Magazine Article | June 1, 2001

Mind Your Own Business Intelligence

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Find out how a manufacturer of electronic parts used BI (business intelligence) software to proactively reduce product ordering errors as well as discrepancies within its database and between disparate applications.

Integrated Solutions, June 2001

To err is human, to forgive, divine. - Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

There's nothing quite like a wise saying to reflect upon. A deep and meaningful thought that, like a picture, invokes a thousand words of thought. The aforementioned saying is one I'm sure you've heard at some time or another. Usually this saying is quoted after one has committed a personal offense or has had a personal offense committed against them. However, it can also be used in the business world.

One example of this adage at work in the business world was seen by IDEC Corp. (Sunnyvale, CA), a manufacturer of electronic parts such as sensors, relays, pushbuttons, and PLCs (programmable logic controllers). IDEC's products are distributed to companies in such vertical markets as manufacturing, utilities, and entertainment, as well as other markets where automated machines, such as elevators or vending machines, are used. IDEC, a $50 million subsidiary of Izumi Co., Ltd. (Osaka, Japan) has been manufacturing and distributing its parts in the United States for the past 25 years.

To Err Is Human...
While IDEC is a successful company by most industry standards, it wanted to better preempt inefficiencies in its production process as well as improve customer order accuracy. "We use an Oracle 11 ERP (enterprise resource planning) system to handle our business transactions and also our production," says Hiro Ono, project leader. "Previously, it was not uncommon for us to experience more than a dozen business transaction-related errors in a month. One example would be if a customer's mailing address was missing from our database, the database would not generate an invoice." The problem was not discovered without manually tracing the transaction back to its root and following it through to where the glitch occurred. "It was very time-consuming to check for errors," recalls Ono, "and it was often more of a reactionary process." Besides aiming to eliminate transaction errors and resolve general operational issues, IDEC wanted to correct discrepancies that existed in applications that shared data between the production and testing departments. Additionally, IDEC wanted to fix incongruencies it recognized between its ERP and WMS (warehouse management system) solutions.

To Fix Is Divine
IDEC researched several BI and KM (knowledge management) applications before choosing MetricStream's eBM (Enterprise Business Management) Suite. "We chose MetricStream over other solutions because it offered a greater range of applications," says Ono. "For example, eBM has four levels of monitoring that can be performed. The first level is the business process; the second is operations management; the third is transaction monitoring; and the fourth is application monitoring." MetricStream incorporates a dashboard view to more easily observe several predefined metrics at any given time. And, much like an automobile, users can see when it's time to take action on a particular process or issue before it's too late. "Users can configure their own screen to display only the metrics which are relevant to their area of responsibility," says Ono. For example, employees working in the accounting department might have metrics such as "net days outstanding in accounts payable," "current inventory value," and "net depreciation of assets" displayed on their dashboards. Production managers, on the other hand, may have metrics such as "shipments in danger of missing deadlines," "incorrect picks," and "finished goods missing price lists" displayed on their dashboards.

In addition to helping IDEC run its business more efficiently, the eBM Suite also makes it possible for the company to integrate its ERP system with its WMS system. "With this new solution we can make better use of the data tracked by our ERP system and more easily create reports that include detailed graphics," says Ono. "Additionally, if there is a problem in one of our pre-determined metric areas, eBM will send an e-mail to a predesignated responsible person. If there is more than one error, the system will list all the errors on one page, as opposed to other solutions which generate a page for each individual error." Another benefit that IDEC has realized from the MetricStream solution was a quick installation time. Unlike other solutions that take weeks, if not months to install, and often require expensive outside professional services to do the installation, the eBM Suite was installed in only two hours.

In the near future IDEC is looking forward to upgrading its MetricStream solution to Version 2.5, which promises to offer more flexible scheduling functionality. Specifically, the updated software will help IDEC determine the best times to perform routine maintenance on its equipment while minimizing the downtime costs associated with periodic production stoppages. The new software release promises to help IDEC cut down on wasted labor time and prevent scheduling and production errors, which in business, is divine.

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