The Devil’s in the Details: Using Data Insights to Discover Supply Chain Improvements
Good decision-making comes down to uncovering the underlying details of your business. If you don’t understand the root cause of an event or an action, you’ll never be able to solve problems effectively. Data can help you discover those details, but only if you have effective processes and systems to access and leverage that data. At Groupe SEB Australia, we have a vast amount of data at our disposal, but our inability to access and leverage it was holding us back.
With operations spanning six continents, Groupe SEB is the global leader in cookware and domestic appliances. Iconic names like Tefal, All-Clad, and Krups are among the 30 top-end brands we design, manufacture, and distribute. Every major retailer in Australia carries our cookware or appliances.
I’ve been with Groupe SEB Australia for 15 years. My role as operations director starts with demand and supply planning. It moves through purchase order placement, working with freight forwarders to import to Australia and New Zealand, into warehousing, and continues through sales and delivery. We have a customer service department that manages sales administration, and our after-sales experience includes our call centre and the services around our famous Tefal brand. All of this falls under me. No two days—or two hours—are the same, which keeps my work interesting.
Through this vast multi-stage journey, data is critical. It allows us to discover opportunities and address challenges in the business. If we can’t do that, everything comes to a standstill.
Excel Did Not Help Us Excel
In 2013, Groupe SEB adopted QlikView to gain insight into our supply chain processes, focusing on our performance and KPIs. While parts of the business used QlikView, I mostly used Excel for my analytics work.
I’m skilled in Excel, but I became increasingly frustrated with the program’s limitations. I could always find what I was looking for, but the calculations took too long as the data sets grew. I would go to lunch and hope the calculations would be complete by the time I returned. Sometimes I would even remove data from the set to speed up the process. I made it work, but it was inefficient and incredibly tedious.
I finally reached my breaking point in 2019. I started to look on the market for a BI tool that offered a better way to find the answers to my questions. I researched and got test licences for a few platforms, including Tableau. But I didn’t have to look far for a winner.
A Simplified, Consistent Reporting Option
Since we already had Qlik, part of my research included an exploration of their other solution, Qlik Sense. The thing that stood out to me about Qlik Sense was its built-in reporting capabilities. The platform was easy to use, and I was impressed by how fast I could extract the information I needed. The ability to drill down into the data to find those underlying details was revolutionary for me.
Processes that took hours to calculate before happened instantly. It was simply a matter of dropping in the information and connecting the tables to build a report. Even with only a fundamental understanding of the platform, it was clear that I could start to develop applications quite easily. I could see the potential and the power this would have throughout the entire organisation.
I also had the support of the IT team. They were experiencing the same reporting issues, except people approached the IT team with questions about specific data. The team was constantly writing SQL queries and reports for individuals, all of whom had different levels of data expertise. Some people would create Excel reports, as I had, while others built different databases. Still, others began to write SQL queries themselves. We were looking at the same data differently, which led to some inconsistent conclusions.
There are countless ways to view and present data. We needed a consistent, harmonised approach to data and reporting, and we wanted it housed on a single platform. Moving to Qlik Sense would also mean we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we needed a new report.
Having been so impressed by Qlik Sense (and having the IT team’s support), I set off to learn enough about the platform to make a case for it internally. I didn’t just want to approach it through a supply chain or operational lens, but also a sales and marketing lens. If I could make a cross-functional, cross-organisational argument, I was confident I could get leadership buy-in.
What I didn’t know at the time: just as I was investigating Qlik Sense, our head office in France was also considering rolling out Qlik Sense to all markets. It was quite a coincidence that we started down the same path at the same time, but comforting to know we were on the same page.
The Transformation Began with the Sales Team
Once we had the professional Qlik Sense licences, we needed the proper training to build a strong, knowledgeable foundation. From what I had experienced with the platform, it was practically futureproof if we could get the fundamentals right. To make that happen, we worked with Phil Langdale at Inside Info Pty Ltd, a great local Qlik partner.
Phil took the IT manager and me through some formal training, first walking us through the infrastructure setup and then how to create applications. I’m a very hands-on learner who likes to learn by making mistakes, so that two-day workshop was perfect. After that, we built our first few applications.
As I said earlier, I wanted to build a broad organisational business case for Qlik Sense, so for those initial applications, I set aside my operational needs and focused purely on sales. The sales team does a lot of reporting, and Qlik could take away some of their frustrations and inaccuracies that could crop up in those reports. Building that application would be an excellent opportunity for me to learn, and it would also give the sales team something they would use every day, making a big impact from day one.
Once we developed those applications, the sales team wanted to learn more about Qlik, so we held “Qlik and Coffee” sessions every Tuesday morning. These were opportunities for the team to sit down with us and work through their questions using the applications we had built. For example, someone might ask, “How do I look at this customer’s sales of X product versus Y product from last year?” We walked them through their questions to get to the underlying answers.
Their reactions during these sessions confirmed we had done the right thing. Their faces lit up when they realised how easy it was to find this information. People had been taking an arduous route for so long, and now they could get what they needed within just a few clicks. Everyone had that “aha” moment when they saw how the platform would transform their day-to-day work.
Sprinting to the Next Success
I then turned to my wheelhouse, looking at parts of the business where I knew there were opportunities to save money and find other improvements. Again, I knew where we were spending money, but I couldn’t say what drove those costs without building excessive reports. So for my own applications, I started to ask questions about areas like freight—how are we spending our money with freight, and how much do deliveries cost? At the consignment level, which customers do we spend money on, and who aren’t we spending money on? Who’s the most profitable? When it comes to warranties, which products cause the most warranty challenges? The questions went on and on.
To go into one example, on storage, we found we had an enormous amount of stock held for one particular customer. We knew before that we had a problem, but without Qlik we didn’t have visibility into the extent of the problem and what it cost us. Having that visibility allowed us to get straight to the point, ask why we were spending that money, and determine the underlying issues to improve the situation.
It isn’t easy to put a dollar figure on the cost savings or opportunities we have found through Qlik, but it’s significant. Qlik has paid for itself many times over. There have been a few instances where just a single decision based on Qlik analytics made our investment worthwhile.
For all that we’ve achieved with Qlik, there are still loads of opportunities to find the story in our data. The more we see, the more I want to keep sprinting ahead, and I am enthusiastic about what’s to come.