ERP Helps To Pay The Freight At Quantum

Telecommunications, manufacturing and financial services companies are using datawarehouses to discover end users' buying habits and to sharpen their marketing campaigns.Financial experts are finding value in better understanding their profitability and coststructures by using a virtual warehouse.

Quantum Corp. (Milpitas, Calif.), a $5.8 billion diversified mass storage company, setup a virtual data warehouse by making transaction and operations data from itsOracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system available to managers, upon which theycould base solid decisions. Business systems analysts figured out the users' needs forinformation and set up queries to ferret out that data, while regional ISprogrammers/analysts offered technical help.

The Power Of Two

The transaction information from the Oracle ERP system database is copied from a HP9000 T600 enterprise server to a second server -- the virtual data warehouse -- on a dailybasis. Quantum's operational users access the warehouse to obtain such information asinventory, shipment scheduling and purchase order updates at the global business operationsites. The virtual data warehouse is one of two systems fed by the ERP system. Theother -- an information warehouse -- contains summarized information on such things asQuantum's sales orders, backlogs, shipments and point-of-sale intelligence that lets thecompany monitor inventory levels.

On the ground, the virtual data warehouse has enabled air freight managers at Quantum'sglobal business operations to act decisively because they can evaluate their inventorywith one computer query. A manager who took half a day to run 15 reports and hand-loadthem onto an Excel spreadsheet now gets the same work done in 15 minutes. "Peoplemanaging inventory at each of the nine business operations' sites can now coordinateglobally for maximum advantage," says Kevin Conway, program manager for Quantum'sdata access project. "And tactical managers can get to the business information theyneed to run the business."

Not Flying Blind

"An air freight manager can effectively plan air freight at each site, forexample. That is critical information that lies behind the tactical, month-to-month,week-to-week decisions that are key to the operation's success," Conway says. The airfreight shipments can be delivered as promised, pleasing the customer. And customers likeHP, Dell, Compaq and Gateway get their PCs with just-in-time delivery so they don't haveto deal with backed-up inventory in their warehouses.

"We're able to do the job more efficiently and with more confidence," Conwaysays. Users receive training and have a lesser need for IS support to obtain theinformation they need, unlike most global companies with 120GB databases. The data issimplified and put into business terms by applying NoetixViews from Aris Software, Inc.(Bellevue, Wash.) and BrioQuery from Brio Technology, Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.). Quantumhas achieved a ratio of one programmer/analyst to 250 users -- a ratio Conway calledunique, especially compared with the company's ratio of one programmer to 50 users in thevirtual data warehousing operation a year-and-a-half ago.

S.R. Rodefer is a writer with the Washington News Bureau.