This international market leader in aerial platforms for firefighting, rescue, and industrial applications needed a data rescue. Bronto Skylift was relying making decisions based on data that could be outdated or unreliable.
Data lived in different systems, including an ERP system and spreadsheets. Compiling data from these various sources took too long and was resource-intensive. Worse, it could result in multiple versions of the truth.
Bronto worked with the Finnish technology consultants Solutive to deploy Tableau to understand their data more clearly. Bronto now has one common, visually compelling approach for reporting sales, manufacturing, finance, and other important key performance indicators.
"I sometimes felt you needed a Bronto crane just to lift all these spreadsheets.”
When a fire breaks out 100 meters above the ground, emergency services providers call for a Bronto Skylift hydraulic platform. Finnish company Bronto Skylift is a global market leader in vehicle-mounted, aerial platforms for firefighting, rescue, and industrial applications. The company produces a range of appliances that extend up to 112 meters in working height. Bronto Skylift has net sales of $132 million (2015) and operates subsidiaries in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S.
Bronto was experiencing a common challenge: the need to make reporting easier to produce, share, and understand.
The company stored data across a number of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, including an IFS finance system; Lean System ERP platform from Tieto; a staff time reporting system; and other sources.
This was a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that delayed decision making. Many other ad hoc, day-to-day business decisions were based on data sitting in spreadsheets, separate to the ERP system. The result? Different sources of the truth and decisions based on old and sometimes untrusted data. For example, reporting was typically completed on a monthly basis, so decisions about sales, manufacturing or service were often based on data up to 30 days old.
As a stock-listed company, it was crucial to develop a forecasting process that would be faster and more reliable.
“In the past, manufacturing production forecasts were produced manually,” says Kimmo Pärssinen, Chief Financial Officer at Bronto Skylift. “We used to pull together data from manufacturing, customer requests for delivery, and invoicing schedules. It took one person a whole day each week to prepare the spreadsheet.”
These were just a couple of the situations Pärssinen was appointed to resolve.
“Reports were developed for a single purpose,” he explains. “Whenever senior management needed to understand the manufacturing order backlog, for example, a spreadsheet would be prepared from the sales data. That report took a considerable amount of effort to produce—and sometimes a considerable amount of effort to understand. We were missing a process-based way of thinking.”
And this challenge extended across the Bronto organization. For example, it was difficult to understand the specific situation in geographic regions.
“Everything from sales orders, invoicing and accounts payable, to production schedules, regional sales performance, and working capital management emanated from the same manual process. I sometimes felt you needed a Bronto crane just to lift all these spreadsheets.”
Using Tableau, our reporting has moved from the Stone Age into a stellar new age of fast, interactive reporting. We now have one common, visually compelling approach for reporting sales, manufacturing, finance, and other important key performance indicators.
Agile and easy finance, manufacturing, and sales reporting
The Finnish manufacturer turned to Tableau. Working closely with a leading Finnish partner Solutive, Bronto has deployed Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server to see and understand data more clearly. Pärssinen again, “When it comes to Tableau knowledge, practical experience and insight, Solutive are the masters. They have been great partners to work with throughout this deployment. It’s thanks to the tight collaboration with the Solutive team that we have managed to achieve so much with this business intelligence strategy so quickly.”
A three-person core team in Pärssinen’s IT department and finance create the visual analytics reports, working closely with the management team and sales managers to ensure the reporting is aligned with the business requirements.
According to Pärssinen, this change in reporting has been transformational. “Using Tableau, our reporting has moved from the Stone Age into a stellar new age of fast, interactive reporting,” he explains.
“We now have one common, visually compelling approach for reporting sales, manufacturing, finance, and other important key performance indicators. And thanks to the visual-based reports, the answers are there for everyone to see. For example, if we look at production reports, we can drill down through the data to examine cost differences between work phases, discover delays or changes to production schedules, and determine delivery reliability. This was only possible in the past if we poured vast amounts of resources into the reporting.”
Forecasting time cut from one day to one hour each week
Tableau also answers the call for faster forecasting. Instead of taking a full day per week, “Now, we simply use Tableau to distribute the data as a PDF—and it only takes an hour,” says Pärssinen.
This success is indicative of the company’s move to real-time reporting. Where before reporting was typically based on data up to 30 days old, now the sales figures are updated every two hours. That means decisions made looking at the Tableau visual analytics are based on data never more than two hours old. “It’s as near real-time as we need,” Pärssinen explains.
The reporting is not only faster, it’s more reliable too. For example, forward-looking manufacturing forecasts used to deviate by up to 20%, simply because these forecasts relied on out-of-date data, or the latest delivery schedules hadn’t been integrated. Now these forecasts deviate by only a tiny fraction, reducing costs across the business—from inventory and supply chain costs, to labor and capital equipment costs.
In a few seconds, we can see how many units are sold in that country, the status of the receivables, where the customers are located and where the trucks are delivered to.
Drill-down geographic intelligence
The Tableau mapping feature has also streamlined and accelerated decision making. Pärssinen continues, “For the first time, we can click on a country and tap into a wealth of information about that region. In a few seconds, we can see how many units are sold in that country, the status of the receivables, where the customers are located and where the trucks are delivered to. We can even click on an individual truck and determine the after-sales service situation.”
Pärssinen and his team are so committed to Tableau, they have embarked on a ‘kill list’: eliminating unnecessary databases and spreadsheets that contain poor quality, out-of-date data. “If people have access to these sources of information, there is a danger they will incorporate the data into their reporting,” he says.
The company is close to replacing all PowerPoint charts and tables with Tableau content, for example, and Tableau is steadily becoming the standard reporting mechanism in the boardroom. Pärssinen adds, “The Board used to contact me and say, ‘Do you have that sales report ready yet?’ Now I just send them the link.”