Whayne Supply Company, a Caterpillar dealer, needed a business intelligence (BI) tool that was easier to use. It moved from an IBM Cognos system to the Microsoft mission-critical platform, using Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft SQL
Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services to create data marts to support analytics. Whayne is now enjoying ease of use and better performance at a lower cost.
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Whayne Supply Company sells, rents, and services new and used Caterpillar construction and earthmoving equipment. The privately held company—with some 1,400 employees working at 15 facilities in 12 cities in Kentucky and Indiana—serves
industries including agriculture, heavy construction, paving, landscaping, forestry, and mining.
||We feel that more people are gaining productivity from our Microsoft platform simply because it is so much easier to use than Cognos.
| Kelly Beaven
Whayne has long known the value of using business intelligence to help it enhance its operations and service. The company created its first data marts and multidimensional data cubes for analytics in 1999. Originally, Whayne used IBM Cognos software for building
and viewing multidimensional data cubes.
Whayne had a decision to make when it came to the end of its Cognos licensing period. “We had reached a point with Cognos where we were going to have to either buy all new licenses—which was going to be very expensive—or find an alternate solution,” says
Rob Schmitt, Business Analyst and Project Manager at Whayne Supply. “Any new solution would need to be easier to use, because we felt that many of our employees just weren’t able to use Cognos.”
Whayne also wanted to enhance the performance of its data mart infrastructure. Performance in two areas was targeted. Whayne felt it took too long to extract, transform, and load (ETL) data into its collection of data marts for cube creation. The company
was also hampered by an approximately three-month limit on the amount of historical data that it could load into its cubes.
Working with Advanced Computing, Inc., Whayne started a pilot project to test Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services in March 2008. Soon after the pilot was delivered, Monty L. Boyd, President and Owner of Whayne Supply, asked an executive for some
financial information. When the executive returned in less than 15 minutes with all the data, Boyd was impressed with the speed at which the executive was able to pull together the data.
Whayne deployed Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software and SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services as the foundation for its seven data marts, which support 28 multidimensional cubes, each with 6–12 dimensions. The company uses SQL Server 2008
R2 Analysis Services to create dashboards, which are accessed through a Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 portal. Some 225 users access analytics and generate reports using Microsoft Excel 2010. Whayne also uses SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services for generating
recurring reports for more than 1,000 users based on their position, and it uses SQL Server 2008 R2 Integration Services to perform ETL processes. With ETL packages, employees can import data from the Caterpillar proprietary enterprise resource planning system
and other key applications and data stores.
The company was so happy with the ease of use and performance of the Microsoft platform that after it purchased another CAT dealer, Walker Machinery, Whayne moved this acquisition off Cognos too, standardizing on the Microsoft platform.
Since moving from Cognos to the Microsoft mission-critical platform, Whayne Supply has gained increased performance at a lower cost and enhanced productivity. It now finds BI data easier to explore and use, and has gained a better view of its business.
Whayne now takes less time to build cubes, and it is able to store more data within its cubes. “Cubes that once took 10 hours to build in Cognos are now loaded and complete within two and a half hours using SQL Server 2008 Integration Services and Analysis
Services,” Schmitt says. “That is significant because the old system would have problems if someone tried to access a cube before rebuilding was complete. We can also hold years of data in cubes that previously limited us to just one to three months of account
“The Microsoft platform is giving us better performance at a lower cost,” says Kelly Beaven, Controller at Whayne Supply. “We’re very happy with our move.”
Whayne employees like the solution because they can easily and consistently find the BI data they need to get the job done, and because they can do so using Microsoft Excel 2010. “Cognos frustrated our users. If they managed to slice and dice the data to
the point that they needed, they might not be able to get back to that same place later,” Schmitt says, “With Excel, they can easily drill down to whatever data they need, and our people like the fact they don’t have to export to static spreadsheets if they
are already performing multidimensional analysis in Excel.”
Productivity has been enhanced through the ease of use. “Our regular Cognos users seldom used Cognos reports in meetings,” Beaven says. “Now, Microsoft reports are projected on a screen for interactive use during meetings. We feel that more people are gaining
productivity from our Microsoft platform simply because it is so much easier to use than Cognos.”
Employees are enthusiastic about their ability to gain a deeper view into the business, with the most dramatic example being in the area of warranty work. To preclude claims from dragging out, Caterpillar instituted a new policy requiring claims to be filed
within 60 days. “We had some claims that had gone months without filing because before SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services and our dashboards, the visibility wasn't there,” Schmitt says. “Previously a manager had to go out searching for the information.
Today, when service managers sign on, they get their service dashboards and can see right away if they have something over 45 days that needs to get filed before it’s at 60.”
This means big savings. “Based on the amount of warranty work we do, the losses from not being on top of the 60-day policy could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” Beaven says. “Our Microsoft BI solution helps us avoid those losses.”
This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.