Over the past several years resistance to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS) has been slowly giving way to acceptance. Today, for manufacturers with top performing ERP implementations the pendulum has definitely swung. The Mint Jutras ERP Solution Study found those with World Class implementations are a stunning 63% more willing to consider SaaS than traditional on-premise deployment. In considering The Pros and Cons of SaaS ERP, the advantages appear to outweigh the disadvantages. As noted in that report, the depth and breadth of choice between solutions and deployment options have never been greater.

While many of the SaaS ERP solutions for manufacturers are fairly new to SaaS or just now venturing into the world of manufacturing, Plex Systems and its solution, Plex Online, stands out as a true veteran of both manufacturing and SaaS. How does this fast-growing ERP vendor deliver the advantages of SaaS and how does it address fears that remain in moving ERP to the cloud?

A Long History of SaaS and Manufacturing

Plex Systems, originally established as Plexus Systems in 1995, has offered its solution exclusively through a SaaS deployment model since 2000. How it came to offer an early SaaS solution, long before SaaS ERP was well-accepted is an interesting story. It had little to do with pioneering SaaS and a lot to do with pioneering rapid application development (RAD). As the founders steadily perfected what is today popularized as agile development methodologies, they were looking for a way to deliver innovation as quickly as they could develop it. Knowing traditional upgrade processes could be costly, time-consuming and disruptive, what better way than to relieve their customers of the burden of the upgrade process?

Given the slow acceptance of SaaS ERP until fairly recently, Plex’s early success was in spite of its SaaS delivery model, not because of it. In fact, until recently, if you asked Plex customers if they would consider SaaS ERP, there was still a fairly good chance they would say no (even though that is in fact what they were running). But they would consider ERP hosted by their ERP vendor. They knew the solution wasn’t on their premises but how it was purchased and delivered was of lesser consequence. Most bought because of the solution itself.

From the very beginning Plex’s solution was offered as a multi-tenant SaaS solution where multiple companies use the same instance of software. Yet Plex’s rapid development methods allowed them to customize the delivered solution to the point where customers never needed to care whether the solution was single or multi-tenant. As far as they were concerned the solution was customized to their particular needs. And Plex’s unique approach to opt-in enhancements meant they were not distracted or disrupted by fellow customers’ modifications.

In addition to a long history of SaaS deployment, Plex also has deep roots in manufacturing. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, in Detroit’s back yard, the earliest Plex customers were squarely in the automotive industry. But in recent years Plex has also steadily expanded functionality to other industries. Think of it more as a gradual expansion of the boundaries of existing vertical functionality than any revolutionary or speculative leap into a new sector.  For example, unique traceability requirements for automotive as well as some early customers that mixed rubber to coat steel coils made it easy to transition to recipe management and traceability for processed foods.

Support for Lean methodologies and particular attention to quality management were baked into the solution from the beginning.

So while Plex Systems is not one of the titans of the ERP world, it has an impressive tenure in SaaS and strong roots in manufacturing from which to deliver the advantages of SaaS ERP explained in depth in The Pros and Cons of SaaS ERP. Some of these perceived benefits such as the ability to treat ERP as an operating expense (OpEx) versus a capital expense (CapEx) and the avoidance of Information Technology (IT) resource costs (including hardware and staff) are delivered by many SaaS solutions. But when it comes to delivering the benefits of lower costs and more upgrades, both high in priority, it is important to understand what each solution provider offers.

For a full analysis of where and how Plex fits in as a SaaS ERP provider for manufacturers, please visit the following site: (registration required)

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