Technology Evaluation Centers: xTuple 4.11 ERP Delivers Connectivity & Commerce to Manufacturers and Distributors

Thursday, August 30, 2018

From TEC Principal Analyst Predrag (PJ) Jakovljevic: xTuple, a leading commercial open source enterprise resource planning (ERP) software suite, with integrated customer relationship management (CRM) software, now offers real-time ecommerce capabilities to support the omnichannel needs of manufacturing and distribution companies. Based on open source enterprise software technologies, the ERP software product provides good value at an affordable price. Currently, xTuple has more than 30 employees and more than 600 commercial ERP customers.

 

Topics: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) | Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) | Manufacturing | Sales and Marketing | Transportation | Warehousing


Table of Contents

 

Current xTuple Snapshot

Customers of xTuple comprise mostly of manufacturers in make-to-order (MTO), make-to-stock (MTS), and mixed-mode environments (after all, the company was originally called OpenMFG). The vendor’s areas of focus include specialty food processors (seemingly a huge growth area, with many Whole Foods suppliers as customers), electronics (a good overlap with open source ERP software enthusiasts), and industrial machinery (companies seeking xTuple’s support for mixed-mode/lean/JIT [just in time] manufacturing).

In addition, many xTuple customers are also distributors in electrical; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); plumbing; industrial; and consumer wholesale distribution. These companies use the xTuple ERP Distribution Edition. The recently released xTupleCommerce online portal offers a real-time, web-based connection to xTuple ERP to deliver direct access for business partners and customers — around the clock and from anywhere in the world (see figure 1).

 

Figure 1. xTupleCommerce Components Fit Finder

 

xTuple has got a decent international footprint outside of North America, due to strong partnerships in Mexico, Australia, Europe, and New Zealand (which also cover several good-sized accounts in China). The company has about 30 quality partners, and strong direct accounts in the UK.

There are nearly 30 languages supported in various stages of general availability completion. With solid and active partners (e.g., Quebec and Mexico), the commercial xTuple ERP product has the most complete language translations, whereas xTuple’s free community-based entry-level PostBooks® accounting product is less complete percentage-wise.

xTuple gives its on-premise customers the choice of multi-platform support for Windows, Mac, and Linux OS, and various mobile devices as well as flexible and transparent licensing and pricing options. Cloud deployments are ticking up every year, both as a percentage of new deals and overall (as existing on-premise customers migrate to the cloud), due in large part to xTuple’s generous first three months free and no hosting lock-in and data ownership policy. About 25% of all commercial xTuple ERP customers are now in the cloud, deployments which include an off-site backup and disaster recovery service to protect from hardware failures and data loss.

 

xTuple’s Software Release Strategy

The vendor plans to deliver two major xTuple ERP software releases per year as well as four to six minor ERP releases. The same would apply to xTupleCommerce. So, for 2018, there will be xTuple ERP 4.11.x, 4.12.x, and perhaps a preview of 5.0.x. For xTupleCommerce, there will be 1.0.x and 1.1.x (and maybe a 2.0 alpha release by year’s end).

The recently released current version xTuple 4.11 includes xTupleCommerce 1.0, the business-to-business (B2B) sales and customer service web portal. With this release, xTuple expands third-party application program interfaces (APIs) and offers customers more convenience to access and analyze real-time data at-a-glance. The xTuple 4.11 release features expanded access to its ERP objects via a Representational State Transfer API (RESTful API). This ensures visibility of real-time data, control of enterprise processes to integrated third-party solutions, and expansion of the vendor’s ecosystem.

The release also streamlined key processes, including order entry, billing selection, searching and filtering orders, quoting, and creating credit memos. The improved user experience (UX) incorporates convenience features such as “at-a-glance” status indicators that instantly let customer service personnel determine the status of orders. It also features a redesigned product options configurator that significantly increases the speed of entering orders.

Customers may use discrete web-based pieces of the system, called ERPlets, separately, without using the entire ERP system. xTuple refers to these ERPlets as "Grow your business" tools. To that end, the xTuple 4.11 release adds Landed Cost to support import-export activities; improved Return Authorization reporting; expanded image, document, and file management; and other capabilities.

The release also helps companies in any industry better meet required standards of excellence and document regulatory and/or quality compliance such as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and First Article Inspection (FAI). New quality management capabilities aim to help companies manage and/or improve non-conformance with corrective and preventative actions (CAPAs). The upcoming features and focus of the future xTuple releases will reportedly be the following:

  • Major overhaul of CRM capabilities, to include campaign management and xTupleCommerce views (incidents, projects, etc.)
  • Integration with third-party sales tax and shipping orders
  • Improved capacity scheduling for manufacturing
  • Improved handling of subscriptions and digital downloads
  • Enhancements to email integrations
  • Major payroll and human resource (HR) enhancements
  • Integration with Amazon's B2B marketplace

 

Enter xTupleCommerce

The xTupleCommerce portal is built for B2B buyers, but with the fast and efficient experience for business-to-consumer (B2C) buying. Today’s consumer is accustomed to researching companies and making purchases online for products and services for their families. Those same consumers are the B2B buyers at their work, who want the same tools to make their business buying decisions just as easily and efficiently.

Decades-old established manufacturers have realized almost overnight that savvy and nimble start-up competitors with mobile-ready websites are effectively servicing customers and taking orders online. Wholesale distributors have learned the hard way that the "big boys" manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are scooping up their market over the internet. Many small- and mid-sized manufacturers — that thought their business was too complex for the web or too dependent on a distribution channel — are learning the hard way that in today’s hyper-competitive world of omnichannel commerce (i.e., selling across every channel), more intimate and unique customer experiences improve those important relationships.

xTupleCommerce provides a gateway for manufacturers to communicate directly with their target audience. With their ERP software integrated with xTupleCommerce, these manufacturers are learning to fish where the fish are with right, affordable bait. While integrated ecommerce might not sound like a bleeding-edge and transformative innovation to consumers, it is a big deal to small- and mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies, whose B2B relationships are still almost completely analog.

The xTuple ERP software is installed first, followed by the B2B ecommerce web portal, which puts the ERP data and business rules front and center, to deliver real-time sales and customer service access for a competitive advantage. There is still a serious need for education directed toward manufacturers about omnichannel commerce (distributors already get it) — especially those in JIT, job shop, MTO, and MTS environments.

The lines are being blurred between manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in an omnichannel environment. The goal is to create an improved customer experience by giving prospective buyers what they want, when and how they want it. Manufacturers that don't embrace these omnichannel changes risk being left behind. xTupleCommerce could help them be more productive by automating sales or customer service tasks, offering self-service access to digitally savvy customers, and expanding a company's market via online presence (in addition to brick-and-mortar locations). Traditional advertising channels such as billboards, yellow pages, and radio are expensive and often not sufficient nowadays.

xTuple initially unveiled xTupleCommerce on Drupal 7 several years ago to some early adopter customers. But the vendor had to develop the needed enhancements to the Drupal platform (e.g., object orientation) on its own and before the Drupal community (including the influential commercial Drupal provider Acquia) was able to deliver Drupal 8. The vendor’s xTupleCommerce page offers pricing, key features, business case, etc., while figure 2 gives more of a look-and-feel for xTupleCommerce.

 

Figure 2. xTupleCommerce Components Fit Finder

 

Looking Forward…

The future will see xTuple flesh out its long-planned xTuple XPRESS offering — a packaged, hosted offering of both ERP and ecommerce capabilities that comes with a fixed-time implementation guarantee. The vendor is currently wrapping up the first beta customer, and we should look for more announcements to come on this issue.

Read TEC Report on Benefits of ERP/CRM Integration

Taking advantage of xTupleCommerce, xTuple ERP 4.11 will also include an easy upgrade path for the PostBooks® community edition to a commercial edition. xTuple deserves kudos for offering both ERP and ecommerce capabilities to the extent of its much larger peers, such as Oracle NetSuite, Epicor, and Microsoft Dynamics. Those companies — and others such as Infor, Acumatica, and Rootstock — in some competitive situations will have to count on fierce opposition from a perhaps an unexpected foe in xTuple.

 

Related Reading

Acquia Engage 2017—Enabling Omnichannel Digital Customer Journeys
Are Companies Shifting to Open-source ERP?
xTuple Open Source ERP Software Carves Out Its Solid Niche

 


By PJ Jakovljevic | Principal Analyst

Areas of Expertise: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) | Manufacturing | Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) | Supply Chain Management (SCM) | Wholesale and Retail Trade

Predrag (PJ) Jakovljevic focuses on the enterprise applications market. He has over 20 years of industrial experience within the discrete manufacturing sector, including the machinery and equipment, automotive, construction and engineering, and electronics industries.

Prior to joining TEC, Jakovljevic was a senior consultant in the package-based solutions (PBS) group of CAP Gemini in Houston, Texas (US), with Baan's Manufacturing and Logistics modules as his main field of expertise. At CAP Gemini, Jakovljevic was involved in system demonstrations, software gap analysis for prospective clients, and Baan implementation assignments.

Before CAP Gemini, Jakovljevic was employed as a senior consultant for Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group in Johannesburg (South Africa), where he specialized in Baan's Manufacturing and Logistics modules, and engaged in the processes of ERP package selections, as well as in proposal preparation. Jakovljevic served as a team lead for manufacturing, and for service and maintenance package system integration. As a consultant he has been involved in business requirements definition and software gap analysis, business process mapping to software functionality, software configuration and parameter setup, and key user training.

Jakovljevic holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Belgrade in Serbia. He has also been certified in production and inventory management (CPIM) and integrated resources management (CIRM), and is an Association for Operations Management (APICS)-certified supply chain professional (CSCP).

Reprinted with permission from Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC)