A Canadian poultry firm aims to drastically cut down delays in sales reporting and improve its data analysis capabilities by automating these procedures using business process management (BPM) software tools.
Pinty’s Delicious Foods, a Burlington, Ont-based, producer of fresh and frozen chicken products, recently launched project “Golden Egg” which aims increase productivity by using applications from Business Objects and SAP. The food manufacturer hopes to complete the project, which is being handled by Toronto-based integrator IDS Scheer Canada, in seven weeks.
One of the key areas where project Golden Egg will make a big impact is in the migration of reporting processes from a largely manual task using Excel spreadsheet software tool a fully automated process, according to Barry Hillier, CIO of Pinty’s.
“If we can cut delays in this area our accountants and analysts will have more time scrutinizing data and making business decisions rather than building reports,” Hillier explained.
Currently, it takes around five days for Pinty’s employees to generate sales and financial reports. Because the process also involves manual cutting and pasting of data from various sources into the Excel spreadsheets, it is not uncommon for errors to occur. Rectifying these errors can add more delays. “By the time our planners receive the reports the information they contain would be nearly one week old,” the Pinty’s CIO said.
Many organizations employ spreadsheets such as Excel because employees are familiar with the software, but they are often inadequate for more complex tasks, according to one Canadian technology analyst.
“As a spreadsheet, Excel is a very versatile tool for storing data, doing simple calculations and passing around information,” says George Goodall, senior research analyst for Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.
In recent years, data integrity security and compliance with various regulations governing information management have highlighted the advantages of more advanced applications, he said.
“As business intelligence (BI) and BPM tools become cheaper and easier to handle, the use spreadsheet will eventually be considered suspect practice because of error replication issues, regulation compliance and security concerns.”
The automation will also help Pinty’s planners gain better inventory and purchasing control, Hiller said. For instance, by obtaining more up-to-date information on warehouse stock numbers managers can develop more accurate re-stocking schedules.
“We want to start accelerating our decision making process with these tools in the shortest time possible and if our provider is capable of getting them up and running within this time frame, then it’s perfect timing for us,” says Hillier. IDS Scheer is actually ahead of schedule, he said.
Since Pinty’s is a long time user of business intelligence products from business software maker SAP, the recent acquisition by the software company of Business Objects is also very timely, he added.
Back in 2000, Pinty’s was one of the first North American companies to deploy pre-configured SAP applications which were developed to provide mid-sized organizations with automated financial, sales, distribution, materials and production management capabilities.
Hillier attributes Pinty’s growth from a $50-million company in 1999 to the $300-million dollar organization it is today to the SAP-based environment which IDS Scheer helped develop.
The next step is an aggressive seven-week plan to deploy a new set of mid-market BPM products, according to Jason Mausberg, managing director for IDS Scheer Canada.
The deployment will include:
- BusinessObjects Xcelsius Enterprise software – a customizable data visualization product which allows users of different skill levels to create dashboards from data sources with point-and-click ease;
- BusinessObjects Edge Standard package – a Web-based reporting, query and analysis tool;
- BusinessObjects Data Integrator – a scalable application with which ensures data integrity and;
- BusinessObjects Knowledge Accelerator – an online training tool that will help Pinty’s workers learn how to use the newly installed applications.
With some areas of the business already using the applications, Hillier said, employees have reported immediate benefits.
For example, sales figures are typically altered almost by the hour but previous manual practice only allowed record updates daily thereby producing some data lag.
With the new tools updates can now be done within 30 minutes and Pinty’s data warehouse is never behind actual transaction for more than one hour.
Many companies are realizing the benefits of providing BPM capability to staff members, according to Hung LeHong, vice-president of research for Gartner in Mississauga, Ont.
“One of the big trends is to get these applications in the hands of people in the front lines not just the higher ups,” he said.
Because of this, most BI vendors are developing tools or acquiring companies that create products that are geared for use by people across the enterprise, LeHong said.