the market to support their product. It’s much easier to find talent for solutions such as SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft. And typically, the consulting costs are higher in the long duration if there is a limited talent pool available to support the product in the long term. For these reasons, IQMS ranks at #5 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
4. Infor CloudSuite Industrial
Infor CloudSuite Industrial is a mixed-mode manufacturing product targeted at SMB manufacturing organizations. As for their corporate strategy, just like Epicor Kinetic, Infor CSI offers much more out of the box. Infor CSI’s product architecture is designed for larger OEMs when multiple parties may be involved with the installation or servicing after the sale.
As for their automotive-specific capabilities, while Infor CSI offers strong last-mile functionality out-of-the-box, the automotive-specific capabilities are not as strong as in the case of Plex and QAD. Their automotive capabilities are likely to be similar to Epicor Kinetic with the addition of a superior quality management system owned by Infor but without the advanced MES capabilities. As for their community, Infor CloudSuite Industrial has a slightly more vibrant community than the other focused solutions on this list, such as Plex and QAD. So you will have more access to the talent than with other solutions.
Similar to other legacy solutions on this list, Infor CSI has been rearchitected as a cloud-native experience. While the solution is available over the web and has a great shop floor reporting module, its mobile experience may not as be as native but may be functionally deeper than newer solutions. For these reasons, Infor CSI ranks at #4 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
Plex is the only ERP system on this list that originated as an automotive solution. It is also the only solution that is designed from the perspective of the plant operator and has one of the strongest MES components that is pre-integrated with the ERP. While the MES is one of the strongest, the core ERP functionality is an afterthought.
As for their market share, Plex is also not as widely adopted as some of the other solutions on this list, such as Infor CSI, Epicor Kinetic, and Infor LN. But it offers deep capabilities for the Toyota ecosystem. It has super-rich capabilities for the program management for the OEM and integration with PLM and CAD. So it would also not require as much of a heavy lift for the suppliers and manufacturers in the Toyota ecosystem as the functionality is offered out-of-the-box.
The other advantage Plex offers for automotive companies is its unique features, such as integrated HCM and MES capabilities to solve skill-based scheduling issues on the shop floor. The skill-based scheduling is a major challenge with automotive companies as some skillsets are super critical and expensive and require careful planning of their timing. For these reasons, Plex ranks at #3 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
2. Infor LN
Infor LN comes pre-packaged with deep last mile functionality for large Automotive and Aerospace companies. The functionality is as deep as some of the other automotive-specific solutions such as Plex or IQMS, with several other specialized products, such as Infor EAM and PLM, pre-integrated for the best-of-breed architecture. This best-of-breed architecture and pre-integrated capabilities provide an edge for Infor LN compared to other vanilla solutions on this list.
The pre-integrated functionality reduces the implementation time and risks for the larger automotive companies. And the maintenance is easier in the long term due to the less reliance on the custom code and error-prone add-ons. As for their market penetration and size, Infor LN is localized and globalized in 50 countries. These multi-legislation capabilities allow Infor LN to provide a centralized view for global corporations without having to keep some countries in a separate database or ERP system.
As for their product architecture, Infor LN has a similar look and feel to the other Infor products, which makes it easier for companies to switch among Infor products. But most Infor products are completely different products underneath with separate databases and tech stacks. So the migration would not be as easier as with some other solutions. While Infor LN may have extremely deep automotive functionality, its broader capabilities are limited. This limitation makes it harder for it to accommodate diverse business models for businesses that might be operating in multiple industries. For these reasons, Infor LN ranks at #2 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
QAD is a solution targeted at very specific industries, including automotive. It offers one of the strongest automotive functionality out-of-the-box and with multi-legislation capabilities in more than 30 countries, just like Infor LN.
The strength of QAD includes deep automotive-specific functionality pre-packaged in one solution without worrying about expensive integration and custom development. The other strength of QAD includes its cloud-native architecture and customizability of the product. In comparison to Infor LN, QAD’s UI is business user-friendly and doesn’t require developers to customize the look and feel of the product. The other advantage of the QAD product is that it has slightly broader applications for other discrete and process manufacturing industries than other automotive-focused solutions such as Plex or Infor LN, which might struggle with diverse business models.
The weakness of QAD would be that while it offers more robust capabilities for the supply chain, it will not have as strong a finance perspective as CFOs might find with SAP. This factor may be critical for large companies that prioritize finance perspective at the corporate level and use another solution at the plant level. The other weaknesses for QAD would be its technology stack and infrastructure, which still uses very legacy programming languages and is not hosted on the mainstream cloud providers. The mainstream cloud providers have deeper pockets to maintain the infrastructure and security and are more reliable. Considering the pros and cons, QAD is still a very strong solution for automotive companies. And it ranks at #1 on our list of the top automotive ERP systems.
The automotive companies are unique in their needs. The needs could vary in how they forecast their products and how that impacts the demand for the supplies in the automotive ecosystem. They also have unique quality and reporting requirements for each ecosystem, including Toyota and Honda. Not being able to comply with the ever-changing demands of their OEMs may put their scorecards at risk.
Because of this reason, automotive companies require deep automotive-specific capabilities. Using a vanilla ERP for automotive companies could make the implementation risky and expensive due to the need for custom development and error-prone add-ons. If you are evaluating an ERP system for your automotive company, make sure you don’t drown in the generalized ERP features, which would be the critical success factors for your implementation. And hopefully, this list could help you narrow down some options for you.