Winning in professional auto and motorsports races requires a screaming-fast engine, a highly skilled driver, and an efficient pit crew. Race Winning Brands (RWB)—a division of Kinderhook Industries—creates the high-performance engine parts needed to surpass the competition. To accelerate the efficiency of its own crew and deliver the reliable insight executives and sales staff need to drive the business, RWB deployed a business intelligence (BI) solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2016 and Microsoft Power BI. It provides on-demand, comprehensive reports and dashboards about customer and product data from disparate systems, which global employees can now access using any device. As a result, RWB has greatly improved efficiency and agility. Some employees are saving 65 hours of effort per month because they no longer have to create daily reports manually. All BI data is now 99.7 percent accurate, and with a few clicks, international users can view financial information in any currency.
To manage the business, global employees depend on two enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems located in North America and Europe. Although the systems contain all the data about customers, orders, and products that RWB needs to drive success, its business intelligence (BI) solution hindered productivity and created informational blind spots that impeded sales forecasting and marketing activities.
Every day, a financial services employee spent an average of two-and-a-half hours creating reports by downloading information from the ERP systems and then consolidating and formatting it in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Reports were then circulated via email to sales executives. Gaining insight from spreadsheets with hundreds and thousands of rows was difficult, and executives spent considerable time sifting through the information and creating their own reports for teams. Despite the time invested, employees could not easily glean insights from all the data. Accessing reports when out of the office was also challenging for everyone because they all stored reports on their desktops.
While the manual processes slowed efficiency, they also introduced error. For example, employees didn’t have a currency-conversion tool that automatically updated global income and costs over time with the latest conversion rates, so values were sometimes incorrect. In addition, RWB’s global ERP systems use different data models that sometimes identify the same customer by a different name and the same product by different numbers, making it difficult to create accurate summaries. Report calculations also varied. One group might calculate net sales to reflect freight and taxes but not discounts, while another might calculate net sales based on all three variables. Ajit Singh, Director of IT at RWB, says, “There were multiple versions of the truth and reports didn’t provide a complete picture of the business. People also lacked tools for ad-hoc reporting.”
To ensure that it can maintain its leading market position and grow the business, RWB sought a new BI solution. After considering technologies from BOARD Analytics and Microsoft, RWB moved forward with the Microsoft platform, engaging a partner called Nuway Solutions LLC for help. “After looking at the expenses, implementation times, and ease of use of different technologies, the Microsoft BI solution was the right decision,” says Singh. “When we compare licensing, training, and other pricing, Power BI costs 40 percent less than BOARD Analytics. Power BI is also flexible enough to stand the test of time and it’s one of the few tools on the market that can create reports with a prebuilt Excel front end, so people who prefer to work with data in Excel spreadsheets can do so. Microsoft applications including SQL Server are also easier to support. I don’t need a dedicated person on my staff to manage the solution. In addition, Nuway gave us a clear vision of what to expect in terms of implementation expenses. With the other solution, we’d have an open-ended checkbook.”
RWB supported Nuway in designing a new hybrid-cloud BI solution based on an on-premises data warehouse that runs on Microsoft SQL Server 2016 and a four-core server with 32GB of RAM. It made sense to keep the SQL Server 2016 data warehouse on-premises because RWB has an existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement that covers licensing costs. Engineers spent the bulk of their time creating a hierarchal data model that stores disparate data from the ERP systems using standardized customer names, product numbers, and formulas. Anupam Gupta, Director of Big Data and Analytics Solutions at Nuway and project lead, says, “Our team enjoyed close, responsive collaboration with Microsoft program managers and product specialists in implementing the cutting-edge features in SQL Server 2016 and Power BI to meet both current and long-term requirements.”
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