Business Intelligence Aids Factories and Sales

By William Atkinson  |  Posted 01-30-2013

Business Intelligence Aids Factories and Sales

By William Atkinson

A privately owned producer of frozen foods, McCain Foods Ltd. is the world's largest producer of frozen French fries, producing nearly one-third of the world's supply. It is also the manufacturer of other food products, including desserts, pizzas, vegetables, juices and beverages, and oven meals. Based in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada, McCain Foods sells its products in more than 110 countries, has 55 production facilities on six continents, and employs 22,000 people.

While most business intelligence reports tend to remain in the domain of senior executives and other high-level users, McCain Foods has made the decision to bring business intelligence down to the plant worker level. As a result, workers can see how their actions directly affect their plant's overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). A dashboard displayed on a large wall screen in each plant displays measurements for performance, availability and quality. For example, workers can see how specific non-productive events, such as rejected products and misfeeds, impact the plant’s OEE.

To provide this information, McCain Foods selected MicroStrategy's business intelligence technology. Why MicroStrategy? McCain Foods was in the process of building an enterprise data warehousing strategy. In doing so, it required a front-end presentation layer dashboarding tool, analytics and a querying tool to layer on top of the data warehousing. It looked at three companies and selected MicroStrategy for several reasons. "First, MicroStrategy is 100 percent dedicated to that space,” explains McCain Foods CIO Roman Coba. "That is all they do. Second, from an operational standpoint, they were easier to use and easier to manage." Third, McCain Foods' developers liked MicroStrategy's toolset better than what the other two companies offered in terms of ease of distributing and managing what is being developed. "Finally, they are dedicated to keeping their product platform-agnostic, but also feature- and function-rich," Coba adds.

The technology is being used in the McCain Foods plants in different ways for operational reporting, including dashboarding, distributed reporting and schedule reporting. "We rolled it out to all of the plants at once," says Coba. The management team in each plant made the announcement. Workers reacted well, because the new technology didn't represent much of a change from what was already being done. "We had already been collecting a lot of that information manually," explains Coba. "Every plant had an individual who worked full-time collecting data, inputting data and creating reports. That individual in each plant has now been redeployed. We installed a projector in each plant and posted the dashboard on the wall going into the cafeteria, which provides data on all of our plants."

Coba says the dashboards have created a more competitive environment in the plants, because workers are not only aware of what their performance is, but what their performance is in relation to other plants around the globe.

Plant managers are also happy with the technology, because they are now more in control of their destinies. "They can run their own predefined queries," says Coba. "They can drill down to find issues on their own when they need to, rather than waiting for someone to generate a report and show them where an issue is a day or two later."


Business Intelligence Aids Factories and Sales

Besides installing MicroStrategy business intelligence technology in the plants, McCain Foods is also using it with its sales and commercial operations to provide information on sales, gross profit reporting, and detailed sales analysis and analytics. Rather than roll this out all at once as was done in the plants, the sales component is being rolled out country by country. "However, it was globally designed, tested and approved by all countries at one time before being rolled out to any of them," Coba emphasizes.

With the business intelligence technology, safety performance has improved in the plants, and production and throughput have increased. One reason is that the employees now have awareness of these performance metrics in a format that is easy to understand. And, as noted earlier, it also enables management to get to root causes and specific data easily and quickly.

The business intelligence technology is also affecting sales, as the McCain Foods sales team being more focused on where the money actually is and where it can be made within the channel. "It allows them to work more intelligently to drive greater sales to our customers and increase our sales and profit numbers as well," Coba says. "In other words, the money is being used in the right places, rather than where it would have traditionally been used."

In the immediate future, McCain Foods is looking to provide the reporting capabilities on mobile devices, allowing its users to access the information no matter where they are in the world.