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RESOURCES CATEGORY: Manufacturing

JB Poindexter makes substantial hardware cost savings thanks to IBM Cognos Express

NWS

With help from IBM Cognos Express and PREDICTif Solutions, JB Poindexter and Co. was able to upgrade, consolidate, and standardize their diverse reporting systems, saving at least $50,000-75,000 a year in hardware costs, and increasing productivity by 100-125%.

CUSTOMER:

J.B. Poindexter & Co., Inc. is a privately held diversified manufacturing company with operating subsidiaries engaged in the production of commercial van bodies, step-vans, funeral coaches, limousines, mid-sized buses, pick-up truck bed enclosures and tonneau covers, precision machined components and expandable foam plastics.

The company operates with a decentralized management and operating structure. Subsidiaries have complete operational, financial and administrative responsibility, with professional and executive management support provided by the corporate staff.

“The highly knowledgeable consultants at PREDICTif understand business intelligence. That’s why they recommended IBM Cognos technology to fit our business needs, technology that we are very happy with. IBM Cognos is intuitive, can be owned and managed by the business, and has amazing reporting, planning, and dashboard features. It also happens to be one of the best bargains on the market.”

Jay Krishnamurthy Vice President-IT, J.B. Poindexter and Co.

CHALLENGES

J.B. Poindexter & Co. has grown significantly in the last few years, acquiring six separate business units. As each unit maintained its own staff, product lines, customers, as well as its own ERP system, reporting processes were difficult to manage. The business and corporate units had limited visibility into crucial arenas, such as performance at plant levels, costs, margins, overhead, material savings, etc. Due to the nature of their sustainable growth, they lacked consistency in information and standardization processes.

In addition, the information reporting and planning processes that were in place were antiquated. With manual and laborious systems in place that included spreadsheet formatting, crucial business information was often inconsistent and difficult to come by in a timely manner.

J.B. Poindexter & Co. needed away to upgrade their system into an automated, consolidated, and standardized. That way, corporate and business units would be able to quickly and easily view crucial information at both a detailed and broad level, allowing them to manage effectively and respond to any potential problems or risks immediately.

APPROACH

  • Leverage PREDICTif’s recognized experience and expertise to implement a business intelligence solution tailored to JB Poindexter and CO.’s needs.
  • Purchase multiple IBM Cognos Express modules.
  • Consolidate, standardize, and automate reporting and forecasting processes across all distinct business and corporate units.

RESULTS

  • Implementing IBM Cognos and PREDICTif services, provided end users with an intuitive budgeting, forecasting, and reporting solution with BI capabilities.
  • Created a system of easy-to-understand dashboards that automatically provide critical information across all business units, allowing management and corporate to assess performance and risk in a timely manner.
  • Implemented a cost-effective solution, saving $50-75,000 a year in hardware costs alone.
  • Eliminated the need for report builders by empowering end users with an easy-to-use system.
  • Allowed IT staff to focus on IT needs instead of spending several hours a day loading data and fixing reporting issues.
  • Increased productivity by 100-125%.
  • Reduced time to deliver manual reports by well over 200%.

BENEFITS AT A GLANCE

  • Upgrade and consolidate budgeting, forecasting, and reporting systems into one easy-to-use solution, IBM Cognos Express.
  • Using IBM Cognos Express, significantly reduce manual reporting from the separate business units by over 200%.
  • Generate consolidated, standardized reports that include product line costs and margins, fast and efficiently to make better business decisions.
  • Create easy-to-use reporting dashboards across all business units and corporate units, so that all levels of management can assess performance and risk in real time.
  • Increased productivity by 100-125%.
  • Employ PREDICTif Solutions  consultants to install a cost-effective solution, and even complete phase one of the project early and on-budget.
  • Leverage PREDICTif’s proven expertise to build a solution specifically tailored to J.B. Poindexter’s needs.

IBM Cognos Success for Smith & Associates

NWS

Smith & Associates reacts faster to emerging opportunities gaining faster insight into supply chains and operations with IBM Cognos software

CUSTOMER:

Smith & Associates is a world-leading distributor of electronic components. The company employs more than 300 people, with regional headquarters in Houston (TX), Hong Kong and Amsterdam, and numerous sales and purchasing offices across three continents. As a pioneer in the management of the electronics industry’s complex supply chains, Smith & Associates has built up the experience, skills and reputation that enable it to earn a consistent number-one ranking for sales in the industry.

CHALLENGES

In a highly time-sensitive business environment, Smith & Associates needs to be able to source the right electronic components at the right price, and ensure that they can be delivered to meet customers’ tight manufacturing schedules.

THE SOLUTION

IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos TM1® deliver rapid, real-time insight into inventory levels, pricing and the supply chain, enabling Smith & Associates’ traders to source, purchase and deliver the components that its customers need. PREDICTif Solutions, an IBM Business Partner, helped to embed analytics into the traders’ existing systems, providing seamless access to reports even while the traders are on the phone to customers.

THE BENEFITS

  • Gives traders and trade managers a deeper understanding of important factors such as cost of inventory, helping them to make better sales decisions and maintain profit margins.
  • Integrates business intelligence and planning data, providing a comprehensive solution for all types of business analysis.
  • Doubles the speed of many reporting processes, delivering near-instant, real time access to information. Smith & Associates expects performance to improve even further with the introduction of the new Dynamic Query mode.
  • Provides an intuitive set of management tools, reducing workload for the IT team and enabling easier development and upgrades.

“The distribution of electronic components is an extremely fast-moving business,” explains Marc Barnhill, Chief Trading Officer at Smith & Associates. “The reason we’ve been able to maintain our leading position is that we use our expertise to make good decisions quickly, and ensure that we can deliver the components our customers need, when they need them, and at the right price. Our ability to make these decisions depends on the quality and timeliness of the information we have access to – which is where business analytics technology comes in.”

EMBEDDED ANALYTICS WITH IBM COGNOS SOFTWARE

For several years, Smith & Associates has been using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos TM1 software to provide its traders, trade managers, accountants and marketers with vital data.

“We use IBM Cognos software across the whole business, and almost 20 percent of our staff are direct users,” says Phyllis Tsu. “All our financial reporting and planning processes are handled by Cognos Business Intelligence and Cognos TM1, and we have also started using these tools to provide rapid insight into operational areas such as sales, pricing and inventory.”

Reacting quickly to emerging opportunities

When an opportunity arises, Smith & Associates’ trading team needs to be able to take rapid action – checking current inventory and suppliers’ availability, calculating prices and assessing delivery times, and finally making an offer to the customer. The business moves so fast that traders often need to be able to quote a price to the customer during the course of a single phone call.

“The traders need to be able to generate quite complex analyses extremely quickly, and they need a very user-friendly system that they can use while they are on the phone,” explains Phyllis Tsu. “So two of the main requirements for our trading analytics solution were that the response speed had to be excellent, and the interface had to show them all the information they need on a single screen.

“From an IT perspective, this meant that we wanted better integration between Cognos Business Intelligence and TM1, and we also needed to boost performance so that traders’ queries could be run within seconds. In both cases, the answer was an upgrade to IBM Cognos 10.”

QUICK AND EASY MIGRATION

Working with PREDICTif Solutions, an IBM Business Partner that specializes in business analytics implementations, Smith & Associates upgraded from version 8.3 to version 10.1 of IBM Cognos Business Intelligence. The team used the Lifecycle Manager feature to check that each of its key reports would work properly on the new system before migrating them over.

“Lifecycle Manager is a valuable addition to Cognos Business Intelligence,” comments Phyllis Tsu. “It shows what each report will look like before and after the migration, so it’s easy to compare them and make sure that everything is working correctly. As a result, we were able to complete the entire project within a month – two or three times faster than our last upgrade.”

SEAMLESS INTEGRATION

She adds: “The PREDICTif team has played a big role, not only in the upgrade but in our whole business analytics journey. Aside from their technical knowledge and expertise, they also provided a solution guide that gave us a best-practice approach to Cognos deployment. In addition, PREDICTIF’s unique APIs [application programming interfaces] helped us integrate analytics into our trading and ERP systems – so our traders can call up Cognos reports with a few mouse-clicks, without having to switch applications. The integration is so seamless that in many cases they don’t even know they’re using Cognos.”

BOOSTING PERFORMANCE

The ability to access reports from both Cognos Business Intelligence and TM1 within the trading system is a major advantage for busy traders who need to access information while they are on the phone with customers – but it would count for nothing if the solution did not respond quickly enough. The second major benefit of the new version of the Cognos solution is that performance is in many cases twice as fast as before.

“The new version of Cognos Business Intelligence definitely handles traders’ queries faster than the previous version – although the improvements may not seem impressive when you’re talking about a few seconds or sub-seconds,” says Phyllis Tsu. “But when you look at major reporting tasks such as the end-of-month financial close, the improvement is obvious: a process that used to take over an hour now runs in less than 30 minutes.”

HARNESSING NEW FEATURES

From a performance perspective, the Smith & Associates team is also excited about the new Dynamic Query Mode, which uses advanced caching and local/remote processing technologies to accelerate query speeds even further. IBM benchmarks have shown 50 to 75 percent improvements with Dynamic Query Mode – a success which Smith & Associates hopes to emulate in the near future.

Another feature of the latest version of Cognos Business Intelligence is Active Report, which enables Smith & Associates to send reports to branch managers and  allows branch managers to interact with data without needing access to the central Cognos system.

“Previously, we used to send reports to the branches in Microsoft® Excel® format, and although this was not nearly as powerful or secure as the Cognos solution, the branch managers liked the look-and-feel,” explains Phyllis Tsu. “With Active Report we have been able to create a dashboard that looks just like the spreadsheets, so it gives them the best of both worlds.”

Other features that the company may deploy in the future include Business Insight, which makes it easier for users to create their own personalized dashboards, and Cognos Mobile.

“We use a whole range of smartphones and devices – from the iPhone and iPad to BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile,” says Phyllis Tsu. “If we can give our users access to Cognos via these devices, so that traders can access all the information they need when they’re visiting a customer or on the road, it could be a big win for us.”

DEEPER INSIGHT, BETTER BUSINESS DECISIONS

Focusing back on the benefits Smith & Associates has already achieved with IBM Cognos 10, Phyllis Tsu concludes:

“Above all, our traders and other users across the business can now get a much more comprehensive view of operational information and how it affects their day-to-day work. For example, previously a trader might just have looked at a product’s pricing and its availability from suppliers. Now, they can also see current inventory and understand how inventory costs affect the profitability of a deal. Everything they need is on one screen and available within seconds – so if a customer is asking them about prices and delivery times, they have all the answers at their fingertips.” 

ABOUT IBM BUSINESS ANALYTICS

IBM Business Analytics software delivers actionable insights decision-makers need to achieve better business performance. IBM offers a comprehensive, unified portfolio of business intelligence, predictive and advanced analytics, financial performance and strategy management, governance, risk and compliance and analytic applications.

With IBM software, companies can spot trends, patterns and anomalies, compare “what if” scenarios, predict potential threats and opportunities, identify and manage key business risks and plan, budget and forecast resources. With these deep analytic capabilities our customers around the world can better understand, anticipate and shape business outcomes.

Electronics Distributor Solves Migration, Logistics and Billing Problems

NWS

A major independent electronics distributor solves migration, logistics and billing problems with performance management.

CUSTOMER:

A leading, global independent distributors of semiconductors, electronic components, and computer products to the world’s major manufacturers

REQUIRED CAPABILITIES

  • Single-version of truth
  • Interactive reporting
  • Operation and finance dash-boarding
  • Real-time data access

CHALLENGES

This multinational organization relies on the ability to quickly and accurately report, analyze, plan and forecast across its entire global enterprise. On time delivery of components to customers is a critical business event for the client and a principle reason why the client is a leading company in the electronics distribution industry.

The analysis of continuously changing operational data is routine; planning and developing “what-if” scenarios for operations and logistics must be conducted not just annually, but on a daily and weekly basis. Data from multiple sources is constantly being entered by myriad users; the data is then manipulated and accessed as orders are placed to buy, sell, and deliver electronic components around the clock through numerous global offices and warehouses.

 

  • A lack of transparency into freight data lead to significant billing allocation issues, a lack of control over expenses, and delays in internal departmental’ budgeting. The customers standard reports only enabled limited visibility into the business leaving key insights buried;
  • Significant opacity into actual freight costs developed because of the multiple sources and means by which charge data were handled;
  • There was concern over the continuity of knowledge and information at both inter- and intra-department levels. Additionally, knowledge and data sharing were limited and as a result, hindered productivity and responsiveness;
  • Due to the absence of a BI platform, freight and inventory levels along with their associated costs were extremely difficult to manage effectively due to the lack of real-time interconnectivity of data across departments as well as locations; and
  • The business stake-holders did not have visibility into the inventory and freight related data;
  • Accurately planning and forecasting based on available data was becoming an impossible task to accomplish because of the number of disparate data sources; and
  • There was increasing concern over data validity due to data opacity;
  • Data opacity and resulting billing problems were estimated to be costing the client one-half of a million dollars in 2007.

SCOPE

The initiative is to deliver an end-to-end enterprise performance management (EPM) solution to increase cross business unit data sharing and as a result, enhance the customer’s agility to maximize short- and mid-term market opportunities given the real-time nature of the client’s business.

 

  • Delivered an end-to-end EPM solution, its accompanying infrastructure and data integration services;
  • Integration of the Accounting and Finance Departments with that of Operations in order to improve strategic planning, forecasting (including rolling forecast capabilities), analytics and various reporting for freight and inventory;
  • Provide real-time internal data for financial and operational planning to reduce data latency and accelerate response time-to-market opportunities;
  • Establish mechanisms for knowledge sharing to increase productivity of the workforce;
  • Addresses BI performance issues resulting from disparate systems that were not interconnected;
  • Provide back up and lock down document functionality that traditional spreadsheets are not capable of;
  • Resolve conflicting cross-departmental data issues to simplify Inter-department reporting; and
  • Establish a single version of truth by implementing a suite of tools for use in extracting, reporting, analyzing and forecasting the existing data while at the same time, compiling and cohering that data

SOLUTION

PREDICTif was chosen first to evaluate a number of technologies to be used for the initiative. After a careful product selection process, IBM’s Cognos tool set was selected due to its capabilities that allowed for real-time data drill-down and analyses, rolling forecasts, multi-level management tasking, visibility, interaction across departments and management levels.

 

PREDICTif then architected, designed and implemented a solution to address a set of logistics and billing related issues based on PREDICTif’ proven BI and EPM solution offerings. PREDICTif’s ability to provide an immediate implementation of Cognos TM1 mapped to a short-term scalable plan was of paramount importance to the customer as short term return on investment was a critical variable in the decision making process related to engaging with a solutions provider.

 

The PREDICTif team, comprised of financial and operational business experts, Data and BI solutions architects, along with PMI® certified consultants, adopted a proven project delivery methodology. The methodology consists of three main phases: Foundation, Implementation and Evolution. The Foundation Phase establishes the project readiness in terms of people, infrastructure and processes. The Implementation Phase entails a typical project lifecycle that constitutes many steps including requirement gathering, design, development, testing and deployment. The Evolution Phase establishes the customer’s self sufficiency in terms of the abilities to support, maintain and upgrade the delivered solution.  The solution provided:

 

  • Real-time access to multiple data sources from a single point
  • Agile forecasting and reporting
  • Product specific drill-down capabilities
  • Multi-level management reach and connectivity
  • The interconnection of operational and financial data across multiple departments
  • The ability for Client executives along with managers across departments to interact and manipulate data collaboratively, approve or amend changes, forecasts, and formulate budgets in real-time

 

RESULTS

PREDICTif established an IBM Cognos BI and TM1 infrastructure that the customer uses to enhance their operational excellence processes in order to drive maximum business value.

 

  • Delivered an IBM Cognos TM1 user-friendly Freight Analysis Model that was first deployed on a 32-bit environment and later upgraded to a full 64-bit environment for enhanced performance;
  • Created a new suite of analysis, forecasting, and reporting tools providing visibility into the inventory and freight data across multiple dimensions. This transparency allows executives and managers to connect different data elements in order to meet various business needs, such as allocating freight costs to different parties as well as building strategic plans and forecasting with precision;
  • Offered end users the ability not only to view and analyze reports, but also to accurately view the impact of changes to freight and inventory mix and thereby create rolling forecasts to better manage operations and budgets;
  • Achieved improved ROI as a result of enhanced analytic capabilities, forecasting and reporting across the enterprise because the data is no longer opaque;
  • Ushered in a new dimension of responsiveness by delivering a flexible, real-time environment for the organization in order to perform multiple business functions and improve strategic planning in real-time for immediate and future cycles.
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