SYSPRO Review

Our review was written by Michael Burns and published in the CAmagazine in January 2006. Although the atricle is a few years old, it should still provide a good starting point in your evaluation. We will try to provide more up to date review in the near future.

Introduction

SYSPRO is coming on strong in Canada. They have had an office in Vancouver since 1986, with coast-to-coast representation through its reseller channel for many years, and just opened up an office in Toronto in July 2005. Sales have gone up by 35% in the past 12 months. Another example of SYSPRO's involvement in Canada is that the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) named SYSPRO as the first CCTP (Collaborative Community Trading Platform) certified ERP Vendor in June 2004. CME launched CCTP as an industry-wide initiative to deliver eBusiness solutions for small and mid sized manufacturers.

Target Market

SYSPRO is known for its manufacturing system. SYSPRO handles both discrete and batch manufacturing. Discrete manufacturers build single items such as furniture or vehicles. Batch processing applies to products such as food, pharmaceuticals or plastics. SYSPRO is targeted to mid market manufacturers and distributors with revenues between $5 Million and $250 Million with 10 to 1,000 employees. A SYSPRO implementation for say 15 users would cost a minimum of $75,000 for licence and implementation fees.

Enhancements

SYSPRO is clearly investing in the product with a number of recent enhancements to the system. A big improvement is SYSPRO's use of Crystal Reports as the report writer. Crystal allows you to change existing reports, generate more professionally looking reports with graphics. You can also save options used to generate the report so that you can rerun it later without re-entering the options again. Another big enhancement is the release of their mobile applications allowing you to use SYSPRO at the point of work. You could use a PDA to place orders on the road or a rugged handheld to scan and post receipts or shipments in the warehouse. Prices have fallen for these devices and so it is now much easier to make a compelling business case for mobile applications. The handhelds in the warehouse communicate to the system via WiFi (wireless fidelity - same technology used to wirelessly connect your home computers); the PDA's could be linked using Bell's CDMA or Roger's GPRS system.

SYSPRO has also released its own Business Intelligence (BI) system recently. BI has become a hot topic in accounting and ERP systems, which have been typically good at generating lots of transactions but not good at getting information out (data rich and information poor). OLAP (On Line Analytical Processing) has become the BI tool of choice. OLAP lets you slice and dice your operations across multiple dimensions and graph the results easily. Some vendors have integrated their systems with best of breed tools such Cognos PowerPlay. SYSPRO decided to build their own OLAP system, which makes OLAP more affordable.

User Interface

SYSPRO's user interface is strong when it comes to menus and retrieving information from its list views, whereby you can easily retrieve information using filters on key fields or on any part of any field. The list view is like Excel and you can easily add or change the columns. However, the list view does not include user defined fields. SYSPRO has also released a subset of their system available through a browser. Web functionality includes Order Entry, Customer Statements, Customer Information Change and Supplier Information Change. SYSPRO shows its age when it comes to their standard screens for maintenance and transaction processing. The screens are fixed and you are unable to make any changes to them. Although this, in and of itself, does not make the system unuseable, it is an area of the product that SYSPRO has earmarked for redevelopment. SYSPRO is in the process of adding flexibility to the user interface as a result of new development tools available that will enable users to add fields anywhere they like on existing screens, and customize the user interface - all of which is due for release in Q1 2006.

Manufacturing

SYSPRO shines when it comes to manufacturing. There are 15 levels in their Bill of Materials (components used to make a product) and you can have up to 10 routings (operations to make a product) for each product. Engineering Change Control prevents new purchase orders, jobs or sales orders being raised for any products if there has been an engineering change. Existing orders can be placed on hold.

Other features worth mentioning include a configurator and inventory optimization. SYSPRO includes a rules-based configurator which is a great tool for companies that have many features and options associated with products such as furniture. Inventory optimization was also recently released and it includes tools to generate forecasts using sophisticated statistical modeling that you won't typically find in other ERP systems. Coming soon will be multiple dimensions that you could attach to products allowing for analysis of products by different dimensions such as by product group. You could use the dimension in the forecasting algorithm to, for example, estimate the forecast of a new product based on trends in the product group to which it belongs.

SYSPRO's Advance Planning and Scheduling (APS) program would be useful to those companies with demanding manufacturing requirements. With APS, you could collect shop floor information in real time. You could plan production based on the availability and qualifications of employees as well as the availability and performance of the machines. You could do what-if scenarios for possible changes to the schedule to see their impact.

Bottom Line

SYSPRO is a private company that Phil Duff founded with his brother in 1978 in his basement in Johannesburg, South Africa. Phil still maintains overall responsibility for managing SYSPRO worldwide. When asked in a recent interview about going public, Phil responded "In the lead-up to the now-infamous dot-com crash, many people asked me when I was planning to list. Thankfully I didn't. Firstly, I wasn't prepared to have to bow to the whims of shareholders, and I wasn't really interested in the "get-rich-quick" attitude that dominated the industry at that time. I'd also heard horror stories from colleagues regarding the things they had to do to meet shareholder expectations, and some of them were things they weren't really proud of."

SYSPRO is one of the few ERP systems that have been untouched by consolidation as vendors get bigger and bigger in acquiring other ERP systems. When asked about consolidation, Phil said "Our independence and focused product line give us a competitive advantage over larger multinational players. Not being a big player is an added advantage. Many of our customers are owner-managers. We really understand their needs because we've built this company ourselves."