Business intelligence solution presents customer data without delay

The accounts receivable (A/R) department at Virtek Vision International had its hands full. Credit managers at the Ontario-based supplier of laser marking products needed to keep collections up-to-date by identifying those potentially delinquent before they became problems. Until recently, workers relied on spreadsheets that pulled information from the company's ERP system.


The accounts receivable (A/R) department at Virtek Vision International had its hands full. Credit managers at the Ontario-based supplier of laser marking products needed to keep collections up-to-date by identifying those potentially delinquent before they became problems.

Until recently, workers relied on spreadsheets that pulled information from the company's ERP system. The process was slow, cumbersome, and inflexible.

“We couldn't identify key accounts on one screen, and we didn't have access to certain data,” says Katherine Campbell, corporate controller. “In our ERP system, customer information is in one massive table and the data is located by field, but not labeled. It used to take credit managers an entire day to run the collections report, which was then emailed to those needing it.”

This process is much more efficient since the company deployed a business intelligence (BI) solution from a German company known as AXLE Studio . Using AXLE Studio 2007, credit managers get automatic warnings when an account becomes 45 days past due. The system also identifies which companies should be given restrictions on future orders.

Reports are generated and sent on-demand via email to unit managers.

“Our IT staff is working on getting the reports to run daily automatically,” says Campbell. “We want to enable users to create their own customized reports specific to their product lines. Managers should be able to see their receivables, backlog, and revenue.”

The AXLE system is part of a four-phase implementation process that began last year. It runs on an SQL Server database that also partially supports the BI functionality in Virtek's ERP system. In the future, the company plans to extend the system to include more users; and offer new functionality, including volume of order shipping, global cash reporting, and multiple currencies.

Right now, Virtek is working with Dynac , an Ontario-based value-added reseller for AXLE Studio, to build an extraction layer in the system that creates triggers to pull knowledge from disparate systems and display it in a meaningful way.

“Users can see how many new orders were booked today or how many were changed,” says Gary MacFarlane, Dynac CEO and cofounder. “Instead of having to look up the data in five or six places, the system gives it to them on one screen.”

Since the system is Intranet-based, it does not require any additional hardware or servers. It uses a fat client and is housed within the corporate structure.

Unlike most BI systems, AXLE Studio does not require building a data warehouse, so it's deployed more quickly.

“Data can be refreshed automatically, and query loading can be done at off-peak hours,” says MacFarlane. “Data warehouses typically are refreshed periodically, and often users must wait for current data to be uploaded.”

Laser marking systems specialist Virtek Vision International recently completed a four-phase deployment of an AXLE Studio business intelligence (BI) system. Now BI functionality is supported in Virtek’s ERP system, and cumbersome spreadsheets and reporting processes are part of the past.

Meant for small to midsize businesses, or divisions of larger companies, “The system does not have functionality like regression analysis or extensive statistical analysis tools common to large BI systems,” says MacFarlane. “However, it connects to key data sources such as general ledgers and ERP systems, and links to multiple database tables, and across multiple databases.”

AXLE Studio users can learn to become designers, building their own queries and cubes.

“There's no need for special licenses or extra modules, and users easily can turn functions on and off,” says MacFarlane. “They don't have to build extension modules, as is often required with traditional BI solutions.”

There are nearly 6,000 users of AXLE Studio worldwide, and the company only recently entered the North American market. Dynac represents AXLE in the Americas, offering installation, technical support, and user training.

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