Formica was established in 1912 in the United States and is the world’s largest manufacturer of High Pressure Laminate (HPL). A respected brand internationally, their laminate is sold to fabricators and distributors to create furniture. The company offers over 65,000 combinations of products in Europe alone, and many more possible product combinations, resulting in a huge amount of data that requires powerful data analytics tools.
Formica wanted to overcome the following challenges:
Rick Houghton, General Manager of IT for Formica covering Europe, North America and Asia, explains: “We have an absolutely massive amount of applications and range of products. You start to see how we have problems with data, and why we need tools and intelligence to help us to know what to do with it and make sense of it.”
Perfect Image was tasked with finding a way of automating the time-consuming product combination creation process – but before Formica would invest, it had to be proven. Within less than a day, Perfect Image came up with a solution using data blending tool Alteryx and outputting results into data visualisation tool, Qlik Sense.
Rick says, “I’ve been in IT for twenty-odd years and things like this are genuinely exciting. I didn’t know this stuff was possible. We’ve gone from QlikView to [Qlik Sense and Alteryx’s] incredibly sophisticated querying and blending and visualisation tools that people honestly love.”
Using interactive dashboards and reliable data, the business uses its manufacturing analytics to have conversations that make a positive impact companywide, instead of separately within different departments. “We monitor our action plans to reduce our claims, or increase sales, or have intelligent conversations between operations and marketing. It’s far easier to have those conversations if they’re data-driven and if you’re all looking at the same thing. It’s driving business benefit in the decisions it allows us to make.”
The Supply Chain and Engineering teams process data from procurement and asset systems of their manufacturing plants far more quickly and they are more proactive with stock levels and inventory. The teams use predicted demand, based on historical sales, to reduce wastage and optimise inventory levels.
Raw customer data about claims and services is quickly transformed into a geographical visualisation that is easy to understand. As a global manufacturer, it is extremely useful for location-based insights. Rick says, “We threw in a dataset with all of our customer records, and it automatically picked up the geographical information and showed us it on the map straight away. The fact we could do it like that – and couldn’t explain how – is what’s really impressive about it. It’s like magic, some of the stuff it does.”
Data is processed quickly so the senior management team and different departments internally, such as supply chain, have relevant data when they need it most. Rick says, “We have massive datasets but [Alteryx] is taking out all of the stuff we don’t need, to feed those reports back to our senior leadership team. Or aggregating data to feed dashboards for our supply chain team. It’s saved us a lot of time and effort internally.”
For their weekly major European leadership meetings, where Qlik brings data to life and makes it easy to understand. “In the Qlik Sense dashboard, we can dynamically dig into the data. In my 20 years of IT I’ve never seen IT and business sit in the same room, looking at the same thing, and getting very excited. That’s a really happy side effect I couldn’t have predicted.”
Formica first became a customer of Perfect Image and Qlik in 2012. Rick explains, “It’s a pleasure to work with the consultants there. It leads us on to ask, what else can we do? I couldn’t have done without [Perfect Image]. We’ve got a really good relationship and long may it continue.”
Qlik started life within Formica Europe but is starting to be introduced to North American and Asian teams, now that it has proven its worth.
Rick concludes, “This is going to sound evangelical, but I’ve seen what we’ve done here in Europe and the joy these guys are having. The joy of finding out – it’s real. We’ve found these tools have absolutely transformed how quickly we can get to the answers we need. And, really importantly, how much more engaging Qlik Sense is as a tool for both business users and my team who actually build things out of it.”