Heraeus Holding had diversified into so many areas that its business intelligence systems became too complex and slow. To resolve that issue, the company combined its data into a single companywide system based on Microsoft SQL Server data management
software. Reports in the new system run 10 times faster, and improvements to data analysis capabilities are leading to better business decisions.
Heraeus Holding is an international precious metals and technologies company with 13,300 employees in 125 subsidiaries. The family-owned company is involved in the development of new products and holds 6,000 patents. Its business is concentrated in precious
metals, sensors, medical products, dental products, quartz glass, and specialty-light sources. In 2011, Heraeus generated precious metal sales totaling €21.3 billion (U.S.$26.1 billion) and product sales totaling €4.8 billion (U.S.$5.8 billion).
||The SQL Server 2012 database application will provide us with even more efficiency, quality, and reliability when processing data with the Heraeus Enterprise Data Warehouse.
| Torsten Kluin
Business Intelligence Competence Center
The variety of Heraeus products and operations made business intelligence (BI) work challenging. The company did not have a central, standardized BI system, so collecting and analyzing data was slow and costly. “Because of the diversity of the business sectors,
gathering information was associated with a protracted and labor-intensive process,” says Torsten Kluin, Manager, Business Intelligence Competence Center, Heraeus Holding. “We needed a lot of time to generate reports, and costs for information searches were
very high. Conducting analyses was equally complex. We wanted to reduce the time and effort involved to a minimum.”
In addition, the analytical infrastructure used by Heraeus did not support the high-performance analysis that the company wanted. BI data was normally available only in relational form. There was no multidimensional online analytical processing (MOLAP) with
data cubes, which limited the company’s ability to compress data and accelerate data queries.
In 2008, Heraeus decided to address these issues by gradually consolidating all subsidiaries into a single BI system with enhanced capabilities. Kluin was put in charge of the effort.
Heraeus decided to reconfigure its enterprise data warehouse by building the database platform on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software with MOLAP data stores. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 was selected for hosting reports,
and Microsoft Office Excel 2007 spreadsheet software was selected as a front-end application for analysis. The company has since upgraded to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Excel 2010.
The first phase of the project connected 45 subsidiary companies that were already using an SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) application. Because these subsidiaries were using the same ERP system, transfer and validation of their data could be automated.
The remaining 80 subsidiaries were connected to the new system gradually because their data-gathering systems had different interfaces that required individually controlled migration. “From the outset, we automated the processes for data gathering extensively,
and in so doing, we created a standardized database for flexible and very efficient analyses and reports,” Kluin says.
Currently, the company’s SQL Server data warehouse holds about 3 terabytes of data and runs on two servers, each with 48 logical processors and 64 gigabytes (GB) of working memory. One of the servers loads data from ERP systems and stores it in relational
tables while the other functions as a cube server that generates analyses for users. Both servers are managed as failover clusters and provide high availability of data and services. Once a day, data is transferred to the data warehouse from the company’s
source systems, which hold about 30 GB of data. On average, 100 users access the data warehouse simultaneously. At peak times this number grows to 500.
Heraeus now plans to update the data warehouse solution to take advantage of technologies in SQL Server 2012.
The new Microsoft platform has improved the BI system and its performance, which, in turn, has led to better business decisions. Heraeus expects even greater improvements when the solution is upgraded to SQL Server 2012.
Better Business Insights and Decisions
By basing its centralized solution on Microsoft products, Heraeus guaranteed that its BI environment would be reliable, stable, and well-integrated. Microsoft products have a familiar and intuitive look and feel, so the new Microsoft-based system would also
be user-friendly. In addition, by sharing reports on a SharePoint collaboration portal and taking advantage of the presentation and analytical capabilities of Excel, users could gain greater insights from their BI data and make better decisions. “Preparing
and presenting data with Microsoft SharePoint and Excel, augmented with informative diagrams and graphics, instantly made work easier and has helped users in their decision-making process,” Kluin says.
Reports Run 10 Times Faster
Migration to the new centralized system was a success. “From the outset, we automated the process for data gathering extensively, and in so doing we created a standardized database for flexible and very efficient analyses and reports,” says Kluin. With Microsoft
SQL Server 2008 R2 Integration Services, Heraeus reduced the time needed for data fusion from individual data sources by 50 percent. Report execution became 10 times faster as a result of using MOLAP cubes. And individual management reporting response times
were reduced by an average of 5 seconds each.
Future BI Improvement
Heraeus expects that upgrading to SQL Server 2012 will further improve its BI system. “The Data Quality Services function will raise data quality because we are able to verify the plausibility of the data as early as the manual input phase. Master Data Services
will not only make the reporting hierarchy easier, but will make upkeep of the master file data with Excel easier as well. And with Power View and PowerPivot for Excel and SharePoint, users will be able to generate individualized data views by themselves and
will be able to do so much more quickly.”
He adds, “The SQL Server 2012 database application will provide us with even more efficiency, quality, and reliability when processing data with the Heraeus Enterprise Data Warehouse.”
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