Data Virtualisation Case Study - Manufacturing Company

Business Challenge

TIBCO was confronted with problems that needed solving for a multinational Fortune 50 computer manufacturer. Through a series of business strategic decisions that had occurred over a period of years, such as outsourcing parts of the manufacturing process, the company was operating in six separate independent regions, each responsible for its own operations, supply, inventory, manufacturing and logistics. As a result, the company’s business-critical information and data were being kept in six isolated silos.

The problem was significant. The company had no efficient or effective way to get a global picture of its supply chain or to conduct data analysis to generate globally effective insights.
With six instances of the global supply chain system implemented in regions around the world, even a simple request such as, “How many 500GB hard drives do we have in inventory?” was complex and time-consuming. It involved requesting six separate reports, then manually amalgamating those reports into an Excel spreadsheet to get a global picture. It was a process that was slow, error-prone, and needed to be done every time a basic question was asked that needed a global perspective. The problem had become an obstacle to the company’s ability to progress and develop.

Options Considered

However, finding a cost-effective solution that could provide an integrated, global view of all their data across the six instances, with a reporting system that could give users flexible access to and analysis of integrated data in real-time was no easy feat. Globalising the data physically into an integrated data warehouse using traditional ETL tools was one option, albeit one fraught with shortcomings that were deemed unacceptable for the company.
Not only was this approach expensive, resource-intensive and time-consuming, it also came with one other fundamental issue which didn’t meet the company’s business requirements. Data latency. The company specifically needed “up-to-moment” data from all of its systems as supply chain decisions had to be made on accurate understanding of items like stock levels in real-time. Data warehousing requires batch uploads of data, which can mean that the information you base decisions on can be hours or even days out of date.

Therefore, the company settled on a more sophisticated solution through the use of data virtualisation, which allowed it to create virtual views to federate all of its data in the six repositories and deliver an integrated, global, real-time view of all the data. In essence, this meant that no matter where the users were accessing the data, whether through the company’s reporting system or procurement application, they could all see the same, most current information across every region.  And via the data virtualisation solution, these views would occur without the need to replicate any data and best of all, with no added latency.

Data Virtualisation Implementation

To implement this, the company chose to partner with TIBCO, a data virtualisation specialist, due to the maturity and performance of its product offering as well as support for SQL, a tool which was already extensively used within the company. By taking the data virtualisation approach, the company didn’t need to make any changes to its existing operational and supply chain systems, and didn’t need to spend money on a separate infrastructure to house data for analytics purposes. TIBCO’s approach enabled employees to get a global picture of the “until then” siloed data that was live in production.

The solution involved selecting a third part BI product which integrated into TIBCO’s virtualisation layer, which gave users a virtualised, federated, global view of all data across all of the company’s six systems. This view was accessible by all users of the BI tool.  The details of the three components of the solution are as follows:

Data Sources – The six regional instances of procurement data, each containing multiple terabytes of information.

Data Virtualisation – TIBCO Data Virtualisation, which globalised the data sources into a set of views that directly accessed all six data repositories and federated the data for the BI reporting system.

Consuming Application – Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services was used to connect to TIBCO Data Virtualisation and generate procurement system reports.

No changes to the production systems were needed and no secondary copies of data were required. The system was able to support 300 users and generate over 100 reports that completely replaced the previous process of accessing siloed data and building spreadsheets. With the new solution in place, all 300 users are able to instantly access, analyse and report on items that include open purchase orders, global stock levels, and material supply lines.

Benefit Realization

From a customer perspective, the whole process and the final solution achieved a number of clear benefits, such as:

Optimised Solution – “We implemented the desired globalisation at both the BI and data levels while continuing to maintain our regional application instances. This was important for autonomy, performance and legacy reasons.”

No Data Latency – In addition to the efficiency, the very nature of the data virtualisation approach also enables the company to provide direct access to the current source data with no added latency, meaning real-time decisions can be made with complete confidence.

Reduced Cost – Data virtualisation meant the company avoided the infrastructure costs of redundant data and storage associated with a dedicated data warehouse approach. In addition, TIBCO’s support for the company’s existing use of SQL enabled the supply chain IT team to maintain high productivity and minimise staff disruption.

Faster Time To Solution – The entire system was implemented and operational in under two months. “TIBCO helped us extend our infrastructure in a quick and painless way because it fits nicely into our existing infrastructure. It is also SQL-based and can access our existing procurement application databases without requiring any changes to either the application or the data sources.”

The most important factor in the success of any implementation is whether it delivers ROI. The company’s procurement data virtualisation and reporting solution has brought the company significant ROI, and millions of dollars are saved each year through faster inventory turns and improved customer satisfaction. As an added icing on the cake, migrating off the company’s legacy reporting system enabled it to eliminate potential security risks and reduce the cost of ongoing maintenance.

For more on TIBCO and how data virtualisation can help improve your business, click here.

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