Business intelligence gains ground in Italy’s manufacturing industry

How Italian manufacturers Bticino and Raccorderie Metalliche are using BI to be more efficient and agile

Italian manufacturers, including the country's extensive small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, are turning to business intelligence software to become more efficient in the face of international competition. 

Metalworking company Bticino and press fitting systems maker Raccorderie Metalliche have, respectively, implemented QlikView and SAP Business Objects to assist their business plans.

A division of the Legrand Group, Bticino employs 2,800 people in manufacturing low-voltage electrical equipment for living, working and production spaces, integrating systems for energy distribution, communication, control of lighting, sound distribution, climate and safety. Its products can be found throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

The main business intelligence task Bticino faces is to find the right way to introduce a higher level of intelligence that could speed up and improve its overall production system, which comprises eight site plants in different parts of Italy.

The manufacturer selected QlikView in 2013 to transform the way it uses data for reporting, analysis and decision-making.

“QlikView has displaced the old way of reporting and analysis,” says Giuseppe Parola (pictured), industrial director at Bticino.

Before it turned to QlikView, each manufacturing plant had its own way of reporting. Excel and Access files were the most common tools and the main problem was an overall lack of data integration across the whole organisation, says Parola.

“We could no longer rely on such heterogeneous and poor technologies. We wanted real BI and we wanted data discovery.”

For more on BI in manufacturing

Since deploying QlikView, Bticino has seen a dramatic fall in reporting times, improved inventory control, and better customer response. Gaining real-time visibility across the extended manufacturing enterprise to drive operational efficiencies was the main goal of the BI project.

“We are now able to put the power of data analysis into the hands of our engineers faster than ever before,” says Parola. “For example, using QlikView, we can now match our inventory levels to production levels. We can match the components held in stock against our bill of materials and this tells us the quantity we can produce from this stock inventory.

“QlikView drives a different type of data analysis within our business. It enables us to be innovative with our thinking, transforming the way we view data. 

“We appreciate the powerful capabilities that QlikView brings through a simple, user-intuitive interface, and the widespread adoption means that we are now effectively analysing real-time data to reduce our costs and drive the business.”

Parola adds: “Putting the information into the hands of the people on the front line – those planning and managing production, buying materials, planning supply and demand, managing quality and inventory – is key to enforcing a culture of fact-based decision-making.”

QlikView helps managers in manufacturing operations to deliver the priorities of efficiency, cost and quality. “The plant is where materials are planned, received, stored, moved and transformed into finished goods and QlikView enables the consolidation and analysis of data to identify opportunities to improve operational performance,” he says. 

“Data is generated at many points in the plant and speedy and accessible analysis is critical in enabling managers to control performance.”

Parola concludes: “BI is no longer about collecting reports. It’s becoming much more about interactive decision-making. As such, static stories are no good any more because they lead to unanswered questions. The option to dive into the data and answer questions in real time is what is needed.”

Raccorderie Metalliche more agile with Business Objects

Another Italian firm that has implemented BI is Raccorderie Metalliche (RM), which makes press fitting systems, welding fittings, collars and fixing systems, plugs and accessories for radiators produced in Italy and distributed in many countries through an extensive sales network. 

The company has two important plants in the province of Mantua with more than 250 employees, and a capillary sales network in Italy and all over Europe.

Tightly integrating BI systems with the production environment has allowed us to improve time to market and introducing a new level of efficiency

Guido Ceccardi, Raccorderie Metalliche

RM is an example of Italy's SMEs that are turning to BI. Increasing globalisation, heavy competition and rapidly changing technologies affect SMEs as much as they do large multinational corporations. Even firms that do not seek geographic expansion must contend with increased competition at home from rivals based outside Italy.

SMEs are making major changes to their business models, products and go-to-market strategies, and are using technology to level out the playing field with bigger companies.

RM, like many Italian SMEs, wants to be more agile. “That means you have to constantly review the firm’s business model, products and markets,” says Guido Ceccardi, vice-president at the firm. “It’s not just a matter of upgrading or adding technology. For us, transformation is understood as a strategic necessity.”

The company's implementation of SAP Business Objects in 2013 was intended to energise the whole company, enabling it to make better decisions in less time. It involved locating all the master data – information that is key to the operation of the business – fetching it and making it more accessible across the organisation, says Ceccardi.

“Through the implementation of SAP Business Objects, RM has been able to aggregate information within a single system,” he adds. “Tightly integrating BI systems with the production environment has allowed us to improve time to market and introducing a new level of efficiency.

“The RM sales force benefits from the new BI system. Information and data are always available and each sales person can fulfill their job with agility and speed.” 

The next step, says Ceccardi, is “to make available data on mobile devices, further amplifying the BI effect”.

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