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3/6/2008
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SaaS-Based BI Helps Welch's Out of a Reporting Jam

Manufacturer bypasses company standard business intelligence suite in favor of on-demand transportation and logistics reporting.

Welch's, the well-known purveyor of jellies, juices and all things grape, has turned to a software-as-a-service-based business intelligence offering to streamline its transportation logistics. The choice was made despite the fact that Welch's has standardized on conventional on-premise BI software, and it follows a growing trend toward outsourcing of niche applications to SaaS-based BI vendors.

Welch's standardized on Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition(OBIEE) last year after selecting Oracle ERP software. The combination replaced a years-old legacy system that was teamed with Cognos software, but in at least one area, the new software didn't meet Welch's needs.

"Oracle didn't have the right solution for transportation logistics," says Bill Coyne, director of purchasing and logistics. Coyne wanted a system that could look at the big trends while also drilling down to individual orders and shipments. "In our previous [legacy/Cognos] system, everything had to be summarized at a higher level."

In search of an alternative, Welch's came across Oco , a SaaS-based BI vendor that handles everything from data integration and warehousing to reporting as a service. "We found that we could dump every data element — bills of lading, freight bill, orders and so on — into the Oco warehouse every night and report on it any way we wanted," says Coyne. "We thought holding that much data would be a problem, but they looked at what we’re doing and said they could hold up to ten year's worth of data."

Welch's implemented Oco late last year, and Coyne, who oversees a $55 million transportation budget, says he can now see overall orders as well as granular detail. "We've had this running for a few weeks and we’re already seeing opportunities in terms of the size and timing of orders," he says.

For example, Welch's can now spot customers that are consistently ordering three-quarter truckloads, and it can work with them to increase order sizes to gain savings on freight. The company has also noticed that many customers order on Fridays, so it has shifted intra-company shipments to avoid late-night and weekend overtime.

In outsourcing rather than rather building a custom application, Welch's is in good company. According to a report released last year by AberdeenGroup, companies deemed "best-in-class" — the top 20 percent in completing BI projects on time and on budget — are more likely to outsource to third-party vendors including SaaS providers to fill gaps in BI skill and organizational bandwidth.

"It's not just a question of managing the software and hardware," says analyst David Hatch, author of "Delivering Actionable Information to the Enterprise." "Companies need help integrating data, they need help ensuring that it's quality data and they need help building cubes, models and business rules before they can provide information to more users."

Seeing an opportunity to provide these services in new industries (outside its established presence in retailing), Oco last month introduced an Industrial Products Solution module and a Consumer Packaged Goods Solution module, each with pre-built dashboards, reports, and key performance indicators in areas such as sales and profitability, sourcing and procurement, inventory, and quality and production. Transportation and logistics dashboards and reports were developed based in part on Oco's experience with the Welch's implementation.

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