What a ‘true’ ERP system for growers means

My name is Baroness Anastasia Genevieve Vanderbilt-Rockefeller, and I am the Supreme Ruler of the Known Universe.

Ok, you got me. That’s not my real name. And despite my sometimes over-inflated ego, that’s not my title either — although when I tell people I’m the marketing director for a software company, sometimes they assume I mean Microsoft or Sage, or something like that.

Amanda Tomaini

Not Microsoft material. (I’m the one on the left.)

But what would happen if I let people assume that I am the marketing director for a Fortune 500 software company instead of here at Practical Software Solutions? It might be fun for a little while. I may get treated a bit better by some, and I may gain some benefits or special privileges that I hadn’t earned. But it would also unravel pretty quickly. There would be obvious clues (like my lack of polished wardrobe or lack of knowledge about those companies). And a quick bit of research would prove my current employment is right here in Concord, N.C.

I bring this up is because I want to talk about what a “true ERP system” for the greenhouse industry actually is. And just like verifying my credentials is as easy as a Google search, so is verifying what a true ERP system is. According to the Wikipedia entry Enterprise resource planning, “ERP provides an integrated real-time view of core business processes, using common databases maintained by a database management system.”

(Let me pause here. My journalism senses are tingling right now. I know Wikipedia is not 100 percent reliable as a source because entries can be changed by anyone who signs up for an account. And despite the fact that this entry was last updated on April 24, I give you my word that nobody here at Practical Software Solutions has made any changes to this entry. We’re not that desperate, sycophantic or lame. Also, to maintain an unbiased account, I will only use facts from this article that need no citation or are cited from reputable sources.)

If you want to get down to brass tacks, we could stop right there. If your business system does not have an “integrated real-time view of core business processes” or does not use “common databases maintained by a database management system,” then you are not using a true ERP system. Luckily for the horticulture industry, Grower Vertical for Sage ERP has these characteristics. When we created Grower Vertical with Metrolina Greenhouses, it gave growers the ability to leverage a true ERP solution that was made with traditional manufacturers in mind.

But let’s dive a bit deeper. According to Wikipedia, the following are the characteristics of an ERP system (I’m omitting the first bullet point from the entry because it’s listed as needing a citation):

  • A common database that supports all applications
  • A consistent look and feel across modules
  • Installation of the system without elaborate application/data integration by the Information Technology (IT) department, provided the implementation is not done in small steps

That’s three big check marks for Sage ERP and Grower Vertical, according to Matt Holland, Practical’s director of customized solutions. But let’s also look at the common functional areas of an ERP system as listed in the Wikipedia entry:

  • Financial accounting: General ledger, fixed asset, payables including vouchering, matching and payment, receivables cash application and collections, cash management, financial consolidation
  • Management accounting: Budgeting, costing, cost management, activity based costing
  • Human resources: Recruiting, training, payroll, benefits, 401K, diversity management, retirement, separation
  • Manufacturing: Engineering, bill of materials, work orders, scheduling, capacity, workflow management, quality control, manufacturing process, manufacturing projects, manufacturing flow, product life cycle management
  • Order Processing: Order to cash, order entry, credit checking, pricing, available to promise, inventory, shipping, sales analysis and reporting, sales commissioning.
  • Supply chain management: Supply chain planning, supplier scheduling, product configurator, order to cash, purchasing, inventory, claim processing, warehousing (receiving, putaway, picking and packing).
  • Project management: Project planning, resource planning, project costing, work break down structure, billing, time and expense, performance units, activity management
  • Customer relationship management: Sales and marketing, commissions, service, customer contact, call center support – CRM systems are not always considered part of ERP systems but rather Business Support systems (BSS).
  • Data services : Various “self–service” interfaces for customers, suppliers and/or employees

Again, Matt said that every one of these functions are integrated into Grower Vertical and Sage ERP.

The fact of the matter is ERP systems were born out of the manufacturing industry via Material Requirements Planning. Even early ERP systems that weren’t created for manufacturing still were created to serve the same purpose: business systems integration. The irony is that we occasionally get flack for not being born out of the horticulture industry. That may be true, but because we’ve been helping traditional manufacturing companies find integrated business solutions for the past 20 years, it’s given us a leg up to help the horticulture industry achieve the same goal.

Carts at Metrolina Greenhouses

Metrolina Greenhouses originally used Sage MAS 200 ERP in their greenhouse operations, but didn’t use it to its fullest potential.

Matt said that’s exactly what Metrolina Greenhouses was looking for when they came to us. They had been using Sage ERP MAS 200 (now known as Sage 100 Advanced) with an add-on to meet their needs in the greenhouse; however, they weren’t using the software to its fullest potential, with integration across their entire company. They worked with us to create Grower Vertical so it met the specific needs of the horticulture industry, and we provided Sage 500 ERP as a solid foundation to bring the integration they were looking for.

In a nutshell, you can call your software system whatever you want. But unless your software meets the requirements listed above, then you’re not using a true ERP system. Luckily, Grower Vertical and Sage ERP provides all this for the horticulture industry.

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