Western Digital wanted to be more precise in accessing the manufacture of its hard drives, and in 1997 company officials started looking to vendors for a packaged solution that would meet their exacting criteria. They came up empty-handed and turned to their own engineers to develop a quality information system (QIS) that would apply advanced analytic and data warehousing to the extended supply chain--all the way from suppliers’ suppliers to customers’ customers.
SageTree, the Western Digital software arm that created the QIS, has formed a strategic alliance with NCR and now offers SageQuest, a suite of Web-based, enterprise-wide packaged analytic applications for the manufacturing industry. Initially, SageTree will be targeting the high-tech computing and automotive industries with what SageTree calls “supply chain intelligence,” a discipline that analyzes product and components at every stage of the product life cycle. The company emphasizes a category within supply chain intelligence called product lifecycle intelligence, which focuses on product yields, quality and reliability, all of which affect the ability to deliver product. SageTree emphasizes that product information should be tracked in the field because that information relates future development, replacement units, etc.
SageTree’s sales VP Ken Chatfield cites the following hypothetical call center example of SageQuest benefits. “Let’s say I have a Palm 3 that stopped working. I’ll call 3Com and speak with help desk operator, who is probably rated on the length of time spent with me and whether or not my problem is fixed. The help-desk will tell me to check the batteries and maybe walk me through some diagnostics. 3Com want to make sure the Pilot doesn’t have to be returned unnecessarily, because of the high cost of handling, checking, repairing and returning the unit.
SageQuest allows access to data sources that don’t normally talk to each other, Chatfield continues. “Maybe the 3Com operators are on a Clarify database for call center management and customer service runs on, say, JD Edwards. Our system sits in the middle and ties together the two systems and can actually able to rate the call center operator. 3Com can determine who are its most accurate operators.” This capability is clearly valuable; with computer companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on call centers, maintenance, service and warranties.
Further, says Chatfield, the information can be integrated with service center loads while simultaneously collecting data that design engineers can use for future product development. If, in this hypothetical example, LCD screens are repeatedly failing, and there are three LCD screen suppliers, the company would be able to discover if a single supplier were responsible for the failures.
The SageTree software allows companies to analyze granular, or what the company calls “atomic,” levels the data generated from every aspect and component of their supply chains. Says Chatfield, “Western Digital is able to predict return rates not just by product and product family, but by platter count, head count and other components inside the drive.”
Installation is typically a three- to four-month process. The SageTree professional services division will assess a manufacturer’s needs and create a data warehouse (here’s where the NCR synergy comes into play). SageQuest is a modular, Web-based tool with has more than 150 key performance indicators and reports to which a customer can subscribe.