Like many companies dealing with fast-growing data volumes, Distribution Market Advantage was overwhelmed by the task of extracting value from its information. A cooperative of 14 regional food distributors intended to help those distributors compete with larger national rivals, DMA was unprepared for the data-analysis business. The solution the firm chose for its data needs simply wasn't up to the task, according to Jim Szatkowski, vice president of data services.
To stay focused on its core business, the company several years ago had outsourced its IT environment to iTradenetwork, a cloud-based supply chain management solution for the food service industry. With some 150 supply-chain managers feeding a data mart that had grown to an unmanageable 250 million rows of records, DMA decided to jettison the cumbersome Access approach and turn to the cloud once again, this time subscribing to PivotLink and its software-as-a-service business intelligence platform.
The move turned out to be transformative. Suddenly, food distributors such as Ben E. Keith Foods, Gordon Food Service and Reinhart FoodService could rest easy, knowing that restaurant chain customers such as Chili's, P.F. Chang's and McCormick & Schmick's could easily get to the data they needed, including invoicing records, delivery schedules and cost analyses.
"Customers want to be able to go through invoice details to make decisions about supply purchases," says Szatkowski. "PivotLink gave us a quantum leap forward in terms of the ability to harness this data."
The impact of DMA's improved data analysis is visible throughout its supply chain environment. For instance, in the past, customers had to wait for DMA to assemble requested reports. Today, customers can generate 80 percent of those reports themselves by accessing the data and report-building tools directly from PivotLink. Szatkowski notes that one customer, nursing facility operator Daybreak Venture, has used PivotLink to pinpoint how much it is spending per patient on meals, enabling it to tweak its purchasing habits and reduce costs.
By tapping DMA's data-analysis tools, distributors have improved the accuracy and coordination of orders, thereby improving deliveries to customers. One distributor was able to reduce its number of deliveries to a group of eight stores from 35 per week to 16 per week, Szatkowski says.