We recently had the privilege of working with the IT department at a major food product manufacturer. This company was experiencing rapid growth and they knew that their manual processes were a far cry from today’s state-of-the-art technological capabilities. As their business grew, they increasingly struggled with inconsistent and inaccurate reporting along with a large backlog of report requests. They decided something must be done.
Reporting creates a cascade of challenges
When we first met our client, all reports and dashboards had to be produced by individuals within the IT department, creating an information bottleneck and preventing the organization from making timely, data-based decisions. The manufacturer was experiencing rapid growth through acquisition and increased sales, putting further pressure on the IT staff. Manually maintained, error-prone spreadsheets were being used for critical operations such as manufacturing line scheduling and bid creation. Contracts were often delayed because of the need to constantly navigate the credit limit approval process as each customer’s demand increased.
We performed an assessment and implemented the resulting recommendations
We began our partnership with this manufacturer by assessing their current data management and reporting processes. This assessment evaluated the existing reporting and data management infrastructure. Recommendations were made for infrastructure changes and process improvements to increase efficiency and implement a more data-driven approach.
After the assessment, we implemented the following changes:
- We combined data from multiple systems into a SQL Server-based data warehouse which is updated several times per day.
- We created several subject-specific data models in Analysis Services on top of the data warehouse to provide a user-friendly interface to the enterprise data and to capture business rules and calculations in a single location.
- We created predictive analytics within the data model to forecast product demand and future revenue.
We also created several sophisticated reports and dashboards using Microsoft Power BI to facilitate data-driven decision-making throughout the organization. These reports and dashboards include the following:
- A set of reports to support contract bid generation. These reports combine information on past bids with an up-to-date cost of production.
- A set of dashboards to monitor predicted product demand against scheduled product production.
- A report to compare expected orders and expected payments—using predicted days beyond terms—along with the current credit limit for each customer. This helped the user anticipate situations where a customer’s credit limit will need to be increased to accommodate demand.
We provided training to key business users on Microsoft Power BI and the data in data models. This training empowered the business users to do their own data exploration and to create their own self-service reports.
Our multifaceted solution yields effective results
- The new reports and dashboards help increase the company’s efficiency by replacing several spreadsheets and other time-consuming manual systems. They also help increase data accuracy. Now, a single set of enterprise-wide measures is used for decision-making.
- The new bid reports allow the organization to streamline the bid creation process. At the same time, it ensures bids are competitive while remaining profitable. This allows the manufacturer to win more competitive bids without hurting their bottom line.
- Production planning has moved from a pencil-and-legal-pad-operation to an automated system. This system is based on accurate and timely predictive demand information. This system reduces both backorders and warehousing of unsold products. The result is a decrease in warehousing costs and an increase in customer satisfaction.
- Contracts now move quickly from the approval process to production scheduling. Credit limit increases are anticipated and performed in advance. The result is more timely delivery on contracts and loyal, repeat customers.
- Self-service reporting allows users access to the information they need for both operational and strategic decisions. This has increased informed decision-making. It has also eased the demand on IT staff, reducing the need for hiring additional IT personnel.
Thanks to our solutions, our manufacturing client now experiences unencumbered growth with precise and efficient technology that does the heavy lifting.