CATEGORY: BI Tools

REVIEWER: Keith Bearden, CIO, and Cris Ettinger, sales operations manager, for a-dec, Inc.

BACKGROUND: With customers in more than 100 countries, a-dec, Inc. is one of the largest dental equipment manufacturers in the world. It designs and builds much of what you see in your dentist's office, then markets its products through an extensive worldwide network of authorized dealers. The company's phenomenal growth over its 36-year history prompted its owners to find people who could help a-dec remain responsive to an ever-growing customer base in a global environment.

PLATFORMS: a-dec, Inc. uses Web-architected Comshare Decision with a Hyperion Essbase multidimensional database.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Regional managers, responsible for about 75 territory managers around the world, had an annual meeting to estimate sales revenue for the next year, guessing at what that meant in actual production. Remarkably, they accurately predicted dollar volume, but were not even in the ballpark when forecasting the product mix needed. Manufacturing might have long lead times and excess inventory or have to work overtime to build the product within a given lead time. They might also have to expedite shipments or raw materials, costing the company much more money to respond to our customers' needs. It was time to put business intelligence technology to work for a-dec.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: a-dec chose Comshare Decision to harness the company's sales and production information. The Web-architected application is designed to make a-dec, Inc. more customer-focused, while reducing the hidden costs of overtime labor and inventory levels that were out of sync with actual customer needs. Today, a-dec territory managers communicate with finance and manufacturing via the Web. The new Comshare system enables them to communicate their sales forecasts, the product mixes they need and when they need them. In addition, a-dec's production department uses the data for planning and scheduling. The application also provides territory managers with a reporting capability that allows them to be better prepared for sales calls. The Comshare system shows territory managers trends that can help them identify how they might be able to help dealers boost sales. The net effect is increased sales.

STRENGTHS: The biggest benefit of our Comshare system is increased customer satisfaction due to the shorter lead time. This enables customers to have the right product available when they want it. Members of our sales force are very excited about what technology enables them to do.

WEAKNESSES: I believe the biggest weakness we have seen in the Comshare product primarily relates to our inexperience with the system and the lack of quality training. With our implementation being managed by our consulting partners, we didn't really explore all the capabilities of the Comshare product and did not seek out the training necessary to take full advantage of the system. We only focused on our defined basic needs as they related to the application we were developing. Recently, we were exposed to some additional functionality that exists in the Comshare product, and it has opened a new world of possibilities.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We turned to our valued consultants, Northwest EIS-OLAP, LLC., for their software recommendation. They recommended Comshare because of its Web architecture, its compatibility with mainstream database technology and the fact that we could use it interactively as a reporting and information-gathering and deployment tool.

DELIVERABLES: The Comshare system eases the burden of inventory management on manufacturing because it makes it much easier for our manufacturing team to plan. We had our best year-end business ever in 2000 because we were able to look into the future, plan, create an inventory mix and have it available for our people to sell. The Comshare system saved us tremendous amounts of money in overtime and inventory management and will continue to do so. The Comshare system is the foundation for a more robust, successful use of information by all facets of the company.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We have had good experiences with Comshare's Helpline and recently purchased additional Essbase licenses through Comshare rather than the manufacturer because Comshare's Helpline can support both the application and the database.

DOCUMENTATION: We have been satisfied with the level of documentation available from Comshare. The documentation is available online and contains complete and adequate information to support the product.

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