Turning big data into valuable data
Axalta Coating Systems speeds up the decision-making process thanks to server-based analytics
Today, organizations must be able to adjust their budgeting, capacity and investment plans on an almost daily basis. To this end, the market demand is generally continuously monitored via demand management based on a variety of sources, while risks and opportunities are also mapped out. Data are needed for this purpose. Lots of data. Certainly for a company such as Axalta Coating Systems that produces 400,000 different colors of paint. SAS conducted this transition for Axalta, turning big data into valuable data. Making decisions is now easier than ever.
A leader in coatings
Around one year ago, Axalta Coating Systems separated from Du Pont de Nemours. With 145 years of experience in the coating business, Axalta chose a completely new vision, mission and approach. It was the start of a series of investments that led Axalta Coating Systems to become one of the five largest coating companies in the world. Their market is the automotive and transport sector and general industry.
Emea Demand Manager, Filip Buytaert puts it all into perspective. “We have 11,000 employees, across 35 production sites, eight of which are in Europe. Our database includes a total of 400,000 colors, categorized into 4,500 stock keeping units (SKUs). In order to respond to the market demand for such a wide variety of products in the best way possible, we must also be able to plan in the best way possible. And to do this we must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the available market information. Intensive demand management is thus essential for our company.”
Facilitating big data analytics
In order to set this demand management on the right track, Axalta Coating Systems combines data from 25 to 30 different data sources. These sources range from an ERP, a supply chain system and simple financial sources (such as the exchange rates between different currencies) to macroeconomic data drawn from indicators and data from their customers. However, they were lacking a tool for integrating the data from all these diverse sources and quickly converting them into concrete information that could serve the decision-making process.
“We sometimes ended up discussing the analysis for longer than it took to make the final decision. That was because we combine internal and external data sources that are spread over different systems. In the end, server-based analytics was the perfect solution for us: it enabled us to analyze, handle and report the increasing quantity of data quickly and efficiently. However, it is not about the data themselves, but what you can do with them.”
Good response times, easy access
After a tender, Axalta selected SAS to integrate the data and support Axalta in their reporting and decision-making. “The great strength of SAS is that it can integrate our internal and external sources and that it is also server-based, making it very accessible for all users. For example, Sales has a CRM system with customer data. We can now link these data to the freight costs per customer that come from another system. Perhaps we could also have done that in the past, but there is no doubt that it would have been a much more complex and time-consuming process. People sometimes lose themselves in analyses. Today with SAS, we have a structure that is aimed at analyzing and reporting so that we can make decisions very quickly. SAS is also able to guarantee acceptable response times. We have never had to sell this concept within our company. Our system users are SAS addicts and the acceptance level is enormous.”
Even better customer service
Because Axalta Coating Systems can now also integrate data from customers, it is also able to serve these customers even more comprehensively and anticipate their needs. “For example, garages share their data with us. As a result we know which vehicles their end customers have in the colors that we produce. Link this information to our data on the extent to which shades of color appear over time, and you will understand that we can approach the garage proactively with suitable color shades for subsequent repairs on those vehicles.”
One up on the competition
Because Axalta Coating Systems continues to upgrade incessantly, and invariably has 10 to 15 ongoing parallel projects for the integration of new data, the company decided to conclude a hypercare contract with SAS. “When something is too complex for our users, somebody from SAS is seconded to us for an extended period to do the data integration. Some of our systems integrate data in the evenings so that it can be used on the following mornings for production. It is essential for us that the SAS employees are always available. Fortunately SAS is a highly competent organization that is perfectly able to meet this requirement. They are attuned to our business needs, and continuously search for opportunities with us in our increasingly complex environment.”
Thanks to the SAS solution, Axalta also feels that it is one step ahead of the competition. “SAS supports us perfectly in our continuing evolution from an enterprise-centric organization to a consumer-centric organization. Today we are able to integrate an enormous quantity of data. Both our own information and data from others. The fact that we can take advantage of all information that we draw from our data gives us a substantial competitive advantage. Do we monitor the cost-effectiveness of it? Actually no. The added value of this system is so obvious and great for our company that that has become unnecessary.”
• Dare to invest. We didn’t pause to consider beforehand what the added value of the SAS solutions would be. Today we realize how important it is to invest in such solutions. It is unbelievable how much we have been able to optimize.
• The best way to bring people on board is to start with small pilot projects, to demonstrate the added value of such a solution gradually.