Reporting tool speeds ROI for parts maker

An integrated reporting and analysis system has delivered ROI in less than six months for National Parts, a division of Automotive Components and maker of car parts.

Automotive Components’ IT development manager, Don Johnston, said the company had previously used a series of reporting mechanisms including those from Lotus and AS/400.

“Our old reporting system was difficult to use, unbalanced, and was available in hard copy only,” Johnston said. “Perhaps the biggest issue was that we couldn’t analyse the information further.”

National Parts implemented Crystal Decisions’ Enterprise Reporting software which is used in conjunction with data from the company’s iSeries system, Microsoft SQL Server, and JD Edwards ERP system.

“Data comes from the iSeries nightly and is then fed into SQL Server which works in tandem with Crystal Analysis,” he said. “The ERP system is interrogated directly.”

With the reporting system in place, National Parts can gather business information in a variety of ways.

“Our business intelligence started with a sales queue back in July 2000. Now we can slice information 34 different ways, including by customer, product group, and supplier,” he said. “We have a standard worksheet which is extremely flexible and end users can get the information at will.”

Johnston said the choice of data that can be analysed spans from inventory through to sales and financials.

“After evaluating a number of other solutions we went with Crystal Decisions because their analysis tool met 80 per cent of our requirements and the others were too expensive,” he said. “We haven’t noticed any shortcomings that affect the business, and although the way it presents the data could be better, we’ve gone mid-way. Hopefully, the remaining 20 per cent will be included in future releases.”

Although Johnston declined to reveal the cost of the implementation, he said the company has already seen its investment pay off.

“The extra revenue generated from sales staff thinking outside the square and their ability to track down lost revenue has paid off the project,” he said. “Also, a key factor in making the right purchasing decision was that IT played a significant role in the choice of software.”

Crystal Decisions’ managing director Rob Zalums said enterprises caught up in monolithic reporting systems are far more likely to encounter unsatisfactory business intelligence.

“It’s time for IT to get involved in presenting information to end users,” Zalums said. “When you do that you are likely to get ROI quicker.” Zalums told Computerworld the most successful BI and reporting customers have implemented “step-by-step” solutions.

“Don’t depend on the data warehouse being built,” he said. “Often that is the failed part of the project. Implementing BI in 30, 60, or 90 day cycles will prevent CIOs from waiting years to see any merit in the project.”

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