BI platform provider turns out continuous-improvement solutions

The inherent and growing risk involved in running complex global supply chains is sparking interest in technology that analyzes current performance and allows developing strategies for improved performance. SAS, a leading supplier of business intelligence (BI) and performance-management solutions, is capitalizing on this trend.

By Staff July 1, 2007

The inherent and growing risk involved in running complex global supply chains is sparking interest in technology that analyzes current performance and allows developing strategies for improved performance. SAS , a leading supplier of business intelligence (BI) and performance-management solutions, is capitalizing on this trend.

“Companies not only need to see what happened and why, but also what the consequences will be, and what steps to take to address the issue,” says Mike Newkirk, global industry marketing manager of manufacturing and supply chain at SAS. “That capability comes from using a platform that integrates BI with analytic tools and modeling capabilities such as ‘what-if?’ scenarios.”

SAS’ modus operandi is to use components of its BI platform to craft solutions that address functional areas within the manufacturing value chain. Most recently, says Newkirk, SAS created a solution for managing after-sales service operations—one that uses data mined in the service arena to improve future products.

SAS Warranty Analysis, for instance, first integrates field performance data with customer, product, manufacturing, and geographic information in a central repository. This data can then be analyzed for early detection and correction of potential problems. Companies using this application typically see an immediate 15-percent reduction in warranty costs, Newkirk says.

“There’s a lot of money to be saved if a company can shorten its detection-to-correction cycle,” Newkirk says, “but that’s just the starting point.” Once a problem has been detected, the SAS solution enables root-cause analysis to determine whether an issue resulted from a design, manufacturing, or a material flaw. That information can be fed back through the value chain.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp . is a long-time SAS customer that recently adopted the warranty solution. A module called SAS Text Miner analyzes searches for keywords and phrases in field-service reports.

“If a technician writes up a service call to replace an appliance motor, and ends up changing a belt too, Whirlpool—through text mining and analysis—could perhaps determine that it’s the belt and not the motor that’s the real problem,” Newkirk says. “That information could be used to improve future product designs.”