Maple Leaf Foods feasts on data from single source

A Canadian food processing company is growing its business on a global scale through an advanced form of business intelligence software.

Toronto, Ont.-based Maple Leaf Foods Inc. Monday said it has been able to streamline its

compliance process and expand its business past Canadian borders thanks to standardizing on Hyperion Solutions Corp. software. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based manufacturer of what it calls business performance management software has aided Maple Leaf Foods’ rapid expansion, said Daniel Engels, Maple Leaf’s director of financial applications.

Expansion for Maple Leaf Foods has meant a growing number of contracts with independently operating companies. These companies quite often vary significantly in not only the products they provide — which can include anything from animal feed to baked goods — but also in their corporate structures and business processes. To get an accurate picture of performance across the whole company, Engels said Maple Leaf Foods decided to roll out Hyperion business performance management software across its 35 locations and use the software’s Web-based capabilities to make all of the branches and partners report to one spot.

The company now has a single database into which all of its performance measurements are filed. This means the company is able to get an accurate picture of its financials, sales by customer and manufacturing overhead, as well as other details, on a monthly basis. This kind of reporting was going on before, Engels said, but it was a much more complex process.

Monthly reports were sent out via e-mail before, he said. Between reports sent to a number of different people, lost e-mails and time lag between a generated report and its incorporation to a company-wide one, there were efficiency and accuracy problems.

“”Now we only have the one, Web-based database,”” he said. “”An accurate database.””

Engels pointed out that aside from efficiency improvements, the Web-based tool has made it easier to add new partners to the system. The currency conversion tool has been quite helpful in instances where the new partner is from outside of Canada. It’s also easier to add new measurements, Engels said.

“”Last year we started tracking accounts receivable per customer, for example,”” he said.

The system’s flexibility is one of the reasons why the Hyperion Essbase XTD platform and the tools it supports has been so popular, said Hyperion product marketing director Simon Tucker. The Hyperion software is called a business performance management tool and not just a business intelligence tool because it goes beyond what BI can do.

“”Business intelligence is strictly historical,”” he said. “”The key thing with Hyperion software is that you can interact with the data; add it, move it around, pick out and forecast trends. So it’s a read and write environment, not just a read environment.””

A typical Hyperion customer, Tucker said, will start using the tool to address a pain point. In most cases that’s financial performance. Once a concern is addressed the companies will generally start exploring the platform’s strategic capabilities. It has tools for example, which allow for very high level financial planning. Other Hyperion software can then be integrated into that planning to break it down into operational goals for the rest of the company.

Hyperion software can also work with other BI programs, Tucker said. It can intergrate information generated by SAP programs, a competitor of Hyperion’s together with Cognos.

Recognized competitors are no threat to Hyperion when it comes to Maple Leaf Foods, though. Engels said the company did an organization-wide evaluation of the software’s performance compared to other BI tools. They not only decided to stay with put, but intend to roll out the software to new partners as the company grows.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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