NZMP adopts OLAP for order data

More than 500 NZMP staff around the world gain access to real-time customer and sales information with the completion of the company's "demand planning and customer profile" project.

More than 500 NZMP staff around the world gain access to real-time customer and sales information with the completion of the company’s “demand planning and customer profile” project.

The Wellington-based division of Fonterra collects milk from 13,000 suppliers, manufactures and packages more than 1000 products, and operates a global supply chain linking plants in New Zealand and overseas to customers in 140 countries. It needs reliable and real-time customer demand information, says information chief Marcel van den Assum (pictured).

Up until June sales reports and requests came to head office via email or fax in formats ranging from Excel spreadsheets and Word documents to Access databases. The information was then manually entered into a Paradox-based planning system with a high potential for error.

There was little opportunity to reconcile data entered into the system with actual customer demand data or with the availability plan that was generated. And changes to product identification would throw the system into chaos.

The company set out on SAM, a project to collate customer information, assess demand and apply global business rules to the demand. The purpose was to enable setting of priorities for global planning and give account managers around the world a real-time availability plan.

Getting there involved data warehousing, business intelligence tools and emerging web technology. Technology-wise SAM included a demand-planning tool, customer profile application and reporting tool.

Van den Assum says several non-negotiable requirements eventually led to a Microsoft-developed online analytical processing (OLAP) solution. Along the way tools from Cognos, Oracle and Hyperion were considered but discarded.

“It was apparent that all the OLAP solutions from these vendors have their strengths and weaknesses.”

He says evaluation of the tools identified that only the Hyperion ESSbase and Microsoft OLAP solutions met the company’s requirements, which included 24X7 availability, 30-second reporting time and adequate performance over existing WAN and dial-up connections.

Hyperion lost out in functionality terms.

The chosen Microsoft OLAP cube sources data from a continually updating Oracle database and web-based reporting functionality was added by systems integrator Gen-i.

Every few minutes the OLAP cube is refreshed from Oracle and the refresh doesn’t interrupt the stream of queries. The OLAP cube is able to support sub-five second response times for all queries and reports and OLAP reports are delivered to users’ browsers worldwide through NZMP’s Vignette web server.

Van den Assum says the new level of accuracy in ordering, reporting and tracking has enabled NZMP to improve customer service in the restricted shelf-life commodities market, which constitutes 60% of its business.

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