CATEGORY: Analytic Applications and Performance Management

REVIEWER: Ted Barnicoat, chief information officer for Trimac Information Services Inc.

BACKGROUND: Founded in 1945, Trimac Corporation is North America's premier provider of services in highway transportation of bulk commodities through Trimac Transportation Services and third-party logistics services through Bulk Plus Logistics. Trimac's total revenues were almost $700 million (CDN) in 2000.

PLATFORMS: The Cognos solution runs on a Sun server with six CPUs and 6GB of memory. Cognos' reporting product is installed on two Windows 2000 servers, each with dual CPSs and 1GB of memory.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Trimac manages all trucking operations through its field support system, a core application for the day-to-day management and monitoring of order entry, dispatch, trip planning, invoicing and driver settlement. Employees across 140 branches access this information to track internal efficiencies and improve customer service and satisfaction rates. We needed a business intelligence solution that would enable us to analyze the data from several different platforms and systems to gain an accurate view of business performance and identify those key areas where improvement was required. Cognos Business Intelligence provides employees with timely access to data on operational performance as well as reporting and analysis capabilities. This complete order to fulfillment system, which has helped us achieve continuous process improvement and offset industry cost increases, has strengthened our customer relationships by adding a unique value- add to our service offering.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Cognos provides Trimac with an infrastructure that unlocks information to measure, analyze and track the performance of the supply chain processes. The key benefits of this solution have been increased revenue, a reduction in operational costs and improved reporting capabilities.

STRENGTHS: Cognos' powerful drill-down capabilities allow us to compare the actual trip information to what we have committed to our customers, improving the value of the total logistics chain. Using Cognos, we have established an exceptions-based reporting system that has led to increased revenues per customer and an overall reduction in operational costs through improved process management. The Cognos-support trip standards system yielded an estimated $2.5 million in 2002 with greater benefits expected in future years. Cognos enables us to provide timely access to data about operational performance to staff across all branches, enabling them to analyze that information and ensure branch performance is mapping to the overall corporate goals. We can now deliver reports on key performance indicators (KPIs) to the field weekly instead of monthly – meaning information moves faster and action can be taken while the data is still fresh.

WEAKNESSES: Using Cognos PowerPlay to navigate and analyze our data cubes is complex and requires training, but we have accepted that as a function of any true analysis tool. The training and documentation provided are useful in overcoming this hurdle.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We began searching for a solution in July 1999, and we considered business intelligence applications from several vendors. The Cognos solution was compatible and easily integrated into our existing technology applications. We were integrating and upgrading several of our back-office systems – we needed to unite all of these data sources to gain an accurate and consistent view across all systems and departments. Cognos' ability to integrate seamlessly with our PeopleSoft, Oracle, Sybase and other existing legacy systems was a key factor in our selecting them as the business intelligence standard.

DELIVERABLES: We have integrated Cognos with our dispatch and financial systems for data analysis. We are now able to compare actual trip data to engineered trip standards and look for process improvements that reduce costs, enhance customer service and drive better corporate performance. The sophisticated reporting and analytic capabilities of the Cognos solution enable Trimac to identify hidden trends in data and realize valuable cost saving and cost avoidance opportunities. Branch managers analyze their financials, measure KPIs and develop reports based on these KPIs that allow them to take action on trends and share information across the company.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Working with Cognos has been a very positive experience. We worked with a team of technical analysts from Trimac and Cognos, and the combined team had a high technical proficiency in conceptual design and results-oriented practical problem solving. Cognos assisted with every phase of the project life cycle, including design, implementation, testing, delivery and post-implementation support.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation from Cognos is readily available and helpful for any users who may require it.

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