Business intelligence and manufacturing case studies

Selecting and implementing BI software can be a challenge, but many manufacturers have taken the plunge with profitable results. These manufacturing case studies show some of the many ways BI can be leveraged for data management in manufacturing environments.

Many manufacturers have taken the plunge into business intelligence (BI) software. When BI is utilized correctly, it not only improves the way an organization collects and analyzes data -- it makes the business more efficient from top to bottom. has collected business intelligence and manufacturing case studies from manufacturers in a variety of industries to find out how BI software changed the way their businesses handle and leverage data. Read on to discover best practices for BI software selection, implementation, integration with other systems and user training from IT professionals who have successfully navigated the BI waters.

Don't miss the other installments of our manufacturing business intelligence guide:

  • Guide to business intelligence for manufacturing
  • Business intelligence and manufacturing case studies
  • Coming soon: Building a business case for manufacturing business intelligence
  • Coming soon: Evaluating business intelligence software for manufacturing
  • Coming soon: Planning a manufacturing business intelligence implementation

BI software helps building materials manufacturer create data warehouse

Owens Corning, a building materials and services company, needed to improve its gross margins while recovering from bankruptcy proceedings. The company undertook what it called the Information Access Project (IAP), a data warehouse initiative. An SAP shop running on about a dozen other systems, Owens Corning had the usual problems of data consolidation; customers and products were known by different names on various systems.

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The company uses the IAP to improve sales planning, allowing all sales reps in the field to be measured against the data warehouse. Sales reporting tools enable business managers to allocate resources by running "what-if" scenarios against new territories based on historical data.

Owens Corning selected the BI application suite from software vendor Kalido Ltd. Before the implementation project, which took 60 days to complete, the company was only able to aggregate customer data from its global $5 billion business. With the new BI software, Owens Corning can identify products sold at a loss or a low margin and correct the pricing accordingly.

Construction supplies company pairs BI with RFID

The Granite Rock Company, a provider of bulk rock and asphalt for construction projects, installs radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on its delivery trucks and analyzes RFID data for BI. But don't try to buy a complete RFID-BI system like this off the shelf. Graniterock, as the company is commonly known, had no choice but to engage a consulting firm to develop its unique application.

Graniterock has designed its own reporting and management system, and reports increased operational efficiencies. The company scans the RFID tags affixed to all trucks that arrive at its quarries. This records which company owns the truck, the licensing information, what project it's associated with and what it's picking up. Then, electronic signs direct the truck to the correct loading location within one of its quarries. Once it's loaded, Graniterock weighs the truck and scans it again on the way out. All this data is collected and analyzed with a custom application, which includes a Microsoft SQL Server database and is integrated with the BI delivery platform Crystal Enterprise from SAP's BusinessObjects group.

By analyzing RFID data, Graniterock has been able to get trucks through their quarries in about 10 to 15 minutes, almost half the time it used to take. Its detailed email reports enable customers to analyze the efficiencies of the delivery trucks. The company also uses BI tools to support customer service and billing operations, optimize internal processes and track safety information, like truck maintenance records.

Abrasives manufacturer syncs up data network with BI software

Saint-Gobain Abrasives North America, a manufacturer of bonded, coated and superabrasive products for the industrial, construction, automotive repair and do-it-yourself markets, needed to consolidate its company data into one system. With ten production plants in North America, Saint-Gobain has a large data network to manage.

A multi-departmental committee was formed to evaluate the company's BI software needs. First, the system needed to be able to extract and consolidate data from a number of systems. Secondly, it needed to have a user-friendly interface that would be easily accessible to employees from various departments. Third, the system needed to be able to scale. Lastly, it needed be able to deliver real-time data to a centrally-managed location.

After comparing available BI systems that might help improve data network management, Saint-Gobain found that MicroStrategy's BI software met all these requirements. The system runs on a single database, so company data from across the network is stored in one place. MicroStrategy's report caching feature reduces traffic on Saint-Gobain's network by allowing users to run a query once for a monthly report and save it.

Another feature of the MicroStrategy BI system is the automatic aggregate awareness data warehouse feature, which builds data tables and then chooses the smallest table for faster data retrieval. Since implementing its new BI software, Saint-Gobain has reduced the time it takes to do user monthly reporting from 24 to 12 hours.

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