Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the planning of how business resources (materials, employees, customers etc.) are acquired and moved from one state to another.

An ERP system is a business support system that maintains in a single database the data needed for a variety of business functions such as Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management, Financials, Projects, Human Resources and Customer Relationship Management.

An ERP system is based on a common database and a modular software design. The common database can allow every department of a business to store and retrieve information in real-time. The information should be reliable, accessible, and easily shared. The modular software design should mean a business can select the modules they need, mix and match modules from different vendors, and add new modules of their own to improve business performance.

Ideally, the data for the various business functions are integrated. In practice the ERP system may comprise a set of discrete applications, each maintaining a discrete data store within one physical database.

ERP originated as an extension of MRP (material requirements planning then manufacturing resource planning) and CIM (computer-integrated manufacturing) and was introduced by research and analysis firm Gartner. ERP systems now attempt to cover all basic functions of an enterprise, regardless of the organization's business or charter. Non-manufacturing businesses, non-profit organizations and governments now all use ERP systems.

To be considered an ERP system, a software package must provide the function of at least two systems. For example, a software package that provides both payroll and accounting functions could technically be considered an ERP software package.

However, the term is typically reserved for larger, more broadly based applications. The introduction of an ERP system to replace two or more independent applications eliminates the need for external interfaces previously required between systems, and provides additional benefits ranging from standardization and lower maintenance (one system instead of two or more) to easier and/or greater reporting capabilities (as all data is typically kept in one database).

Examples of modules in an ERP which formerly would have been stand-alone applications include: Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Financials, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Human Resources, Warehouse Management and Decision Support System.