Leading Health Care Provider Utilizes Robust BI Solution to Manage Key Performance Indicators and Enhanced Drilled Down Data
When Jocelyn Laberge started in the business intelligence (BI) department at Cascades Tissue Group (a division of the Kingsey Falls, Quebec-based recycled paper and packaging company Cascades), he was automating sales reports that were sent by e-mail to managers. The BI software wasn’t flexible or easy to use: “We had to train people constantly and it wasn’t very intuitive,” says Laberge.
Things have changed. Today, some 70 inventory managers, sales managers, supply chain/production managers and customer service representatives across Cascades Tissue Group use a Web-based BI system (Panorama’s BI Solution). Since it was installed in 2005, it has helped the group reduce inventory levels, produce custom reports more easily and even improve efficiency and profitability in certain areas, according to Laberge.
The Quest for Easier Custom Analysis
Like everything IT-related, changes to the company’s BI strategy didn’t take place overnight. First, the Tissue Group converted from a Cognos application to an Excel add-on application that allowed them to browse online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes from Microsoft SQL Server, and to create and send reports as Microsoft Excel files to salespeople.
Yet as with the original system, end users were not able to create or tweak reports themselves without specialized analytical skills, says Laberge. It was a “you get what you get” kind of reporting environment.
“The goal was to get to more of a custom analysis, so we began to look for another tool to connect to our SQL Server database,” Laberge says.
After evaluating several comprehensive BI systems, the Tissue Group selected the Panorama’s BI Solution suite for its integration with SQL Server, SQL Reporting Services, and Excel, with a core license including dashboard capabilities. Because the SQL Server OLAP cubes were already defined, the installation was relatively simple, Laberge says. It was deployed on the Tissue Group’s Web server, and then connected to the SQL Server cubes.
Training users on Panorama’s BI Solution took only a few hours, he adds, and reports now take half the time to create or modify.
Sales and inventory employees receive standard reports as an Excel attachment by e-mail. If they need custom analysis, they can use the Web-based application to create different reports, which can be saved as PDF or Excel files. “The software is like using a pivot table in Excel,” Laberge says. “You just drag and drop fields into the grid and right-click to make selections.” Authorized users can access the app (via a password) at home or on the road, from any computer–although mobile phone access is not currently available.
Business intelligence at Cascades Tissue Group is helping with more than just sales analysis. It’s reaching across the company to deliver the kind of results Laberge and other managers were seeking.
Prior to Panorama’s BI Solution, each mill operated in a silo, with no visibility into what the other mills were doing, or the goals across the company. Now all 14 mills can compare data such as inventory levels, backorder levels and warehouse capacity; improved data sharing and collaboration has helped lower inventory by 20 percent.
So that the shipping department could get better insight into its carriers and their performance, the BI team built a cube in SQL Server to understand shipping patterns, and connected that data to Panorama’s BI Solution. The software now helps answer questions such as: if a product is made in Canada and sent to California, would using a U.S.-based mill cut down on shipping costs? By analyzing its main carriers’ shipping routes, the company can optimize travel as well–a carrier could bring raw materials back to a mill after delivering products, for example.
Cascades Tissue Group has been focusing on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) as part of a manufacturing/production efficiency initiative. Panorama’s BI Solution pulls data from a manufacturing execution system, which stores product information. This process allows individual mills to see their efficiency levels and analyze their effectiveness across each category of products. The OEE initiative in combination with BI is helping the company improve its overall productivity, Laberge says.
Finally, Cascades Tissue Group is using its BI tools to measure profitability. Previously, “small mills were basing profitability on three or four factors while other mills were much more thorough,” Laberge says. Now, the corporate BI system translates profitability for each mill using the same measures.
Cascades Tissue Group plans to continue down the BI path. Over the next 12 months, Laberge says the company will prioritize its OEE efforts to help improve the availability, performance and quality of manufacturing.