A prominent JSE-listed building materials provider now benefits from streamlined, tool-agnostic BI reporting following the implementation of a powerful cloud-based BI model by leading data and digital consultancy, Keyrus.
As a result of this successful project, PPC is able to gain valuable, previously unobtainable, insights into the relationship between four of its key strategic areas.
Established more than 130 years ago, PPC was the first cement manufacturer in South Africa. It is now a leading pan-African provider of quality building materials and solutions.
In the past
The company faced significant reporting challenges. There were stability issues when extracting data from the ERP system and stakeholders were unable to obtain timely insight into the value of their data. PPC’s four key areas of business operations: planning, production, sales, and inventory were unable to communicate with each other, each relying on individual reports created for only their particular function. The company required a system to provide visibility into how these four influenced each other.
“We needed a stable, sustainable platform from which to generate our BI reports, agnostic of the reporting tool,” says Kgomotso Molefe, Chief Information Officer at PPC. “We wanted to implement Microsoft Power BI as a data visualisation layer that could connect not only to SAP BW but also to many other data sources.”
The company needed an easy-to-use BI model that would also offer self-service dashboards and reporting for its end-users and decision-makers.
The future is in the cloud
Keyrus was tasked with developing a solution to the described challenges. The consultancy is renowned for its hands-on approach and global reach, which enables it to draw on the best practice, knowledge, and experience of its international team of experts. It has a strong track record in implementing Microsoft Power BI and solutions on the Azure platform.
Keyrus advised PPC to migrate from an on-premise solution to a modern data architecture built on the cloud.
“This was not just because the tech world is heading that way, but because we constantly see huge value at our clients where Azure cloud streamlines many processes and allows for fast scaling and flexible feature implementation as and when needed,” says Jessica Nolan, Business Intelligence consultant at Keyrus.
PPC had created cubes in SAP for planning, production, sales, and inventory. Keyrus tapped into the ERP system to extract that information and create models in Microsoft Azure Analysis Services which were pushed into the cloud. A tabular model in Azure was developed to serve as a semantic layer. The Power BI gateway was installed to ensure data connection between Azure and the on-premise data sources. Azure Data Factory was used to ingest the large inventory data volumes and structured to perform the daily data refreshes into the Azure Analysis Services Tabular model.
Benefits include cost reductions, improvement in data accessibility, and faster reporting.
Cost savings ensue from the move away from on-premise technologies, which means fewer hardware costs, including maintenance and support. In addition, the cloud gives PPC control over its spending based on how much new capacity or utilisation it requires.
“Most importantly, we now have all four cubes (planning, production, sales and inventory) in one place where they can communicate with each other across relationships,” notes Molefe.
PPC’s reporting system is tool agnostic and users can connect to data across multiple sources.
Power BI, the data visualisation layer, connects directly to SAP BW and other data sources. This environment is thus responsible for storage and business rules. The logic, therefore, resides in a semantic layer, rather than in the tool, which means any reporting tool can be used.
The system is easy-to-use and much less daunting than having to connect to PPC’s ERP system.
“We are delighted PPC trusted us with yet another significant project as we pride ourselves on our long-term partnerships with our customers. We celebrate PPC for recognising the importance of speedy, effective data processing and accurate reporting to improve business decisions and gain further competitive advantage.”