SAP vs Plex

sap vs plex

SAP vs Plex ERP

On our blog we spend a great deal of time and effort researching and evaluating today’s best enterprise software for modern businesses. Previously, we’ve spoken to the parallels and differences between Plex Systems, NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics AX. In our review, we found that Plex Systems and NetSuite compete as cloud-based ERP platforms, but are generally in different markets and industries. Likewise, Plex Systems and Microsoft Dynamics AX more notably go head to head in the process manufacturing industry; however there are company process dynamics that certainly make one a better fit than the other

This week, we’ll examine one of the most arduous battles in the ERP market today – SAP vs Plex Systems. While SAP has reigned as a superior business solution for the past two decades, their portfolio and stronghold over tier-one ERP providers may be in the process of being infiltrated by a more agile early mover of cloud provisions and customer-oriented ERP development in Plex Systems.

Vendor Overview — SAP vs Plex

SAP vs Plex Systems is becoming a more common comparison for many businesses. The design of these two systems fit well for similar industries and business types; which make them natural competitors for mid-sized and large businesses.

SAP provides a portfolio of great breadth over most of the competition. One reason is the longevity of the SAP brand. The company launched its first system 43 years ago and is a veteran in the enterprise software industry. SAP’s latest ERP version was released in 2006, and was built upon an underlying layer of Java and ABAP code. SAP would eventually infuse new features and functionality with it’s enhancement package (EHP7) in 2013 for more than 83,000 total customers worldwide.

SAP touches an array of business industries and is not necessarily tailored to perform best for one enterprise type over another. However, SAP is generally utilized by the largest, most global-reaching corporations; whose process generally involve: asset management, human capital management and operations management — but not necessarily capacity and production oversight of factory floors.

SAP is a proven formula for global parents, or holding companies, who require rigorous snapshots of their subsidiaries in which they manage. The majority of SAP users utilize the back office systems such as finance, controlling, materials management and asset accounting.

While SAP has largely had success with the functionality configured in these modules over the last two decades, the cost of maintenance for SAP’s large on-premises ERP software is seemingly more expensive compared to ERPs like Plex Systems, and provides equal or lesser total value to certain industries.

Plex Systems is a limitless software for manufacturing and capacity-driven communities (only). The ERP vendor is often revered for its seamless upgrades, customer satisfaction and shop-floor based configuration. Its customers primarily include manufacturing bodies in automotive, aerospace, defense and food and beverage. Because Plex is built solely on cloud-technology, the system provides an array of amenities for shop floor oversight at a significantly lower cost for many businesses.

This game changing model is a prime reason why companies are exploring Plex Software in troves. In fact, since the 2006 inception of Plex, they have managed to deploy their services across 20 countries, powering over 1,100 plants, with a 95 percent renewal rate. Instead of costly software upgrades, Plex earmarks rolling updates as part of the vendor’s continued purpose to align their growth model with customer satisfaction. This model allows the customer to realize ROI on the asset sooner and with less trepidation of voyaging to latest versions.

Industry Coverage

Plex Systems is very transparent when it comes to the industry types they service. They offer cloud-technology for manufacturing – not banks, governments or hospitality organizations. Plex was built from the ground up by process manufacturing engineers themselves. The ERP is designed to connect supplier, material, machine, accounting, human resource and BI needs for both discrete and process manufacturing businesses of all sizes.

In its earliest stages, Plex Systems was built as a MES tool – working as a communication device to provide factory floor information to management on a real time basis. Plex has since evolved that system into a scalable, efficient, all-encompassing ERP for mid-sized, and larges manufacturing and global procurement groups; including motor vehicles, aerospace and defense and food and beverage. Every aspect of Plex has been configured to meet an identified need, specifically traceability, compliance and TQM initiatives for process and discrete manufacturing communities.

Comparatively, SAP does not offer an ERP developed through the manufacturing lens specifically. Instead, SAP offers a paralleled application in their MES solution – a segmented solution for their SAP Enterprise Suite. The MES tool of SAP does an excellent job capturing production data in real-time when mapped according to defined business process models. Since the MES tool is typically a separate solution from the primary ERP system, companies generally will need to purchase both to retrieve the same functionality they would have in a single instance of ERP built upon an MES foundation. This alleviates complexity in the software, unites data in single warehouse and deploys a much faster lead time. Unfortunately, user reviews mistaken this tool to do all of the above until its deployed and realizing a rather laggard process from the system that inevitably is hard to dismiss after paying those kinds of costs.

Process and discrete manufacturers will quickly find that Plex simply offers greater value for their business (if they’re interested in a cloud-deployment model); while other types of businesses will likely enjoy the all-encompassing approach that SAP software provides. It’s about finding the right tool for the right job, and Plex is the right tool for process, high volume, and discrete manufacturing in the cloud.

Implementation Time

Plex is a true cloud ERP system, in that it is built entirely on an SaaS architecture model. Cloud platforms generally take much less time to configure and deploy than on premises systems, and require less complexity. Manufacturing-led ERPs in the cloud, like Plex Systems, are extremely flexible and can be completely customized around business processes. However, those businesses with twenty plus years on their current legacy system may mistake flexibility with volatility and be apprehensive to move to a system requiring such attentiveness to detail.

The uniqueness of Plex Systems’ build out stands to balance its volatile configuration with an array of identified industrial needs readily hard wired in modules and applications. It requires no additional investments in database licenses, middleware or IT operations. The Plex platform includes enriched amenities derived from experienced business modeling experts in manufacturing. This greatly lessens project time and scope as the language and functionality of the system is second language to non-technical users, whom achieve greater success communicating goals from the onset. One benefit of this is that it alleviates complexity and disruption in the implementation process; which makes for a smoother, more enjoyable experience for end-users, suppliers and external partners.

Plex is browser-based, this means that businesses avoid having IT teams install or maintain client-facing applications, servers, extensions, or plugins. One of the best elements of procuring an instance of Plex is alleviating capacity planning for hardware systems, which can take an excessive amount of time in an implementation project – spending more capital and resources that can be allocated to other opportunities in the business. In addition to that, Plex has built, and manages, a comprehensive data center to take complete control of enterprise operations. This ultimately allows the implementation and continuous improvement to focus on user needs and edification. When users know how the use the system effectively, there is a much greater chance the system will deploy by the go live data and the company realizes ROI fast.

SAP is largely procured as an on-premises solution, requiring desktops, servers and other meaningful hardware; as this has been the demand that companies have generated. Yet, regardless of the obvious extras, SAP deployment time has somewhat shortened over the last five years. This is most likely due to the increase in experience many have with SAP software from previous corporate or service-advisor positions. They are more familiar with the working tools of the system and its methodology in the configuration of capital management oversight.

Although a reduced implementation time should reduce costs, that is not necessarily always the case. Since SAP is beneficial for those seeking facility oversight, configuring the system will elongate implementation time. Generally large corporations need to integrate financials with subsidiaries, which can be a complex process if the child company runs on a secondary instance. And because most parent companies allow child enterprises to utilize their own ERP systems, it can take years (if not decades) for a project to be completed on. It also largely depends on the aggressiveness of the parent to align its subsidiaries with the corporate model.

The industrial internet

In the age of big data, most all machines and transactions are ingrained with sensors to capture data at the most granular level. For manufactures this is critical, as it provides insight into the key causes of bottle necks from front to back of a process. This may be one reason we’re experiencing more manufactures migrate to an instance of cloud infrastructure. In a cloud-led instance like Plex, it is easier to implement a foundation to support lean or lean-six-sigma initiatives on the shop floor in lesser time compared to an ERP vendor most likely installing software the same as they did decades ago. SAP is often criticized for a laggard system post go-live.


As many ERP experts have suggested over the last few years, many companies have moved to lean initiatives, but business software vendors have yet to assist them take charge. The majority of vendors deploy obsolete licensing models for revenue that is not relative to customer satisfaction. SAP is one of those vendors charged with this approach. The veteran provider has been criticized for its retrofitted attitude to implementation and is slow to develop new versions for legacy systems.

The “deploy and move-on” method of software implementation causes projects to run well over time and budget. Generally it calls for the procurement of additional third party applications and software to hoist particular functionalities of the system. This produces a slowed and disparate system, working applications from separate instances, and causing the project to continue in order to render it purposeful.

In conclusion, for businesses with production and capacity controlling needs on the shop floor, SAP may not be an applicable— or cost-efficient— solution. For a corporation overseeing a large portfolio, no critical time frame for implementation, deep pockets, and a business model focused purely on financial insight and capital management, SAP can be an emboldening utility.

Subscription Based Model

One of the unique features of Plex is its subscription-based delivery model. Plex uses this as incentive to continuously win customer business by creating advocacy for its brand. The continual renewals are paid year after year, and rather than have the customer amass charges for every new user license, Plex encourages system usage by offering logins for both employees and partners at no additional charge.

Instead of incurring hefty costs every time a business goes to upgrade, Plex has eliminated versioning and instead rolls out upgrades on a continual basis. Essentially, this solution continuously moves customers to a whole new state without disruption. That is simply the benefit of cloud. Plex’s historical up time is in excess of 99.99% historically – equaling less than an hour of downtime per year. In all, businesses realize the cost of ownership is much less than with a large ERP rollout from a typical vendor. Likewise, companies have the ability to retain business customizations whilst live on the latest system; encouraging user adoption and lessening disruption of upgrading.

SAPs software provides a lot of advantages that have made it useful and popular in the past such as global integration, and bridging economic barriers like currency, exchange rates, language and culture automatically. Those instances of the software are of past significance, and users today require agility and connectivity from their ERP. SAP has built very powerful software, but to aggregate all the functionality needed to meet those expectations, buyers of SAP generally procure separate solutions to get there. This can amount incremental costs further down the road. Essentially, all its functionality is built through third party applications, rendering the system very rigid and maintenance prone.

SAP has also been slow moving to bring new functionality and best of breed solutions to modern businesses. Their latest version was deployed in 2006, with an extension package published in 2013. Regardless of all the computing power of SAP, businesses fail to move to latest versions which keep IT teams busy managing decades old data and outdated source codes. As a result, SAP is often stacked upon outsourced applications that inevitably make the system hard to move on from.

Along with the advantages above, SAP also has its drawbacks because their software is very expensive. SAP’s contractual agreements with customers offer little to no flexibility – making it extremely important to choose the right tool for the right job. The contract required to sign with SAP holds a company with the vendor until expiry. Likewise, the complexity and breadth of integrating such an array of instances dull the performance of the SAP, but a company cannot move from the platform after choosing to go with an obsolete version. This can be extremely costly for industrial communities dealing with seasonality.

Wrap Up

SAP vs Plex is an arduous battle. Both systems provide a strong offering to different kinds of process manufacturing and financial oversight businesses.

Ultimately, it always comes down to selecting the right tool for the right job. What you’ll probably find is that most growing manufacturing businesses, with some level of complexity, will be happier with a Plex solution (if they are directly interested in moving to the cloud); while those in largest financial, banking, and human resources organizations with multiple subsidiaries across multiple industries and hiring scope for those with business acumen and analytic backgrounds will likely be happier with something like SAP (although these are not definitive statements).

There are always other factors at play; however it’s important that businesses perform proper selection, and implementation practices in the beginning to mitigate project risks. To learn more about ERP implementation or to get help in selecting between these two powerful pieces of software, connect with one of our ERP Selection experts.