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How Wherescape has helped Renold integrate SAP

Date: 07 October 2016 Author: Cliff Saran, Computer Weekly

Renold, a manufacturer of transmission chains and gearboxes, deploys data warehouse automation.

Renold, a global manufacturer of industrial chains and power transmission products, has used Wherescape to integrate more than 13 enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems across its global business.

There was a challenge for the company in these systems not being connected in a seamless manner. Business resources such as cash flow, raw materials, production capacity, and business commitments such as orders, purchase orders and payroll, were collected by different parts of the business.

Most of Renold’s reporting was carried out using bespoke Excel reports. The sales team could not obtain completely accurate sales and order numbers for their daily reports, and business decisions were being made using summarised information gleaned from numerous sources.

Step 2020, the company’s business strategy, is focused on improving performance and growth. IT has a role to play in delivering on this vision, particularly in terms of simplifying reporting.

Sarah Cobb, business systems director at Renold, says: “I want to develop a strategy that fits with our business strategy and use technology to help us deliver faster and better.”

This means Renold plans to replace its ERP with a new global system going forward, but this is not something that will happen quickly.

“The SAP system was too complex and cumbersome. We knew it would be up to four years before we could roll out one consistent ERP system for the group, and that was just an unacceptable length of time,” she explains.

Cobb plans to bring all of the company’s disparate ERP systems together before the ERP upgrade.

“Our challenge is to not wait four years to roll out the ERP,” she says.

Cobb selected Wherescape to help her achieve this.

Making ERP a one-stop shop

Wherescape is one of a number of companies that specialises in data warehouse automation. It is often used as an alternative to using extract, translate and load (ETL) tools to migrate data from enterprise systems into a central data warehouse.

According to a study commissioned by Wherescape, organisations can experience a 10% to 15% reduction in overall staffing requirements when using completely automated project implementation practices rather than completely manual ones. Projects also have a 30% higher chance of being successful when using automation.

Having previous experience of Wherescape, Cobb decided it would fit in with her requirements for a system that would be relatively easy to deploy and could be used without “donkey’s years of programming”.

“I knew it would work and I knew it would deliver,” she says.

Three months after Wherescape was invited to Renold to develop a proof of concept, the company had a working cube for invoicing that showed inconsistencies within the data itself. The cube revealed discrepancies across the sites from differently classified units to varying exchange rates. Once identified, they could be rectified.

Six months later, the company had four working cubes.

Given Renold is a mid-sized organisation, Cobb says the company does not have the luxury of a large team of IT specialists to integrate the ERP systems.

“When you work on disparate IT systems, you need to gather and merge things together,” she says.

Wherescape can quickly build a data warehouse to enable it to integrate data from the different ERP systems it ran, adds Cobb.

So far, data from five of the company’s ERP systems has been pulled into the data warehouse, which is now helping the business improve its decision-making. “Progress is continuous and we have a long list of requests,” she explains.

“We have additional legacy systems and are pulling more data into the data warehouse on a weekly basis.”

What began initially as a project focused on the commercial side of the business has now been extended to inventory. There are also plans to incorporate other areas of the business.

Making intelligent use of data

One of the benefits of Wherescape, according to Cobb, is less technical people can build a data warehouse. This means employees can help to develop the data warehouse. At Renold, for example, the data warehouse manager is actually a user from the business.

“The secret of business intelligence is to leave a percentage of the questions to be asked by those closest to the data. The best people to implement business system-supported change are the users,” she says.

The business intelligence (BI) strategy is supported by new tools and training.

Cobb says: “We are keen to make sure people have a business intelligence tool underpinned with a set of standard reports.”

With each new ERP deployment, Cobb says business users are given Cognos as the frontend reporting tool for the data warehouse. A communications and formal training programme put together by the company’s manager, along with the fact that 80% of the reports users require are now built-in, is helping the company shift away from relying on Excel.

I want to develop a strategy that fits with our business and use technology to help us deliver faster and better.

Sarah Cobb Renold