Published on 25-Sep-2009
"With the IBM Cognos system, we can now update management reports far quicker, without having to spend many hours collating the data, as used to be the case. This leaves the managers with more time to analyse and review the available data intelligently, rather than simply create a report. Another key benefit for us has been the ability to send monthly KPIs to each ship—this has been a technology leap for the company. " - Stephen May, Business Analyst, Hanson Marine
Hanson Marine is building their performance globally.
Consolidate information from sea-going ships and numerous office locations globally to optimise business strategy
The IBM® Cognos® 8 BI solution replaced a complicated, error-prone spreadsheet system with a technology leap to efficient, effective business intelligence worldwide
Faster, more accurate reporting - it no longer takes many hours to collate data in order to build a report; an IBM Cognos audit trail, making it very easy to trace irregular data entries back to their submission; provision of monthly KPIs to each ship to track performance against targets; an easy-to-use solution, meaning that there is minimum training required and easy access from any location.
Hanson is one of the world’s largest suppliers of heavy building materials to the construction industry and part of the Heidelberg Cement Group. Hanson Aggregates Marine manages the company’s European marine dredging operations, taking sand and gravel from the sea-bed. The company is based in Southampton and has 25 staff on-site, with a further 200 personnel aboard its nine sea-going ships. The ships dredge the sea-bed for aggregates and deliver them to sister or external companies throughout the UK and Northern Europe.
Within Hanson Marine, information about individual ship performance and company results was disparate and difficult to control due to its remote nature. The team in Southampton was responsible for managing the data, which was collated in several spreadsheets from the ships to provide reports on management accounts and performance.
“As more relevant information became available and necessary, managing the business through spreadsheets became increasingly unworkable,” says Stephen May, Business Analyst at Hanson Marine. “The process was complicated, time-consuming, and error-prone, which meant accurate reports were difficult to generate and there were multiple versions around the company.”
The data coming from the ships needed to be accurately mined and then reported on so that it became useful to the company. Increased insight with regard to average load times and tonnes delivered was crucial for the team to understand performance and make decisions accordingly.
“On the flip side of needing to track performance of the ships on a regular basis, we also needed to improve communication with the ships about individual performance targets. Previously, there was no such vehicle to deliver an individual ship’s performance data back to that ship. This lack of transparency for the business meant that it was far harder to manage and make intelligent decisions, resulting in missed opportunities to optimise our business strategy,” says May. “For example, with fuel prices on the increase, we have to be able to monitor and understand individual and fleet fuel consumption to manage the cost implications for our business.”
On a more technical level, any new system also needed to work with the existing Microsoft® ERP technology and IBM Lotus Notes® to ensure seamless integration for the teams.
Hanson Marine decided to implement IBM Cognos 8 BI technology, incorporating Query Studio, Events Studio, and Analysis Studio. This solution enables staff to monitor, manage, and understand key company data, which in turn leads to better decision-making and company planning.
All ships, as well as the users at the Southampton office, have access to the system. These users are both technical and commercial managers—on and offshore. The technical managers on the ships use the information to manage performance against individual KPIs, and to track their status compared to the other ships. Commercial managers rely on the generated data to track performance figures such as cargo volumes and customer sales and delivery across the fleet.
A further audience able to tap into this information is the Geological department, as the Cognos system is able to report on its geological database (developed by Southampton University) for such things as where a cargo is dredged.
“We can now update management reports far quicker, without having to spend many hours collating the data, as used to be the case. This leaves the managers with more time to analyse and review the available data intelligently, rather than simply create a report. Another key benefit for us has been the ability to send monthly KPIs to each ship—this has been a technology leap for the company,” says May.
Speed and accuracy of reporting has dramatically improved, and the management team is confident that there is a single version of the truth in the reports generated. Access to the technology from the ships through a Web-based browser also ensures that the fleet can participate in the decision-making process.
Feedback from users focuses on the ease of use and intuitive nature of the system. Although it houses complicated technology, users are at ease with the system and feel it provides the functionality they need.
When data comes in from the ships now, Events Studio alerts immediately show where there may be inaccuracies, with certain triggers set up to ensure the accuracy and relevance of data.
“It’s always possible that mistakes are made when figures are input at sea,” says May. “Information from the ships is submitted daily but is reviewed weekly by the business analysts, with any inaccuracies picked up in near real time, ensuring information is accurate and ready on demand.”
“An important, albeit softer, benefit for us is the ability to work on reports from a remote location,” May continues. “Previously, staff working outside of the office was unable to update or analyse reports, whereas now the process is far quicker and possible from anywhere as they can log on through the Web-based architecture.”
Forecasting has also been simplified with the IBM Cognos system, allowing monthly rolling forecasts and plans to be generated quickly and accurately. The speed and detail of forecasting now is incomparable to the previous situation.
In the near future, Hanson Marine plans to implement IBM Cognos Metrics Manager to allow traffic-light scorecards to be generated against each individual ship’s KPIs. In time, this feature will also be mail-enabled so that it can be automatically sent to the appropriate teams.
Future plans also include extending the communications functionality of the reports to the on-ship teams by enabling them to log on remotely and view their own specific datasets. This capability will ensure they have relevant information at their fingertips, and enable them to make decisions more quickly, based on accurate information.
Hanson Marine intends to upgrade its use of the technology to the latest version of IBM Cognos 8 BI with a view to running all reporting on the IBM Cognos platform.
“By the end of the year, we want all users to be able to access the online reporting solution immediately from any location. This will ensure we are continually improving group-wide access to information,” May concludes.
About IBM Cognos BI and Performance Management
IBM Cognos business intelligence (BI) and performance management solutions deliver world-leading enterprise planning, consolidation and BI software, support and services to help companies plan, understand and manage financial and operational performance. IBM Cognos solutions bring together technology, analytical applications, best practices, and a broad network of partners to give customers an open, adaptive and complete performance solution. Over 23,000 customers in more than 135 countries around the world choose IBM Cognos solutions.
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Cognos 8 Business Intelligence
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