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BMW seeks fast, flexible BI tool

BMW Manufacturing in South Carolina is beaming about its new management planning and control system. The company, a subsidiary of the German car maker, wanted a solution as fast, flexible and sleek as its pricey product. Specifically, it sought a better reporting system to strengthen its cost controls and performance goals.

“We manage our plant cost structure by setting aggressive productivity targets from year to year and then moving the organization toward those targets in specific cost measurements,” explains Tom Miller, manager of plant controlling for BMW’s U.S. facility. The company’s enterprise resource planning software alone couldn’t move both the finance and operating groups toward those targets. To become more productive year by year, “we need to track direct labor, maintenance, utilities and the costs that go into building a car against our targets, and report problems,” says Miller.

“Finance and operations all had the same goal,” he continues, “we just lacked the tool to help us track our progress and prioritize problems that we encounter along the way ... The controllers would end up knowing the data, seeing the data, analyzing the data, but it would all be in their heads. It was difficult to communicate issues involving decisions or roadblocks or problems we were having.“ Miller and his team realized they would either have to dedicate more manpower to programming special reports or look for a ready-made solution.

BMW Manufacturing decided to use Comshare’s Decision, a tool for building custom business intelligence applications for reporting and analysis of data. Working in tandem with the company’s ERP system, the solution is now saving the company time and money, according to Miller. He estimates that the new system delivers in just minutes the same information that used to take up to 10 people more than two days to deliver.

“Using the old system, we would close the books, print out stacks of paper, re-key that into different formats and spreadsheets, make hard copies and overheads, then distribute the information through e-mail and other methods--and we’d do that on a monthly basis,” Miller says. “Today we can close the books and post that data into our data warehouse, which shows up automatically in Decision, and the information is available in a matter of minutes. Users can create personal views and get the information they need fast in a system that is both flexible and easy to use.”

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