Retrieving, processing and reporting on production data is a daily struggle for many organizations, especially
those dealing with data from multiple sources. One of the most valuable investments a manufacturer can make to improve its data network management is a business intelligence (BI) system for manufacturing.
In 2007, Worcester, Mass.-based Saint-Gobain Abrasives North America was looking to consolidate its company data into one BI system. A division of Paris-based Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, the company manufactures bonded, coated and superabrasive products for the industrial, construction, automotive repair and do-it-yourself markets.
With ten production plants in North America, Saint-Gobain has a large data network to manage. The company formed a multi-departmental committee -- consisting of employees from executive management, IT, sales and finance -- to evaluate its BI software needs.
The committee identified what Saint-Gobain was looking for in a BI system. First, the system needed to be able to extract and consolidate data from a number of systems. Secondly, it needed to have a user-friendly interface that would be easily accessible to employees from various departments. Third, the system needed to be able to scale. Lastly, it needed be able to deliver real-time data to a centrally-managed location.
After comparing available BI systems that might help improve data network management, Saint-Gobain found that MicroStrategy's BI software met all these requirements. "With the MicroStrategy software, we could report over one database without building cubes; there are no extra steps," said Jeff Cloutier, sales and marketing application leader at Saint-Gobain North America. "We also liked the report caching feature, which allows you to run a query once for a monthly report and save it, because it keeps traffic on the database light." The company is currently using MicroStrategy 8; version 9 became available mid-2009.
Saint-Gobain is running SAP R/3 4.6C for its ERP system and the SAP BI 7 data warehouse system. The company is running IBM's ETL tool WebSphere DataStage on a Microsoft server. DataStage pulls information from SAP BI 7 and feeds it into MicroStrategy. Besides processing manufactured product data, the MicroStrategy BI system also does order reporting for Saint-Gobain's North American plants.
Since implementing MicroStrategy, Saint-Gobain North America has optimized its data reporting process. "There's been tremendous efficiencies gained from the way [MicroStrategy] handles our data management needs," said Walendziak. "We're getting fresher information and more accurate information than we did before."
One feature of the MicroStrategy BI system that Cloutier finds particularly helpful is the automatic aggregate awareness data warehouse feature, which builds data tables and then chooses the smallest table for faster data retrieval. "The time it takes to do user monthly reporting has shrunk from 24 to 12 hours," he said.
MicroStrategy is also helping Saint-Gobain handle the challenges of the global recession. "We've been getting more users asking for specific bits of [production] information; one of the challenges we've had in this bad economy is keeping up with that demand without [spending more money," Walendziak said. "That's why being able to consolidate and distribute data with MicroStrategy has been so useful for us."