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Research in Motion, an Ontario, Canada based company is popular worldwide for its Blackberry phones. The word Blackberry has to be one of the terms of the decade. It has become synonymous with phones providing all sorts of connectivity options at affordable cost. Research in Motion has also earned the 'Innovative Business" award in the Canadian Innovation Awards 2004-05. The company's phones have also bagged many "handset of the year" awards at numerous award ceremonies.
Logistics: A brief overview
The industry today is decentralized from production process perspective and it already was decentralized from the retail perspective. Any company for that matter does not keep all elements of its production process at one geographic area. In India for eg, Raw materials may come from Surat to a plant in Kolkata. The finished products would then have to be shipped exclusively to South India.
Due do such a vast geographic separation, transportation from one spot to another forms an important segment for the company. The transportation must be optimized to reduce cost and time and achieve the best transport throughput possible. This is what logistics deals with. Logistics involves handling operations that involve labor and material supply as per need as well as shipment of intermediaries across the company.
Logistics in RIM
RIM ships its blackberry phones to roughly 72 countries worldwide (Country list - Appendix 1.1). This means that the demand for its products is huge. The company also provides for wireless solutions for its phones To ensure costumer satisfaction, the company must be efficient with its shipping and ensuring that its services run uninterrupted. Everything from procurement of raw materials to the shipping of the finished product must be properly co-ordinated to ensure smooth business and customer relations.
Logistics on a global scale is a complex task and requires extensive planning for efficient management. Worldwide reach at each point involves maintaining lists of vehicles, sales professionals, manufacturing executives, field managers, field service employees as well as other hardware.
Logistics here is best managed, with an Information System working seamlessly within the company. RIM was already working its logistics with the help of the SAP - BW. SAP stands for Systems, Applications and Products. BW stands for Business Warehousing, and it is a special variant of the core SAP product.
Executives at RIM felt the need for a special Information system for Logistics purposes. They thus called upon the company Data - iQ to address their issues. The solution provided by them is discussed ahead.
ICT - RIM
Following are the requirements of the Information System required by RIM. These were addressed by their providers, Data - iQ.
Zero Downtime. Even when the system is being setup and transfers from the older system to the new one continue, it must remain Operation at full load even when the system is being setup.
Seamless data - flow with previous system in place with.
Real - Time performance tracking. Previously , it could not track the delivery performance against the actual delivery dates supplied by carriers.
DATA-iQ is a fortune 500 company and is recognized for its expertise in providing SAP based Business Intelligence solutions. Their clients include Arvato, Chrysler, Motorola, RIM, IBM, Sony etc. They are based in Canada.
RIM initially ran the SAP - BW (Business Warehouse) ERP software for all its departments. However, logistics demanded a special attention since real -time parameters were involved. Data - iQ instead of changing the entire SAP - BW for the company, implemented a new SAP - BI (Business Intelligence) architecture upon the already existing system. Data however was needed to be transferred to newer databases for real - time access. Reasons for implementing SAP - BI are given in Appendix 1.2.
ICT - Architecture
Xcelcius : One of the prime requirements of a good ERP system is its user interface. Xcelcius is a special user customizable interface that provides dashboard like capabilities with interactive, real time graphical features. It can take data feeds from SAP, MS Excel and other live sources.
Live Office: This application integrates with the MS Office Suite and can provide for up to date information on the fly. It enables the Business Intelligence to work directly upon data present in the MS Office applications such as Word, Powerpoint and Excel. This tool provides a much a needed flexibility factor to the business system.
SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse: It is the name of the Business Intelligence component. It performs analytical and statistical operations on corresponding Data Warehouses. It is used by organizations which run on SAP based ERP systems.
SAP Netweaver BW Accelerator: Provides drastic speed up for OLAP queries. Removes need for aggregations. Speed is so fast that queries taking days or even weeks can be done with in seconds.
SAP BusinessObjects Explorer: It uses high speed memory acceleration to provide search and exploration features. It can derive data relationships as well.
Crystal Reports: It is the de-facto standard of generating reports. Over 500 software vendors use it in their packages. Using these reports provides for much needed transparency when reports are to be sent out of the organization.
SAP BusinessObjects WebIntelligence: It provides with powerful analysis tools on the fly.
The solution 1st was to combine the existing BW architecture architecture with the BI architecture(Refer Pict 1 1). However, data across BW had to be transferred to special BI databases for Real - Time access. This needed a prior data conversion to make it compatible with data formats used for real - time. The system now not only updates data from the outside world in real - time, but also from the BW systems without any change in performance.
SAP ERP is the ECC (ERP Central Component) in the system (Refer Pict - 1.1). All transactional data in the company passes through it during the course of action. The SAP ERP at the end of the day, summarizes data and transfers it to the SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse (BW) component. Here, data is stored in such a format that drawing reports or asking queries to it results in very less response time. Infact generating on-demand reports is the primary function of the BW component.
The SAP Netweaver BW Accelerator reduces the response time even more. The accelerator indexes the vast filesystem across the company servers and uses searching schemes that vary as per request. Thus searches are optimized and not generic in result.
The SAP BusinessObjects WebIntelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and Xcelcius are the components the end user interacts with. All 3 of these components show data to the user, but the interpretation varies from component to component. All in all, they provide the necessary data to the end user.
The data thus attained from these components is used for:
Enterprise report generation
The interested user logs on to the system using Xcelcius or Business Objects explorer and puts in the query as per wish. Refer to Pict 1.1 for reference.
The BusinessObjects Explorer searches the company's data 'universe' which consist of OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) and Relational databases. OLAP's are special structures tailor-made for fast multidimensional search. This search request is then lead into the BW component which holds the 'universe' of data. The BW compenent utilizes the Accelerator component to speed up data gathering. After data has been gathered in, it is passed back to the BusinessObjects Explorer in specified report form.
Xcelcius is a dashboard interface. It is built in such a way that the moment you login into the system Xcelcius shows you summary information across the datawarehouses. It thus continuously taps into all sources of data to provide updates. These sources include LiveOffice, the Web and the company data 'universe'. It can work with real - time updates as well.
Pict 1.2 gives a good overview of the report generation sequence. Relational Sources include the data sources of interest. Queries pass through ETL (Extract ƒ Transformƒ Load) which basically formats queries into a form which the SAP system can interpret. Queries either goto the Data Warehouses or the Netweaver Component. They generate output reports based on specified formats.
RIM business attained much required fluidity with the introduction of the SAP - BI system. The company continues to grow at unprecedented speed.
The BI solution implemented by Data - iQ helped RIM in getting a better insight of on-time delivery performance. The solution helped RIM find problematic areas and immediately get to fixing them. The successful launch of the BI automated the transformation of raw input data into Intelligent Business Data called BI. It allowed the RIM analysts to concentrate on core the business of enhancing the logistics processes in the company.