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How is ERPNext with ReWork Management, QB Integration, Shop Loading, and Profitability Forcasting?

Hello everyone! I came across ERPNext a few days ago and I’m very intrigued! Unfortunately, at least here in the USA, ERPNext seems almost non-existent so it’s been difficult finding answers and getting honest reviews and comparisons.

I’m looking to use this ERP system for manufacturing and some of the more important things I need from it I’ll highlight below. I’m currently trying to compare it to Odoo and at first glance, it seems like Odoo does a lot more for manufacturing, but I could be wrong. Here are the most important things I’m trying to accomplish:

  • We use Quickbooks Desktop and so we’ll need to be able to connect ERPNext so the two programs can share data. We’ll be using ERPNext in the cloud.
  • We need to fully track labor hours across all internal departments, customers, and individual products. This is important as we want to use this data to understand product build times and thus have better project tracking and planning to properly estimate lead times.
  • ReWork Management & Tracking: Track products that we have to take back, repair, and bring up to spec (usually due to manufacturing defects). We want to understand where our biggest opportunities for improvement are across our production lines so we can improve quality assurance.
  • Shop Loading: We want to forecast things like, “what if we want to build 1,000 more units by X date, can we do it?”
  • Profitability: Finally, we want to know if we’re making money/losing money based on customer invoices vs. tracked hours/material orders and overall costs to manufacture each product. We want to know this at a per-product level and a company level.

I know that ERPNext is fully open source so a lot of this can be custom-built. However, I’m unsure if the system can do any of these things out of the box so to speak.

For those experienced with not only ERPNext, but also manufacturing, what do you think? Even better if you have a comparison or opinion for me on Odoo vs ERPNext.

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Hi,
Thanks for posting this here,
My response to your respective queries:

  • Quickbooks: Why use quickbooks when you can use accounting in ERPNext itself?
  • Reports & Dashboards: You could easily track labour hours across any other field using the Report View and/or creating a Dashboard.
  • ReWork Management & Tracking: ERPNext has Quality Module which could be useful in your case along with Corrective Job Card.
  • Shop Loading: Need to make custom report.
  • Profitability: You could set-up accounting dimensions to get Profit & Loss Statement. Else you could create a custom report too.
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Hi Richard,

TLDR: Most of what you’re looking for does not exist, and will require customization.

  • There are no known integrations with either Quickbooks Desktop or Quickbooks Online. I believe in the next 1-2 years, this will probably happen. But as you noted, here in the USA, ERPNext is still rather unknown. There hasn’t been a demand/budget for building these types of integrations. So…no one has developed and published them yet.

  • In terms of tracking labor, ERPNext offers some basic timesheets that you can log against Customers and Projects. But not departments or products.

  • There is nothing like the ReWork system you mentioned, nor any kind of RMA. This is a big gap on your list.

  • There is no Forecasting or Master Scheduling/Planning tool like this. There are a few basic reports. And some buttons to create Purchase Orders from Sales Orders, or Material Requests. But no demand/manufacturing planning system.

  • In terms of profitability reporting as you described, you’d have to write your own report. To be fair to ERPNext, you’d probably have to write this kind of report in most ERP systems. It’s just very unlikely any ‘out-of-the-box report’ would display profitability in exactly the way you expect it to. The invoices and revenue is easy. Allocating time, freight, and other costs per Product? That’s the trick.

I don’t have personal knowledge of Odoo, so cannot say whether it’s a better fit for your requirements.

ERPNext is a “work in progress”. In my opinion, it’s a DIY web framework 1st. And an ERP system 2nd. Compared to other commercial ERPs I’ve worked with, it’s very lightweight.

There is no known QB interface available at this time. It would require you to have a developer customize that for you.

BKM

Thanks for your incredible response! I know this is one hell of a loaded question, but in your experience, if these things were to be customized and built into the system, how long do you think that would take a developer or customizer? A month? 6 months? A year?

And finally, can ERPNext perform adequate project and entire company Gantt charts, capacity planning and forecasting, and inventory tracking out of the box or with little customization?

I’m in an interesting situation where I have less than a month to implement something with the most features that I can get from that list. Once that month is done, I can scrap everything and start fresh and build exactly what is needed.

Well, the answer entirely depends on how we define “adequate.” Some people are quite pleased with ERPNext’s capabilities as-is. Others less-so. My personal opinion is it’s okay with inventory tracking out-of-the-box. But inadequate in terms of forecasting and capacity planning.

I’d say adding all the capabilities you listed could easily take 6-12 months of development work. A bi-directional Quickbooks integration is no easy task. And beefing up ERPNext’s planning capabilities is a huge undertaking as well.

I think I can give you a pretty honest comparison between Odoo and ERPNext, though I’m probably a little biased toward ERPNext. I haven’t used Odoo in a while (the last version I used was 9), but I think I have a pretty good handle on what Odoo is and what ERPNext is. I’m a current user of ERPNext. For background, I was the ops manager at a couple of companies using QuickBooks Desktop that completely outgrew it in short order - not that QB is ever a great option for companies that make things - but with some pretty big resistance from accounting for a switch to something else.

As a sidenote, I’m no longer involved with a company that manufactures or that has inventory, so I can’t answer specific questions about most of your use cases as I haven’t used manufacturing or inventory modules in either ERP. I can give you the 10,000 ft view of each, I think, though.

Odoo

I’m assuming since you’re looking at the hosted version of ERPNext, you’re comparing it to the same offering from Odoo. Through version 8 of Odoo, it was a lot like ERPNext. All of it was open source. The only difference between the community version and the enterprise version was the option to let Odoo host and support plans. Starting with version 9, the community and enterprise versions diverged. They like to say that the community version and the enterprise version aren’t all that different. They say the enterprise version is 80% open source and 20% proprietary. The only problem is the good stuff is in that remaining 20%. So if you’re looking at the hosted version, you’ll get that 20% of good stuff (I have used both the hosted enterprise version and the self-hosted community version).

Now I’ll segue for a second. The Odoo app store has something like 4.2 trillion apps. There’s functionality you can bolt on for many, many things. Odoo basically offers three tiers:

  • Self-host the community version
  • Self-host the enterprise version
  • Use the enterprise version on their cloud

There’s also hosting on odoo.sh. I don’t know anything about this or how it works with 3rd party apps.

Since going proprietary with the 20%, they’ve been trying to include all the popular features inside of the cloud version from the app store (which is partially free and partially paid apps). However, if you are on their cloud, you can’t install any of the 3rd-party apps from the app store. If the functionality you need is there, great! If it’s not, you’re out of luck - you can’t extend functionality with something that has already been developed and is available in the Odoo app store.

That being said, you might find that Odoo has the functionality you’re looking for built-in, but if you need to customize, you’ll have to self-host (this includes with the enterprise version - self-hosting allows you to install 3rd-party apps or apps you develop whether using community or enterprise). I do think their manufacturing module is further along, especially given the features you listed that you need, than is ERPNext’s.

If you decide to go the Odoo route, need further customization to fit your business processes, and decide to self-host, then you can definitely develop those features. I will say, though, that Odoo’s code and backend are a bit of a hot mess compared to Frappe and ERPNext. Odoo functions fine for an end-user, but a developer would tell you the backend is held together with duct tape and baling wire. Brian said that ERPNext is a web framework first and an ERP second. That is completely true. Some of the things you need aren’t there. But getting them in there will be a good bit easier in ERPNext than Odoo because of this.

Given you might have to self-host to get a QB integration like some of those on their app store (unless you can do this now with odoo.sh), I’ll stress that enterprise is the only way to go. Not only for the features, but migration from one version to another is included with enterprise. There’s a lot of friction moving to a new version with the community version.

ERPNext

ERPNext has called itself a “monolith” for years. What they meant was, all the features were included in the ERP. There’s even full verticals in ERPNext, like agriculture and retail (healthcare was in there until it was pulled out recently). Basically, they wanted an environment where all features were under the hood and development was concentrated on improving Frappe/ERPNext’s core instead of a million piecemeal apps. Right now, they’re in the process of shifting gears a bit and making it more modular. I think the eventual goal is for just about every module (and definitely the verticals) to be broken out where they can stand alone.

At the same time, with the introduction of Frappe Marketplace recently, custom apps are being encouraged. Hopefully we’ll see more apps that fit regional and industry-specific needs.

It’s definitely missing some of the features you need, but let’s focus on what’s good to start with. ERPNext is designed to be good at the core functions every business needs. This whole idea that because it’s open source it needs to be hacked to a specific company’s mold is kind of the notion it tries to avoid. 90% of the time, your processes will probably follow its workflows.

With that being said, if you’re in a specific industry that operates a little differently or have some other specific requirements, ERPNext is super-easy to customize for the functionality that is there. You have lots of options for modifying whatever you’re dealing with across the platform… You can make it behave how you want from the front-end with no code. I will say, it takes a bit of getting used to the power that comes with ERPNext, but you’ll end up with a few power users where somebody in manufacturing can be like, “Hey Jan, how can I make it do this?” And Jan can modify it for that particular process pretty easily (or show them how).

As far as upgrading, the Frappe team doesn’t introduce any intentional friction. If you don’t have any custom apps, then you’ll have a seamless upgrade more than likely. If you do have custom apps, they may work on the newer version or might need some tweaking if something in ERPNext or Frappe got completely reworked. For instance, there’s custom apps out there, like POS Awesome, that work on both 12 and 13.

If you were to develop a custom app, it can be installed on ERPNext’s enterprise hosting, Frappe Cloud, or a self-hosted deployment fairly effortlessly.

Once you use it a bit, it’s an extremely intuitive system. You will totally need some additional features for what you want to achieve, but I think in the long run, you’ll be happier in an investment with this than anything else if you have the budget and time for it.

Conclusion

I’m a bit of an enthusiast for this ERP (if you haven’t noticed) and this is only my opinion, but given the rapid changes Odoo has seen on their sales and marketing side, it looks like their primary motivation is revenue growth. I think that’s an environment where things could look quite differently in just a few years as far as what a company’s ERP spend looks like. Frappe is obviously a for-profit organization, too, but I think they have other motivations and values in addition to revenue growth that lends an air of stability to what things will look like with Frappe/ERPNext down the road.

There’s other ramifications for this divergence in values and paths. I felt a little burnt when Odoo went proprietary with virtually all new features. I don’t mind paying for something I find value in, but at this point, calling it open source is just a marketing gimic. I found ERPNext refreshing. I don’t think there’s any reason to think that Odoo will change its path of making all new things (and old things it can get its hand on) proprietary. I likewise don’t see ERPNext changing its path: it will be a cold day in Miami when pigs fly before ERPNext starts fracturing and closing its system off. They’re exploring all sorts of options (one of which is Frappe Cloud, which is awesome!) for how to best monetize their products, but they’ve made it clear they’re all-in on FOSS. They support not only their own projects but do a ton to foster FOSS development in general. If they were in the US, they would be a B-Corp. They’re definitely someone you feel good trading with because they have an awesome culture. They treat their employees well, their employees want to be there and contribute, and they care about the world around them.

If you’re considering working on ERPNext, everything you want on the manufacturing and inventory end would certainly make the manufacturing module more robust, so you may want to reach out to @umair. He offered to provide some direction to someone wanting to add a feature in this thread. It may be something Frappe would have an interest helping with to have it in the core.

I don’t want to discount what Brian said, though, that what you want to achieve would be a really big undertaking, but I thought I would share my two cents on what I know about these two ERPs.

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Thank you so much. This is an excellent write-up. You’ve gotten to the very core of the issue.

I’d frame the monolith issue a bit differently. You and others have pointed out that development has tended to prioritize Frappe/ERPNext as a framework first and as a set of workflows second. I think that’s absolutely true, and this fact has big implications for OP’s questions. People who come in looking for a ready-to-go Quickbooks alternative tend to be very disappointed. People who come in looking for a transactional data framework upon which they can build their own workflows tend to be amazed by how robust, powerful, and elegant Frappe is.

One consequence of this approach is the UI/UX. I really like the Frappe frontend, especially as it has been evolving in v12-v14. But, in keeping with framework-first principles, the focus has always been on generalizability. As a consequence, different modules and workflows can feel a bit generic. Student enrollments behave a lot like material requests, which behave a lot like invoicing, which behaves a lot like payroll processing, which behaves a lot like webhook setup…

Recently, we’ve been seeing some amazing new apps that really showcase what highly specialized design can do, such as the wiki, the school/LMS app, POS Awesome, etc. These applications are lovely in their own right, and the fact that they are tightly coupled with the ERPNext monolith on the backend makes them immensely powerful. A few years ago, all of this would have felt impossible. Now it feels like the future.

In other words, as I see it, the recent focus on apps is not a shift in philosophy but rather the realization of what Frappe has been working hard on from the beginning. It is, specifically, what Frappe’s framework-first approach makes possible. The monolith is still very much there, and it provides an expansive scope of tightly integrated functionality. Apps are the “leaves” of the dependency tree, suitable for things that depend on the monolith but on which the monolith does not depend. As you say, this has huge implications for the kinds of things that OP is hoping to see. It’s an exciting time!

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