Consider all the complexities that supply chain executives face. Now consider how much more challenging the supply chain becomes when the items being produced and distributed are seasonal, and meeting revenue targets hinges on the sales that take place in just a few months of the year.
Beer is a seasonal item. Consumption peaks in the hot days of summer and during the short December holiday period. And so supply chain planners at large brewing companies like Molson Coors are confronted with questions like these:
• What demand (sales forecast) must we plan for?
• What inventory (raw, packaged, and finished goods) will be required to support sales at our targeted customer service levels while avoiding product obsolescence — that is, how do we get the right product and the right quantity to the right place at the right time?
• Where are our production bottlenecks and constraints, and how do we compensate for them while optimizing all the resources within our supply chain to meet our customer-service goals?
• What are the week-over-week inventory levels for each warehouse and the amount of volume moving by shipping lane?
• How much product will be purchased or imported — and how do you factor in product lead times?
These are just a few of the questions that Todd Campbell, Vice President of Logistics and Procurement for Molson Coors Canada, guides his team to answer. Under his leadership, and partnering with Katrina Coyle, Global Information Manager for Molson Coors, supply chain planners harness business intelligence (BI) tools to help shape, execute, and continually redefine the company’s strategic direction in all of these areas.
||The Supply Chain Planning Team at Molson Coors Canada
"Advanced planning is used across all aspects of production, from grain to bottle,” says Campbell. “This includes demand, brewing, packaging, and inventory planning, plus the detailed scheduling of each of our production lines and the ultimate deployment plan.” Campbell says that the faster that Molson Coors teams can access data and put it in a useful format — for a clearer view of the world — the faster they can make informed decisions and move on. This fuels a passion for innovation and challenging past thinking and performance, while enabling an ability to address anticipated inventory gaps and reinforcing the Molson Coors mentality that “Every Case Counts.”
“We pride ourselves on speaking from a fact base,” adds Campbell. We rely on the services that Katrina’s team supplies to give us those facts. Every decision my team makes needs to be grounded in a factual reference. I don’t want people to make decisions based on gut feel.”
|Todd Campbell, Vice President, Logistics and Procurement,
Molson Coors Canada
A Multi-Dimensional Reporting Solution
Campbell and Coyle are now collaborating to enable reporting and analysis that:
- Operates seamlessly across lines of business and multiple systems
- Yields rapid — near instantaneous — response times
- Is so intuitive and easy to use that any executive or everyday user can interact with target information with minimal training
BI vendors have historically optimized their solutions along one of these dimensions, not all three. SAP, however, held out the promise that its new SAP BusinessObjects Explorer offering was designed expressly for these purposes. Early evaluation by Coyle looked promising, so the company decided to pilot this BI tool.
“There’s data and there’s information — one is the progression of the other,” Campbell says. “I believe that SAP BusinessObjects Explorer will alleviate the time lag between the two, so that you’re truly functioning with the information that enables the decision, versus trying to manipulate data to drive you there.”
||Evelyn Vivas, Leanne Cohen, and Cesare DiVito in the
John Molson Cafe at Molson Coors Canada's Toronto Headquarters
Information on Steroids
From its trial implementation of this new technology, the team’s observations offer some insights into the changing look and feel of reporting and information, as well as the impact of intuitive searches on structured reporting.
SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, which Coyle describes as “information on steroids,” displays search results more like an Internet search engine than a typical BI interface. “When we tested the tool, we commonly heard people say that the results don’t seem like a report. Instead, they get the sense that they are actually looking at information,” she says.
“The search functionality is quite astounding — you can type in a few keywords and receive answers quickly,” says Coyle. “And the way SAP is positi
oning the tool, the idea is that anybody can access what he or she needs, at any time, without having to fully understand the reporting system.”
Because Molson Coors is so information-centric, many of its meetings are based on structured content. “We bring in formatted reports containing data that we believe is relevant to the pending discussion,” says Campbell. The hope is that users could draw upon SAP BusinessObjects Explorer to quickly turn around any requests for information that arise during these meetings and be able to answer them before the meeting is over.
“I would like to spend the bulk of time developing the questions and then minutes or seconds shaping the accessible data,” he says, “and I believe the product will enable that.”
||Vijay Rajenthiram, Frederick Chan, and Kevin Fox
at the John Molson Cafe
Lightening the Burden on the BW Team
The breweries that Molson Coors operates around the world rely on and pull data from SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW), and a large amount of the reporting information that employees gather is from SAP systems. To manage this information, Molson Coors has a 21-member global BW team. Over the past several years, this team has been consolidating all of its data into a single SAP NetWeaver BW instance.
Molson Coors has hundreds of reports, and its BW team often fields questions from business users asking which one to use — with so many different possibilities and information stored in a number of different places.
To ease this effort, the BW team began looking for alternative ways to serve the demands of the business for information. By putting SAP BusinessObjects Explorer on top of a company’s data warehouse, business users can analyze more business data on their own rather than relying on the BW team to generate a report. “With SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, the BW team is freed up to perform more sophisticated pieces of predictive analytics for the company,” says Coyle.
Putting Reporting in the Hands of Business Users
At Molson Coors, senior executives regularly go to the company’s national reporting group for reports — for example, the sales numbers for Coors Light for a particular region in August. “Can you imagine if your executives could obtain the answers themselves in two minutes?” asks Coyle. “Because that’s what this tool allows you to do — simply ask a question and rapidly receive the answer.”
Right now, Molson Coors is exploring, with SAP, the mobile functionality of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. The idea is that executives could remotely call up a query and — just by pushing a couple of buttons — get the answers they need. “From a mobility perspective, executives would be interested in that side of the application,” says Coyle. “We’re testing this right now, but we understand the power of what it can do and how easy it is to use at that level.”
Testing SAP BusinessObjects Explorer
Molson Coors partnered with SAP and IBM to test SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. One of the reasons that the tool’s performance is so fast is because it relies on SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator), a piece of software that indexes data from InfoCubes, allowing for rapid return of data from very large datasets in the SAP NetWeaver BW system.
Molson Coors has been using SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator since 2007, so the BW team knew the data acceleration benefits. However, for the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer pilot, a development accelerator was required, as this was not available in their current landscape. So that Molson Coors could optimize its experience with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, “IBM loaned us an additional SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator, and delivered and set it up very quickly,” says Coyle.
“When we tested SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, we commonly heard people say that the results don’t seem like a report. Instead, they get the sense that they are actually looking at information.”
— Katrina Coyle, Global Information Manager, Molson Coors
In fact, the project itself moved rapidly: The timeline — from the day Molson Coors was invited to participate in the pilot program until the company was actually running SAP BusinessObjects Explorer — was under a week. “Once the solution arrived, it took us less than a day to install it and get it up and running — a very rapid turnaround,” she says. With SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator installed, Molson Coors built a test data warehouse with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer. Then the project team put it in front of the business.
“We brought the business users into the project pretty informally,” says Coyle. “We started with Todd. As we and the IT site leads started using the tool, we became increasingly excited about it and added more and more people.”
The feedback from the beginning was positive. The biggest success factor in the minds of those who tried it was how fast and responsive the tool is. “At first, we thought ‘This is interesting.’ Then we logged in and started using it, and we were just blown away,” Coyle says.
Getting user acceptance of the tool did not require much work. According to Coyle, the process consisted of plunking business users in front of a computer, giving them a user ID, and telling them “Go to it.” “We immediately received feedback about how fast it was. People would ask, ‘Are we keeping this?’”
||The Molson Coors Brewery in Action
Fast Data — But Is It the Right Data?
The way that SAP BusinessObjects Explorer “does it all for you” by automatically filtering requests and displaying the search results in a clickable format is a huge benefit to the business, according to Coyle.
At the same time, there are some lessons to be learned here. Campbell cautions that because of the speed of the response, it may also give the user a greater confidence in the response than is warranted. Data can be misinterpreted if users don’t truly understand the full parameters of what they seek. For example, if a user query asks for sales in a particular region for a particular date, do they mean all sales, or sales excluding some products but not others?
Equally important is that the response is only as good as the data it is reading. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer relies on metadata to pinpoint its searches. “If your metadata is well defined, you can just type in, for example, ‘Sales Molson Canadian September 2009,’ and the tool will provide one or more responses, each asking ‘Is this what you’re looking for?’” says Coyle. “When you click on a response, the tool displays answers in seconds — filtering to the build, the product, the timeline, and so on.”
Again, training users to be thorough about their search parameters — and making these parameters clear — is a key part of usability. “You create information space in the tool, where you can put all the content you can potentially slice, dice, and analyze,” says Coyle.
“We pride ourselves on speaking from a fact base. Every decision my team makes needs to be grounded in a factual reference. I don’t want people to make decisions based on gut feel.”
— Todd Campbell, Vice President, Logistics and Procurement,
Molson Coors Canada
Determining Next Steps
Molson Coors’s evaluation of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is still ongoing as of this writing (currently, the company is testing acceleration of non-SAP NetWeaver BW data using data federation and the next generation of the SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator software), but the upside has certainly demonstrated itself. “We aren’t using the tool in production yet, but the research I’ve done suggests that it can get us there,” Campbell says. “The way you can graphically shape data, pose questions to the model, and structure content, for example — I believe it’s going to be able to support all that.”
Coyle hopes to implement the tool permanently. “I am very aggressively working on that to see what we can accomplish,” she says. “Even if we have only a small number of users in the initial implementation phase, we would provide the tool to key decision makers in areas like supply chain planning, sales, distribution, and marketing.”
With faster, more meaningful data access and distribution, Molson Coors is better able to meet market demands and beat the competition. Because of the increasing number of beer brands all vying for consumer attention, the company must have access to the right information to make the right decisions and compete effectively in such a fast-paced industry. With SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, Molson Coors hopes to reach these goals and benefit from increased industry advantage, maintained market distinction, and improved response to consumer trends.
According to Katrina Coyle, the pilot project was so successful that Molson Coors decided to implement the tool permanently and provide it to key decision makers to use in production. “We have now licensed SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and plan on ramping it into the business starting in the New Year,” she confirms.