Top-10-Distribution-ERP-Systems-for-2023

Top 10 Distribution ERP Systems for 2023

Isn’t distribution the easiest business? Buying and selling someone else’s products. Right? How hard could purchasing distribution ERP systems be? Well, the distribution business model could be as complex as other industries. Let’s take the example of industrial distributors. They have varying levels of complexity with their needs for vendor catalogs. They also need support for buying groups and ever-growing support for more UoMs.

The complexity is not just limited to the industrial distributors. Even the FMCG distributors have complications with their processes. These complications may include their need for shelf-life and expiration date management. Compared to other industries, most distributors also have lower margins. So for them, optimizing metrics such as pick per hr are extremely critical. Also, with manufacturers threatening to go DTC, meeting their OEMs’ sales targets is no longer optional. Or they have a risk of losing their relationships. Finally, with the increased number of marketplaces, the architectural complexity has increased exponentially for distributors.

Ultimately, the process complexity and the critical success factors dictate whether an ERP system will be a natural fit for your business processes. While there are similarities among ERP systems, it’s the differences that matter in selecting one. So how to find one that’s right for you? Reviewing the top 10 distribution ERP systems most commonly installed in distribution industries could be a great start. To finalize this list, we have analyzed the capabilities of hundreds of ERP systems 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 them. It’s to help you shortlist some options that you can vet further based on your business model. Ready to review the list?

Criteria

  1. Overall market share/# of customers: The higher the market share of the product, the higher it ranks on our list.
  2. Ownership/funding: The more committed the management to the product roadmap, the higher it ranks on our list.
  3. Quality of development ( legacy vs. legacy dressed as modern vs. modern UX/cloud-native): The more cloud-native the distribution capabilities, the higher it ranks on our list.
  4. Community/Ecosystem: The larger the community for the specific product, the higher it ranks on our list.
  5. Depth of native functionality for specific industries: The deeper the distribution functionality provided out-of-the-box, the higher it ranks on our list.
  6. Quality of publicly available product documentation: The poorer the product documentation, the lower it ranks on our list. 
  7. Distribution Product Share (and documented commitment of the publisher through financial statements): The higher the focus on distribution, the higher the ERP system ranks on our list.
  8. Ability to natively support diversified business models: The more diverse the product, the higher it ranks on our list.
  9. Acquisition strategy aligned with distribution: The more aligned the acquisitions are with distribution, the higher it ranks on our list.
  10. User Reviews: The deeper the reviews on public sites by distribution companies, the higher the score for a particular product.
  11. Must be an ERP product: It can’t be an edge product such as Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow. Ariba, or Coupa. It also can’t be an add-on owned by ISVs or VARs that sits on top of other accounting platforms.


The 2023 Digital Transformation Report

This digital transformation report summarizes our annual research on ERP and digital transformation trends and forecasts for the year 2023.

10. Oracle Cloud ERP

Oracle Cloud ERP targets large distribution companies with over 10 global locations (over $1B in revenue) and with the workload requirements of millions of transactions per hr. It’s primarily suitable for large distribution companies that host the majority of their distribution processes inside OMS and WMS/TMS while treating ERP as the financial reporting system. It’s not the best fit for SMB distribution companies (with limited IT capabilities internally) seeking full-suite capabilities.

Strengths
  • WMS and TMS Capabilities Bundled with the ERP. Oracle Cloud ERP has WMS and TMS processes tightly embedded as part of the ERP transactions. But that might not work for every distributor, as sometimes decoupling warehouse architecture from the ERP is a requirement, especially for 3PL-like companies.
  • Proven Solution with Large Workloads. Large distributors may process millions of GL entries per hour. The workload Oracle Cloud ERP is designed to handle.
  • Ecosystem.  It has an ecosystem of experienced consultants who have the capabilities to handle the design and architecture of such complex enterprises.
Weaknesses
  • Limited Last-mile Capabilities. The last mile capabilities for specific distribution verticals such as integration with electrical and plumbing ecosystems, credit transfer between the buying groups, or support for B2C transitions might be expensive.
  • Not necessarily a Distribution Solution. it would be a natural fit for distribution verticals in telecom, media, and energy. The product-centric distribution industries might not be the best fit. 
  • Overwhelming for SMB Distributors. Not a fit for SMB distributors looking for a turn-key solution tailored to the processes of the specific micro-vertical.

Overall, large, global, and publicly-traded companies would find Oracle Cloud ERP attractive. It ranks significantly lower this year due to the number of failures we have seen in the distribution verticals but still maintains the rank of #10 on this list.

9. SAP Business One

SAP Business One targets smaller distribution companies with one legal entity and several warehouses. It’s primarily suitable for smaller distribution companies that might be public or in regulated industries that need to be audited. Not a great fit for companies seeking robust operational capabilities in the cloud.

Strengths
  • Rich Financial Traceability. It provides the same document-level traceability as it is available with SAP’s bigger solutions such as SAP S/4 HANA and ByDesign. This traceability is extremely helpful for public companies or companies in regulated industries.
  • Support for HANA. Having HANA as the database allows SAP Business One to be able to process the same workload as S/4, especially for businesses that might have a massive workload of commoditized transactions such as entering millions of serialized parts. 
  • Ecosystem.  SAP Business One has rich ecosystems, with industry partner solutions available including scale, WMS, and shipping solution integration. 
Weaknesses
  • Leaner Cloud Solution. The cloud version has extremely limited distribution capabilities and would not be a fit for most distributors. The other solutions are likely to have native capabilities in the cloud and would not require a thick partner add-on. 
  • Limited Last-mile Capabilities. The last mile capabilities such as buying group credit passthrough, and integration with plumbing and electric codes would be more expensive and technically risky.
  • Limited Integrations. The other solutions such as NetSuite and Acumatica are likely to have more pre-baked integrations with best-of-breed systems such as Shopify, Channel Advisor, and OMS/POS systems.  

Overall, smaller companies in Europe and Latin America would find SAP Business One as attractive as the other systems might not have support for localization in those countries. It ranks lower this year due to the lack of momentum in its ecosystem but still ranks at #9 on this list.

8. SYSPRO

Similar to SAP Business One, SYSPRO targets smaller distribution companies with one legal entity and several warehouses. It’s primarily suitable for food and beverage and FMCG distributors (under $30 million in revenue). Not a great fit for larger distributors with multiple entities or high workload requirements.

Strengths
  • Rich Distribution ERP Systems Functionality Available in Cloud. Its core finance and ERP functionality are very similar to SAP with complex distribution features available such as activity-based costing, complex MRP strategies, and detailed inventory accounting layers.
  • SQL-based Database. Unlike other smaller distribution packages such as the ones in the ECi portfolio, the current versions of SYSPRO is SQL-based and that allows them to do far more heavy lifting than with file-based packages. 
  • Native Capabilities to Support Food and Beverage Distributors. Food and beverage distributors require support for formulas and recipes, a logistics process embedded as part of the ERP functionality, and features such as planning based on food family, etc. 
Weaknesses
  • Ecosystem. While SYSPRO has a great ecosystem and several partners, the ecosystem and consulting support might be limited to the non-food-centric industries. 
  • Limited Last-mile capabilities. The industrial distributors might struggle with the limited last mile capabilities such as buying group credit passthrough, and integration with plumbing and electric codes would be more expensive and technically risky.
  • Limited Integrations. The other solutions such as NetSuite and Acumatica are likely to have more pre-baked integrations with best-of-breed systems such as Shopify, Channel Advisor, and OMS/POS systems.  

Overall, smaller F&B distributors with under $30 million in revenue would find SYSPRO to be attractive. It ranks slightly higher this year due to the lack of momentum for other products and now is at #8 on this list.

7. Infor® CloudSuite Distribution (SX.E)

Infor CloudSuite Distribution (SX.e) is the SMB distribution product from Infor that targets industrial distributors up to $250 million in revenue. It’s especially suitable for industrial distributors with complex business models such as brick-and-mortar locations, eCommerce storefronts, and light custom manufacturing. Not the best fit for FMCG distributors or businesses with complex channels such as DTC.

Strengths
  • Rich Industrial ERP Distribution Systems Capabilities Provided Out-of-the-box. The system natively supports workflows such as image-based shopping lists, buying group credit passthrough, and warehouse-level reconciliation capabilities to support branch-level inventory and accounting.
  • Pre-baked Integrations with Other Pre-baked Industrial Systems. Favorite among industrial buying groups and ecosystems, Infor CSD has pre-baked integrations with several industrial B2B systems such as Optimizely and Unilog. 
  • Infor OS. Compared to other systems on this list that will require separate licensing for integration with Celigo or Dell Boomi, Infor OS can support integration with Infor and Non-Infor systems natively.
Weaknesses
  • Limited Capabilities to Support Diverse Distributors. Need diverse capabilities not used by traditional distributors such as CRM or customer service capabilities? Not a fit.
  • Weak Data Structure to Gain Operational Efficiencies. The data structure is not as fluid as other ERP systems such as Acumatica or NetSuite to support 1:N scenarios, required to achieve operational efficiency.
  • Limited Pre-baked Integrations for Diverse Businesses. Companies with diverse architecture needs might struggle when they need support for systems such as pre-baked EDI connectivity, marketplace integration, or other eCommerce platforms not in the B2B industries.  

Overall, legacy industrial distributors with a brick-and-mortar business model with light manufacturing needs will find Infor SX.e attractive. It ranks slightly higher this year due to the lack of momentum for other products and now is at #7 on this list.

6. Epicor Prophet 21

Epicor Prophet 21 is the SMB distribution product from Epicor that targets industrial distributors up to $250 million in revenue. It’s especially suitable for distributors with extensive catalogs of industrial products and control systems. Not the best fit for FMCG distributors or businesses with complex channels such as DTC.

Strengths
  • Rich Industrial ERP Distribution Systems Capabilities Provided Out-of-the-box. The system natively supports complex relationships between vendors and suppliers (and buying groups). Along with capabilities such as branch accounting and retail-centric material flow and warehouse architecture.
  • Best for Prescriptive Architecture. Epicor Prophet 21 is a good fit when you can replace/use the systems provided in the Epicor ecosystem such as payment providers, POS systems, shipping add-ons, and marketplace integrations. 
  • Pre-integrated with Other Best-of-breed Industrial B2B Systems. Integration with other best-of-breed industrial eCommerce systems such as Optimizely or Unilog is pre-baked.
Weaknesses
  • Limited Capabilities to Support Diverse Distributors. Only fit for businesses with traditional business models with a limited number of channels. Not fit for modern distributors and DTC-centric businesses.
  • Legacy Technology. The UI experience is highly inferior compared to other modern cloud-native systems with limited capabilities with Universal search and complex features developed because of underlying technological limitations.
  • Ecosystem. Limited number of consultants and partners available to support the product. The marketplace is extremely limited to create the best-of-breed architecture.

Overall, legacy industrial distributors with complex catalogs with light assembly needs will find Epicor Prophet 21 attractive. It ranks slightly higher this year due to the lack of momentum for other products and now is at #6 on this list.

5. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is the SMB distribution product from Microsoft that targets FMCG distributors and construction-centric distributors. It’s especially suitable for distributors with complex supply chain networks and warehousing needs. Not the best fit for industrial distributors.

Strengths
  • Rich Distribution ERP Systems Capabilities Natively Supported. Replenishment strategies such as warehouses level transfers, license plate construction, and bin-level capabilities are supported out-of-the-box for complex distribution businesses.
  • Cloud-native Architecture. The product has been completely rearchitected using the cloud-native architecture. Cloud capabilities are stronger than competing products such as SAP Business One.
  • Global Capabilities and Ecosystem. Unlike several products such as Acumatica that is primarily a North American product, it has support for several European, Asian, and African countries where most products might struggle.
Weaknesses
  • LImited Capabilities to Support Diverse Distributors. Only fit for FMCG-centric distributors. The industrial distribution would require add-ons to support capabilities such as buying groups, HVAC code integration, and vendor catalogs.
  • Unproven Add-ons and Unqualified Consulting Networks. Microsoft partner processes are not as streamlined as other vendors. So it may require the help of an independent ERP consultant to vet the add-ons and architecture in the Microsoft ecosystem.
  • Ecosystem. While the ecosystem may have options for distribution industries where BC specializes in, it might not have integrations with the best-of-breed eCommerce systems in the industrial distribution space.

Overall, FMCG distribution and construction-centric distributors will find Business Central attractive. It ranks slightly higher this year due to the lack of momentum for other products and now is at #5 on this list.

4. Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O

Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O is the flagship product from Microsoft that targets larger distributors with over $1B in revenue (and more than 10-20 entities). It’s especially suitable for larger companies with several business models and a global footprint. Not the best fit for smaller companies with limited internal IT capabilities.

Strengths
Weaknesses
  • Financial Traceability and Audit Support. Complex global organizations may struggle with financial traceability and SOX compliance capabilities.
  • Large Workloads. Compared to SAP S/4 HANA, it might not be able to match the performance expectations of large complex organizations where companies may need to process millions of journal entries per hr.
  • Overwhelming for Smaller Organizations. The complex workflows built to support the processes of large, complex organizations may overwhelm organizations seeking simpler solutions without unnecessary processes and approval flows.

Overall, large complex global companies with more than $1B in revenue will find Microsoft Dynamics F&O attractive. And it still maintains the same rank as the last year at #4.

3. SAP S/4 HANA

SAP S/4 HANA is the flagship product from SAP that targets larger distributors with over $1B in revenue (and more than 10-20 entities). It’s especially suitable for larger companies with high-volume transactional requirements like 1 million journal entries per hour. Not the best fit for smaller companies with limited internal IT capabilities.

Strengths
  • Large Workloads. SAP S/4 HANA could process more than 100K serialized goods receipts within 22 secs while Oracle Cloud ERP took more than 18 mins for the same test. SAP S/4 HANA’s design allows companies to process the workloads requirements of fortune 500 when every other system might struggle.
  • Best-of-breed Architecture for Distributors. SAP’s best-of-breed architecture can support the business model of large distributors, irrespective of whether they are a traditional distributor or a combination of 3PL, which typically has a different warehouse and TMS architecture than traditional distributors.
  • Financial Traceability and Control. Fortune 500 organizations with shared service models spread in multiple countries would appreciate the financial traceability built at the document level.
Weaknesses
  • Weak Operational Capabilities for the Cloud. The last-mile capabilities available with some of the mid-market products may require substantial development with SAP S/4 HANA.
  • Limited Pre-baked Integration. The third-party integration options such as integration with eCommerce platforms, POS systems, channel connectivity, etc may require substantial development efforts.
  • Overwhelming for Smaller Organizations. The complex workflows built to support the processes of large, complex organizations may overwhelm organizations seeking simpler solutions without unnecessary processes and approval flows.

Overall, large complex global companies with more than $1B in revenue will find SAP S/4 HANA attractive. And it still maintains the same rank as the last year at #3.

2. Acumatica

Acumatica targets smaller distributors with up to $100 million in revenue with a couple of entities in a handful of countries. It’s especially suitable for smaller distributors with a B2B business model. Not the best fit for larger companies with complex global operations or large workload requirements.

Strengths
  • B2B Data Model and Processes. Acumatica’s data model is especially attractive for B2B companies with complex customer hierarchies such as buying groups, vendor catalogs, B2B pricing, and branch accounting for inventory reconciliation across channels.
  • Consumption-based Pricing. Acumatica’s consumption-based pricing may be especially attractive for companies with seasonal workers and low transaction volume.
  • Diverse Businesses in the Same Product. Acumatica’s product architecture allows hosting all manufacturing, construction, field service, and distribution as part of the same product. That can support very complex business models.
Weaknesses
  • Limited Global Capabilities. Acumatica is primarily a North American solution with very limited exposure globally. The product architecture has limitations when multiple countries with different currencies and sub-ledgers need to be hosted as part of the same solution.
  • Not a Fit for Larger Distributors. Acumatica’s sweet spot is companies under $100 million dollars in revenue. Acumatica may struggle and may be slower with the workloads for companies with over $100 million in revenue.
  • Limited Capabilities for B2C Business Models. Acumatica has limited support for B2C business models to support the processes of individual consumers. As well as limited support for B2C-centric platforms such as connectivity with marketplaces etc.

Overall, smaller distributors with entities in a handful of countries will find Acumatica attractive. And it still maintains the same rank as the last year at #2.

1. NetSuite

NetSuite targets SMB distributors with up to $1B in revenue with several entities globally. It’s especially suitable for eCommerce and retail-centric business models with consumerized products. Not the best fit for B2B and industrial distributors with complex distribution and manufacturing needs.

Strengths
  • B2C Data Model and Processes. NetSuite’s data model is especially attractive for B2C companies with integration requirements with several B2C channels such as marketplaces.
  • Global Capabilities. NetSuite can natively support the localization requirements of more than 100 countries. As well as consolidating and supporting intercompany transactions.
  • Ecosystem. NetSuite has one of the largest ecosystems with pre-baked integration available to support the integration with multiple digital and physical channels. As well as 3PL providers.
Weaknesses
  • Limited B2B Capabilities. The data model and pricing are not friendly for B2B companies. The pricing layers are not as scalable as other systems such as Acumatica. NetSuite may struggle with the complex product catalog for industrial distributors.
  • Limited Capabilities for Diverse Distributors. Distributors with diverse business models with manufacturing, construction, or field service might require several add-ons.
  • Not Designed for Large Companies. NetSuite may struggle with transactional workload requirements of companies over $1B and the ones that might be acquiring 10-20 entities every year.

Overall, SMB distributors with B2C business models will find NetSuite attractive. And it still maintains the same rank as the last year at #1.

Conclusion

Distribution businesses are natively different. Their need for the planning cycle and how they structure distribution networks are entirely different. While you might feel that most manufacturing ERP systems might be able to support the needs of a distribution organization, they will never feel as natural. And your employees might end up performing most of their planning on a spreadsheet or using a siloed add-on that will be a bottleneck to your process scalability. 

So next time, if you are evaluating a distribution ERP system, pay attention to the fine line and select the right-sized distribution ERP system for your company.

FAQs

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Send this to a friend