By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-03-13 Print this article Print

OpenMFGs namesake enterprise resource planning application is a good midlevel solution for companies looking to move up from a basic accounting and fulfillment application.

OpenMFG 1.3, which began shipping in January, performed well in eWEEK Labs tests, providing an excellent set of accounting, supply chain, planning and execution management tools in a cross-platform client/server solution.

OpenMFG is priced competitively, sold on a subscription and perpetual license basis. Pricing starts at $2,500 per user for a perpetual license and at $1,000 per user per year for a subscription with 15 users. In both cases, the number and types of modules users access affect pricing.

As the abbreviation in the name implies, OpenMFG 1.3 is designed for manufacturing companies. However, the underlying data structure that makes the software well-suited for manufacturers also makes it a good fit for companies that sell goods—particularly those that do complex bundling of goods, such as distributors.

A couple of factors set OpenMFG apart from traditionally licensed ERP products in this space, such as Sage Softwares MAS 90 and MAS 200 or Everest Softwares Everest 3.0. The biggest difference is the way OpenMFG has been written—in a client/server architecture using open-source software, including Trolltechs Qt and PostgreSQL Global Development Groups PostgreSQL.

By using Qt and PostgreSQL, OpenMFG has been able to develop a client application that runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. Most competing products are limited to a Windows client or a Web-based user interface that delivers a subset of functionality.

OpenMFG is licensing the product through a permissive source code arrangement. OpenMFG doesnt have an open-source license, the application isnt available for free, and third parties cant modify the source code and distribute modifications for free. However, the license OpenMFG uses allows companies to view and modify source code, as well as make contributions to the source code, two things ERP vendors generally do not allow in this SMB (small and midsize business) market segment.

Click here to read more about open-source ERP software.

ERP made simpler

OpenMFGs functionality is divided into four sets of modules: accounting, supply chain, execution, and definition and planning.

OpenMFGs modules are packaged in a cohesive and easy-to-manage format. Companies with limited IT resources could easily install the software and manage user rights and privileges, but they will likely need to bring in some consultative expertise to deploy the software in conjunction with requisite training and data migration.

The OpenMFG modules provide all the respective basics using the Association for Operations Managements language and workflow. Smaller companies also will likely need to bring in a reseller or consultant for customization because extending the platform or adding features will require an understanding of Qt (not exactly a common area of expertise in your average organization) and PostgreSQL. PostgreSQL is the only supported database because the application uses PostgreSQLs PL/pgSQL language to optimize application performance.

OpenMFG has done a good job building an interface and workflows that make it relatively easy for users to input and manage information in each of the modules. Each module has a dedicated menu that shows elements of the module, and OpenMFG presents common operations across modules through a central tool bar.

We liked that relevant information is generally just a button click away in any form that requires grabbing data that likely already exists in the system, such as lists of customers, suppliers and parts.

We also appreciated the use of regular expressions to speed access to product categories, vendor types, and class and planner codes. For example, expressions allow planners to more efficiently find work orders.

The product also supports aliases for products, making it easy to process purchase orders when customers refer to products by different names.

The execution module and definition and planning module manage the manufacturing and supply chain information that put the "MFG" in OpenMFG. These modules also make the product suitable for any company managing distribution.

Reporting is integrated throughout the application, with each module providing access to reports through submenus off the main module menu or from within a form. While there isnt a traditional report generator within the application, OpenMFGs open-source report writer, OpenRPT, has been embedded for creating custom reports.

Security is managed through a user and privilege model. Each module includes a set of privileges that provide granular access to data in each of the modules. Next Page: Evaluation shortlist.


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