Is QuickBooks the Best Tool for Engineer-to-order Manufacturers?

Is QuickBooks the Best Tool for Engineer-to-order Manufacturers?

Thomas Edison said if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The same should be said about engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturers who must use the best tool for the job.

Unfortunately, custom manufacturers often choose multiple technology solutions which are more specialised rather than trying to force a more complete, but less optimal solution.

So why do engineer-to-order manufacturers try to force QuickBooks to act as an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution which is more expensive, less efficient, and less effective than using the correct tool for the job?

QuickBooks Adaptability

“While not all custom manufacturers self-identify as ETO, the reality is that many of these small shops (estimated greater than fifty percent) are using QuickBooks as an accounting solution,” says Andrew Schutte, General Manager of COUNTERPART

Andrew Schutte
Andrew Schutte

“These SMEs stretch the natural functionality of QuickBooks into a quasi-ERP solution.”

“QuickBooks integration comes up quite often among smaller ETO manufacturers,” Andrew notes.

“With more complexities in engineering, more custom manufacturers migrate away from using QuickBooks as their ERP system to a SOLIDWORKS integrated solution”

Andrew Schutte, COUNTERPART

Why is QuickBooks Not an ETO ERP?

“QuickBooks is a fantastic accounting tool, and a great value for the money,” says Andrew. “That said, fundamentally QuickBooks is not an ERP system.”

There are many foundational elements missing including:

  • Detailed process-driven work orders (internal and external process, various due-dates, and quantity-driven demands)
  • Property assembly support (detailed and varied bill of materials, assembly instruction, item location, and delivery)
  • Robust multi-user environment for the shop (all inventory transactions, manufacturing, receiving, assembly need to be recorded)
  • Limited property, BOM, revision and support

Single BOM Per Job limitations

There are real world implications for ETO manufacturing in handing Bill of Materials. 

According to Schutte, “For QuickBooks to assign demand to a given job, only a single BOM can be utilised.”

“This makes multiple users adding/removing items difficult at best.  Often the engineering and manufacturing needs do not fit onto a single BOM.” 

Inventory Management in ETO Manufacturing

“Inventory management is another challenge because supporting multi-location inventory management in QuickBooks, the Enterprise version is required,” says Andrew.

“Multi-location is limited to a few types, and not freely configurable.  There is no picking/delivery support to various locations/demands as needed.”

Migrating to ETO ERP SOLIDWORKS Integration

“The migration to a suitable ETO ERP solution must seamlessly integrate with SOLIDWORKS to effortlessly sync all related data (part number, properties, BOM’s, and images)” Andrew advises. “Without integration, engineers must manually enter data into property fields, causing potential human error.”

These fields can be directly automated into an ETO ERP technology, but sadly are often placed into a spreadsheet.

“It makes no sense with an automated technology model that someone is manually re-entering data”

Andrew Schutte, COUNTERPART

These mistakes cause incorrect parts to be produced, costing both time and money.

Authenticated SOLIDWORKS integration eliminates the need for dual entry of properties. By setting material, finish, description, and other qualities, everyone in the organisation can see the real-time information.

“Small ETO manufacturers must start with an engineering team who must effectively manage job timelines, create an expedient handoff, and streamline reliable production dates to engineering, procurement, manufacturing, and assembly,” Schutte shares.

“This can only happen with bi-directional SOLIDWORKS integration, eliminating all double entry without importing and exporting of BOMs.”

The result is saving valuable time and improving accuracy, while effectively communicating partial or full BOMs to purchasing and manufacturing.”

Most engineers will finalise a design, then create drawings. This can cause confusion as the SOLIDWORKS feature tree does not group like parts together.

“Frequently, the engineering team needs to create a drawing to view the BOM,” explains Andrew. “With leading technology integration, as soon as engineers create an assembly, the BOM is dynamically updated without having to create the additional drawing.”

“Engineers simply create the BOM which is automatically synchronised to the ETO ERP solution.”

“Hoping that spreadsheets and notes are accurate is not an efficient strategy”


“Only when all the inventory management/allocation, purchasing, manufacturing processes are coordinated, can vendor bills/invoices be accurately provided to QuickBooks for accounting specific tasks.”

“ETO ERP integration automates this process eliminating double orders and ensuring engineer-to-order manufacturers optimise operations and profitability,” Andrew concludes.

Manufacturing Matters Magazine thanks Andrew Schutte for his contribution.

Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., celebrating its 21st year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 8000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector.