BACKGROUND: Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA) manufactures and markets a broad line of industrial forklift trucks and replacement parts under the brand names Caterpillar and Mitsubishi. MCFA distributes its products through a network of over 160 independent dealers throughout North and South America. One important key to our success is the strength and capabilities of our dealer organization.

PLATFORMS: Personal Analyst workstation versions are run on individual laptop computers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Over the last 15 plus years, we have gathered vast amounts of detailed operating and financial information from our dealers in a standardized format. We use this information to create and provide operational and financial benchmarks to help them improve their performance. Dealers that regularly utilize this information operate more efficiently and profitably than those that don't. Until recently, this information was gathered and analyzed using a combination of antiquated database and spreadsheet models. This process was inflexible and extremely difficult to maintain. We were unable to update our analyses to reflect improvements in our processes and were concerned about Y2K functionality.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Personal Analyst has given us power and flexibility beyond our expectations. We are now able to create special reports for dealers and internal MCFA management that were previously either done by hand or completely unavailable. We can consolidate or segment data at will, instruct dealer management on how to optimize customer and product profitability, and graphically display operational and financial cause-and-effect relationships. These capabilities have greatly improved our effectiveness. We are already working to expand deployment of Personal Analyst to help dealers prepare forecasts and business plans.

STRENGTHS: We purchased this product for its flexibility. We were frustrated knowing we had a vast information repository with limited ways to use it to help our dealers. Now we can answer any question quickly. Another important aspect for us is that Personal Analyst is database independent. We did not have to change our input information or dealer reporting formats at all. This would have significantly disrupted our operations.

WEAKNESSES: The application is not yet ODBC compliant. Consequently, we need to get ASCII downloads from our legacy systems to populate the data caches of our analytical models. Although this is not as automated as we would like, it is not a major issue.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Competitive applications are designed for large internal financial and operational systems and focus on data access and presentation versus financial and operational analysis. We had to have a package that was flexible, had powerful analytics and was mobile. We needed the ability to place the entire system on a PC and travel to our dealerships for consulting sessions with their management. We were also concerned about the skills of the implementation staff in dealing with our old software. We were unwilling to change the standardized reporting we request from our dealers. Personal Analyst accomplished all of our objectives. Finally, cost was an important factor. While this system is important to MCFA, it doesn't warrant a million dollar plus expenditure.

DELIVERABLES: Each year we create reports showing the dealers' performance versus multiple benchmarks. These are segregated into five categories based on dealership size. We produce a 19-page, comprehensive report (we know almost everything about our dealers) for each dealer, examining their performance and where they stand versus relevant benchmarks. We also use Personal Analyst to report vital dealership information to our executive management.

VENDOR SUPPORT: One of the main reasons for our selecting InAlysys was the time and effort they spent with us during our software selection process to understand our unique needs and ensure their system would fulfill them. One of their staff accompanied one of ours to a dealership to experience the process first hand. This was instrumental in their being able to help us. All along the way, any problems or difficulties have been addressed with speed, competence and professionalism. We have their whole staff behind us.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is complete.

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