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Business Intelligence Helps Bat Maker Hit Business Targets

A reporting tools deployment is helping Hillerich & Bradsby, maker of the Louisville Slugger and other sports gear, improve its grip on product-by-product sales data.

When the people who make the Louisville Slugger baseball bats wanted to run faster, more detailed reports about gross margin, inventory and sales, they knew they needed business intelligence software that would integrate with the company's large SAP installation. After starting with eight contenders, they finally narrowed the candidates to just two: WebFocus, from Information Builders, and Business Objects' Crystal Enterprise.

"Crystal required that we set up directories," said Scott Robinson, Assistant Comptroller at Hillerich & Bradsby, which owns Louisville Slugger. "What scared me is that things change quickly in our business and that software didn't seem as flexible as we needed."

So, after evaluating several packages, H&B determined that Information Builders' WebFocus best provided the flexibility and interoperability with SAP that it needed.

Until recently, the company was completely satisfied with SAP's performance, noted Robinson. But, as the company continued to expand, H&B realized it needed more complete information to facilitate making key business decisions: "The SAP computer system was very good, but its reporting was just not as robust as we needed," Robinson said.

In fact, that's a pretty common reason companies install WebFocus, said Information Builders' Ken Newberger. Newberger is a sales and development liaison with engineering for the business intelligence software vendor.

"WebFocus integrates fully with SAP systems to deliver real-time information," he said. "We can deliver the information in multiple formats: Excel, .pdf, PowerPoint."

The challenge for Hillerich was getting robust reports about inventory, gross margin and production (to name just a few) in the shortest amount of time possible, and from offices both international and domestic. Each of those sites originally had their own, unique reporting systems, complicating the task of efficiently managing the company's products and customers, but now, according to Robinson, all the offices use SAP. Still, running the reports from the SAP software was time-consuming, because Robinson first had to download the relevant information (e.g., a 12-page document chock-full of tables) into Excel and then create a useful document in an expedient manner. Today, with WebFocus, he has shaved 8 to 12 hours a month off the process, and the company isn't done with the number of reports it wants to run through WebFocus.

"Running the income statement [through WebFocus] will save me days alone," said Robinson.

Although the Hillerich & Bradsby name is not a household one, the names of many of the brands it owns are: Louisville Sluggers are swung by Little Leaguers and Major Leaguers alike; golfers get a grip with H&B's bionic glove; goalies get by with Xceed leg pads. H&B is a midsize, privately owned business with approximately 400 employees, according to published reports. The reason running business intelligence reports is so crucial is because it's business-critical for H&B to understand the value of each of its different product lines.

"I used to go into SAP, which has some reporting features, and write reports to build P&L. Now, with WebFocus I added columns on the P&L of a division or of 'all baseball,' for example," said Robinson. "The software allows us now to make a more informed decision."

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