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Sims Metal: Mining for knowledge

October 04, 2011
Sims Metal Management is currently running a pilot project with Qurius UK to determine the capabilities and effectiveness of a complete BI system.

Sims Metal Management group ICT director Peter Barclay explains: “We have many sites across the UK and over the last few years we have been focusing on how we can gather, view and access information from all these sites so that we can create an accurate view of what is happening in our business, hour by hour and minute by minute. With this level of information we can effectively analyse performance and make the decisions necessary to optimise our operations and meet the ongoing demands of the business. We started this process by deploying standard business management systems based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV and the recycling and waste management specific enwis) solution from Qurius."

Data itself has little or no value. But if data can be recycled into information, and furthermore into knowledge, it can be the biggest asset in your business. "We have developed a standard systems implementation model that we roll out to new sites so we can bring them into an integrated company-wide system very quickly, which allows us to develop accurate and timely reports in a consistent format. In this environment of centralised reporting, we have been able to look at the potential for other tools, such as BI, to enable us to analyse current and historical data, predict trends and make more informed decisions for the overall running of the business. This is important to us because in the scrap industry, a competitive edge is vital. In our business, suppliers are as important as customers and it is essential for us to monitor trends in supply. If supply dries up, we have nothing to sell so we need the knowledge of what is happening in the industry to ensure we can be proactive in maintaining and developing our supply channels," says Peter Barclay.

BI provides summarised views on historic, current and predicted business operations, and thus supports better decision making. For example, in a typical recycling company, a huge amount of data (from historical transactions) will exist for vehicle movements. This data can be summarised in a view that shows, perhaps by vehicle type or territory, the utilisation or revenue generation of the vehicle or route. Looking at a comparative view of this data over a period of time, perhaps a few years, the business decision makers will be able to see what type of vehicle, or which geographical area is the most profitable.

The ICT Director eloborates: "We already have accurate and detailed reports. We are looking at BI to enable us to drill into the individual elements that make up these reports. We want to understand what’s happening to generate these results and with this knowledge carry out the necessary activities that will deliver improvements. Similarly, the tools can automatically generate alerts that highlight key areas that need to be dealt with. To achieve this, we are implementing Jet Enterprise and TARGIT BI. Jet Enterprise will organize the data into cubes of information that the BI tools can analyse and use. Creating these cubes normally requires some pretty specialist programming skills, but Jet allows us to produce these very easily. TARGIT then provides an easy to use tool for analysing this data and giving us the all important information on trends and developments that we are looking for."

By entering into the BI tool the planned purchase of new vehicles, development of new sites or increase/decrease in customers in a particular area, a predictive view of performance can be created. This information can influence many decisions in a business such as type of vehicle to purchase, the territories on which to focus the sales forces’ efforts, driver performance or where to create a new transfer station etc.

"The BI market has changed recently. These solutions used to be fairly expensive and almost always proprietary. With applications like TARGIT, Jet and enwis) all based on Microsoft architecture, they have been able to provide tools that are easier to set up and use and that are much more affordable. We have had BI cubes for a long time, but only very few people could access them in a meaningful way. TARGIT gives us an affordable end user tool that can be used effectively across the entire organisation. BI gives management the tools they need to really understand the business and this results in better decisions being made for the running of the company," concludes Peter Barclay.

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