"In the past, we have often been led up the garden path when it came to taking decisions. But today, using TARGIT, we have an ongoing overview of how business is faring in all 61 of our pharmacies, based on objective information. TARGIT has become an essential tool in our day-to-day business operations,” states Raf Vermeiren, Accounting & Finance Manager at De Lindeboom, and he continues: ”We did of course know previously what our turnover and margins were, but when things got really busy, it was difficult to keep track of the whys and wherefores. For instance, what were the causes behind those sharp fluctuations in margins? What was the situation with stock rotation? What sorts of irregularities were going on with the use of loyalty cards? In a word, we didn’t have an ongoing overview of our business on a day-to-day basis."
Managing a group of 61 pharmacies requires careful commercial, logistical and financial monitoring. An actual example of this is where the margins on pharmaceutical products are constantly fluctuating, which means that it is absolutely vital for De Lindeboom to be able to monitor the reasons behind the changes.
Raf Vermeiren elaborates: "Previously, we didn’t know what our sales figures were until day 20 after the end of the month. Today, we know what happened yesterday, and what action we need to take tomorrow."
More than 150,000 daily transactions
The management at De Lindeboom could see the need to use a data warehouse so that it could extract useful business information from the mass of data managed by Escapo. To ensure that supplies to the outlets are being properly handled, the cooperative wholesaler Escapo was created as part of the structure of the pharmacy business. In addition to purchasing, Escapo is also responsible for pricing breakdowns and supporting De Lindeboom pharmacies in terms of hardware and software.
De Lindeboom’s data warehouse contains data recorded over the past 3 years – a total of approximately 230 million transactions. An each day there are an additional 150,000 new transactions. Yet in addition to the data warehouse, De Lindeboom also wanted to retain access to the entire database managed by Escapo. “When the BI application highlights certain anomalies, you have to be able to carry out more analyses if necessary on the database as a whole,” explains Raf Vermeiren. “TARGIT gives us a very flexible way of creating new analyses based on that data."
For instance, TARGIT provides a platform for conducting detailed analyses of the profitability and staffing in the individual pharmacies. This means, for example, that the turnover can be compared with staffing at specific times and/or days.
“In the past, this meant that a pharmacist might ask us for additional staff, because things were ‘too busy, but over 50% of our staff is university educated and so salary costs are a major part of our cost structure. Today, though, we can make decisions about extra staffing based on cold, hard figures,” says Raf Vermeiren and continues: “Our stocks at De Lindeboom represent around six million EUR. That is a huge chunk of capital to have standing still. Our stocks Cube enables us to achieve all sorts of ‘Quick Wins’ by making the best possible use of our pharmacy stocks.”
In addition to being able to analyse stock levels and rotations for individual products in the pharmacies, De Lindeboom is now also able to detect abnormal stock movements in good time.
“Abnormal situations can only be approached using objective information. These days we are able to identify any anomalies in the pharmacies, such as product returns or manual transactions on loyalty card balances,” states Raf Vermeiren and starts to explain why TARGIT was chosen as the organization’s Business Intelligence system. They went through the process of screening the most likely providers in the marketplace. This resulted in a shortlist of three providers: QlikView, SQL Server Reporting Services and TARGIT.
Data warehouse the right solution
Given the size and complexity of the central business database, there was a concern at De Lindeboom that a BI application like QlikView that spoke directly to the central database would soon reach its limits. So, management decided to build its data warehouse and OLAP Cubes. This means that in the end, the reduced and structured data can be drawn on for analysis by TARGIT. After an in-depth analysis of the processes, De Lindeboom decided to build four standard OLAP Cubes. These Cubes are designed to give management the support it needs in its day-to-day business operations:
- management of loyalty cards;
- cash transactions.
One specific Cube contains all of the information needed to monitor the progression of sales in the individual pharmacies on a day-to-day basis.
The De Lindeboom Apotheek group of pharmacies was established in 1953 as an offshoot of the Christelijke Mutualiteit health insurance fund in Mechelen. The organisation has grown significantly since the end of 2002 as the result of mergers and acquisitions and today has 61 pharmacies.