Major fashion retailer knows what’s hot and what’s not with SAP and IBM

Published on 03-Nov-2011

Validated on 18 Jul 2013

"The speed and quality of business intelligence provided by the IBM and SAP solution makes a big difference in the fast-moving fashion industry." - Chief Information Officer, Fashion Retailer

Customer:
Major fashion retailer

Industry:
Retail

Solution:
BA - Business Intelligence, Enterprise Resource Planning, Information Infrastructure, Optimizing IT

IBM Business Partner:
SAP

Overview

In the fashion business, understanding and responding to trends early provides essential competitive advantage. For a major fashion and accessories retailer with multiple channels to market, knowing what’s hot and what’s not makes a critical difference to its sales and profitability.

Business need:
In the fashion business, understanding and responding to trends early provides essential competitive advantage. Knowing what’s hot and what’s not makes a critical difference to sales and profitability. Collecting, storing, analyzing and understanding performance data is vital. However, for a major fashion and accessories retailer, report generation and business analysis were taking too long – in some cases ad-hoc queries took more than two hours to generate.

Solution:
In an ongoing program of moving to SAP software, the retailer implemented IBM Systems solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse. The company has standardized its corporate business systems to IBM Power Systems, supported by IBM System Storage and IBM DB2 for information management.

Benefits:
Cut ad-hoc report generation from two hours to two minutes, a 98 percent saving. Cut the daily sales trend report generation time from 492 seconds to around five seconds, a 99 percent improvement. Cut generation time for all retail reports by an average of 90 percent, and for all wholesale queries by an average of 80 percent. Simplified the company’s information management landscape. Boosted IT efficiency.

Case Study

Knowing what’s hot

In the fashion business, understanding and responding to trends early provides essential competitive advantage. For a major fashion and accessories retailer with multiple channels to market, knowing what’s hot and what’s not makes a critical difference to its sales and profitability.

For example, products tend to have a lifecycle, starting with the launch and relative exclusivity, followed by general sale, and finally becoming end-of-range. The faster a retailer can understand each product’s sales cycle, the more quickly stock can be moved to the high-selling outlets, then on to the wider retail chain, through outlet stores and lastly to discount offers. This helps to maximize profits and ensure that unsold stock is minimized.

With manufacturing, logistics, sales and financial information pouring in from more than 160 stores worldwide, the retailer relies on SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) to make sense of the data. As the company grows, processing the information and answering regular and ad-hoc queries in a timely fashion has become more and more important. With some analyses taking upwards of two hours to generate, and increasing hunger for more detailed information delivered more frequently, the business analysis service was in danger of freezing up.

The answer came in the shape of the IBM Systems solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA), a highly scalable analysis solution based on IBM BladeCenter technology, using IBM BladeCenter HS22 blade servers powered by Intel Xeon 5600 series processors. SAP NetWeaver BWA performs business queries on index data, delivering query results in a fraction of the time required to process the original data.

The IBM Systems solution for SAP NetWeaver BWA is, in effect, an appliance that attaches to SAP NetWeaver BW. Query analysis takes place in memory, and performance is almost linearly related to the processor capacity: to obtain results twice as quickly, simply double the number of blades. The Intel Xeon 5600 series processors automatically regulate power consumption and intelligently adjust server performance according to application demand, maximizing both energy cost savings and performance.

The company’s Operations Manager explains, “Some sales queries analyzing product performance that were taking more than two hours now take less than two minutes with the Intel processor-powered IBM Systems solution for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator. We can provide more detail more rapidly than ever before, helping us to understand product lifecycle and maximize profitability.”

Following the solution implementation and tuning, significant improvements have been reported. The daily sales trend report generation time was cut from 492 seconds to around five seconds, a 99 percent improvement. The operating summary of on-hand inventory and new receipts was cut from 63 seconds to less than four seconds, a 95 percent improvement. For all retail reports, generation time was cut by an average of 90 percent, and for all wholesale queries the generation time was cut by an average of 80 percent.

Enterprise management with SAP software
A wide range of SAP solutions provides the raw data captured by SAP NetWeaver BW. The company manages almost every aspect of its operations with SAP applications, including SAP for Retail and SAP Apparel and Footwear, relying on IBM technologies to provide processing and storage capacity, with IBM DB2 for information management and IBM WebSphere Commerce providing consumer-facing web transactions.

The SAP solutions interface directly with point of sale (POS) systems in company stores using SAP NetWeaver Process Integration. SAP POS Data Management aggregates sales data, while SAP ERP components such as sales and distribution, and warehouse management help to track the order status, logistics and location of tens of thousands of individual items.

To manage the flood of transaction data, the retailer has deployed IBM DB2 as its corporate information solution.

The company’s Operations Manager explains, “Infrastructure is about doing more with less, and it is critical for us to store and manage data cost-efficiently and deliver the best possible business performance. The IBM DB2 development team in Toronto provided outstanding assistance, ensuring that we optimize our storage landscape for the SAP applications.

“For example, the IBM Toronto team worked with us to complete a study designed to reveal ways to improve performance. The analysis showed that tuning and optimization, rather than processor or disk capacity, was the best route, helping to avoid cost and meet our business objectives.”

Business success based on IBM technologies
The company runs a total of 16 IBM Power Systems servers for production, attached to DS8300, DS4300, ESS800 and FastT900 disk arrays, providing a total of almost 25 TB of storage. The SAP applications are supported by IBM DB2 information management, and protected by IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for automated backup, archive and recovery.

Production applications run natively on the Power Systems servers, with POWER5 and POWER6 processors. Development, test and quality assurance environments are hosted in virtual servers using logical partitions on additional Power Systems servers.

The company’s Chief Information Officer adds, “All in all, this was a very successful implementation. IBM Global Business Services played a significant role in our success. Their highly motivated team provided experienced leadership, with considerable expertise in both SAP software and the retail environment, and formed a flexible partnership with our own IT staff.”

“The combination of DB2 and SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse Accelerator provides the high-performance responses and the analytical insight we need to keep ourselves right at the leading edge of business.”

Take the next steps with IBM and SAP
New Power Systems servers will be deployed to the development, test and quality assurance environments, and as each SAP component is commissioned to production, the company will transition to the POWER7 processor-based technologies.

POWER7 processors support advanced virtualization, enabling the company to trim its physical server footprint, cut energy consumption and reduce cooling needs, and increase its processing capacity at the same time. POWER7-based systems support Active Memory Expansion, an IBM technology which increases system performance without the need for additional memory investments. The long-term roadmap for DB2 and the Power Systems platform is designed to synchronize with the evolution of SAP software, and fits well with the business’ corporate ambitions.

The company’s Chief Information Officer says, “Having an SAP platform for our global operations simplifies our infrastructure, making it easier to roll out consistent best practices as we expand into new global markets.

“To take one example: one of the advantages of our business is that our products are small and light – very easy to transport. When we see a certain line selling well in our UK retail stores, we can quickly move stock from one of our global distribution centers and make it available for local wholesale customers to sell in their department or specialty stores. The speed and quality of business intelligence provided by the IBM and SAP solution makes a big difference in the fast-moving fashion industry.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
BladeCenter HS22, Power 550 Express, Power 570, Power 750, Storage: DS8300

Software:
AIX, DB2 for Linux, UNIX and Windows

Service:
IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

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