Web-based enterprise content management system proves its business intelligence mettle (case study)

In this case study, learn how a Web-based enterprise content management system helped a metals recycler share business intelligence (BI) reports across nearly 30 facilities.

When a merger tripled the number of facilities Fernando Gallegos was sending business intelligence (BI) reports to, the director of IT at SA Recycling (SAR) knew the scrap metal firm needed a better way to share information with its employees.

The Anaheim, Calif.-based company -- the result of a merger of Sims Metal Management and Adams Steel in September 2007 -- purchases, recycles and sells scrap metal, such as used car bodies and junked appliances, to manufacturers and other customers. Since the late 1990s, Sims had analyzed sales, transfers and inventory data collected by its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with BI technology from Datawatch, based in Chelmsford, Mass. Until recently, the resulting daily reports were input into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and emailed to branch locations for analysis.

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Manually distributing business intelligence reports a challenge

The merger left Gallegos, once responsible for IT at eight facilities, now covering nearly 30. Manually formatting and emailing reports was simply no longer feasible.

"The quantity of emails going out with this kind of a daily report was just overwhelming," he said. "It would have taken all of my time as a report writer."

Instead, Gallegos decided to tap Datawatch's Web-based enterprise content management system, called Datawatch ES, to automate report distribution. In fact, with ECM technology, he wouldn't have to distribute reports at all. Facilities managers and administrators themselves could access reports online.

Giving SAR's facilities managers browser-based access to accurate, timely inventory data was of particular concern to Gallegos. "Being that we're a metal recycling company, there's a very heavy emphasis on inventory and what you have on the ground, because every piece of metal is actually worth some amount of money," he said. "Inventory is a big thing for us."

Also, SAR's processing facilities are given great autonomy, operating almost as independent entities. Each is responsible for tracking and managing its own sales, transfers and inventory.

Enterprise content management improved report delivery, analysis capabilities

When word of the merger reached him back in 2007, Gallegos wasted no time starting the IT infrastructure integration process. By October, he and his IT staff had extended SAR's ERP system, Systems Alternatives' Commercial Recycling Enterprise System, to the new facilities. They then deployed Datawatch ES throughout the new company, completing that job by April.

Now, SAR's ERP system in Anaheim feeds daily, preformatted reports into the Datawatch ES system. General managers and other end users at processing facilities located throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico use a Web-based interface to view and analyze data and trends relevant to their facility.

In addition to archiving and making BI reports available online, Datawatch ES allows end users to load previously static reports into HTML, browser-based spreadsheets, or multidimensional cubes for more complex analysis, Datawatch says. And because it accesses reports, not data, no programming is required during implementation, as used to be the case at SAR, Gallegos said.

"We basically set up the Datawatch ES system as a way of providing our end users with the data they need to run their business," he said. "Particularly, what we're most concerned about is any type of errors they encounter throughout the day…. If there is an error that may affect inventory or their transfers, it actually has a domino effect on everything else around their facility."

A purchase order lacking a supplier, for example, or an amount of metal in an order that doesn't match the actual amount of inventory on the ground, can delay a facility's operations, Gallegos said. With Datawatch ES, SAR managers can quickly identify and correct discrepancies.

Time saved, errors addressed with automated business intelligence report delivery

The system is also helpful to executives and managers at SAR's home office, Gallegos said. Because sales orders sometimes pull inventory from multiple SAR facilities, "any type of errors [at one facility] will in the end affect all the other companies in terms of our daily processes." Datawatch ES allows SAR headquarters to monitor operations at each of its 28 locations.

The largest obstacle in the entire project, Gallegos said, wasn't technical, but organizational. He and SAR managers must determine what data to include in reports to each facility, and what information is better omitted for security, privacy or other reasons. That task, which is ongoing, is one that Datawatch technology can't help them with.

Ultimately, though, Datawatch's ECM technology is saving SAR's IT department four to five hours a day, Gallegos said -- time previously spent formatting and emailing reports throughout the company. For that, Gallegos considers his decision to deploy Datawatch ES a good one.

Does your company use an enterprise content management system? Email SearchDataManagement.com editors with your story!

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