Evolution towards SAP BI
In 2004 GATX Rail Poland (under the name DEC) had been using mySAP ERP system for a few years already. The system supported processing business transactions, collected both logistic and financial data.
With company’s development and the requirement to adjust the reporting to GATX corporation stan-dards the reporting needs grew too. Various standard information systems used so far were no longer sufficient.
For some time the situation was solved by develop-ing dedicated reports in ABAP language that could overcome the shortcomings of ERP information tools. However, with the increase of the number of reports available the information needs and users’ expectations grew. It soon became obvious that it was impossible to create dedicated reports for the users’ needs as quickly as the recipients wanted and their maintenance was very expensive.
The company needed a solution that would give direct access to updated, strategic information by means of easy-to-handle user interface.
They needed a solution which would let the users focus on analysing the information and not creating reports and verifying the data delivered. The solution which would eliminate manual operations of consolidating, verifying and completing information for reporting needs.
The company needed a data warehouse. DEC (GATX Rail Poland) chose a solution by the same supplier as their ERP system: SAP BW data information warehouse. It helped save money on licence costs and use the effect of synergy when solutions supplied by one producer were integrated automatically.
We can estimate that thanks to the warehouse the time of obtaining reports has shortened by half
Step by step
In June 2004 DEC (GATX Rail Poland) decided to choose BCC as an external partner to give comprehensive support in SAP BI implementations.
According to best practices in Business Intelligence, the project was to be carried out in stages related to particular reporting areas.
Thanks to dividing it into stages the first reports were delivered very soon. The project-related risk was also minimized and the internal DEC (GATX Rail Poland) project team could gradually take over some works connected to consequent project stages.
As regards components, the project involved SAP BW data warehouse version 3.1, with a business content knowledge (predefined metadata that facili-tate connecting the warehouse with ERP system) version 3.2. Most data comes from mySAP ERP 4.7 version. As a basis reporting intinterface an Internet browser was used which gives a possiblity to export data to MS Excel.
Financial data for Poland and for the corporation
The most important for DEC (GATX Rail Poland) were financial reports created for the American shareholder, GATX, hence the first stage of the im-plementation involved financial data.
GATX reporting standards concern the balance sheet, profit and loss statement, cashflow and some managing versions of the financial statement. That is why in preparing reports in BW it was necessary to use financial data from various components of my-SAP ERP, mainly the information from the general ledger, as well as controlling and consolidation data.
Under the project DEC’s (GATX Rail Poland) chart of accounts, based on the Polish accounting standards, and controlling structures (e.g. cost centre structure) were assigned to GATX corporate model (taking into account the chart of accounts used on the basis of GAAP American accounting standards).
For the data taken from ERP system additional mapping tables were prepared. They helped complete standard forms of data analysis on the basis of corporate requirements. Thanks to them it became possibile to report in SAP BW data warehouse both the unprocessed raw ERP data level and processed data to the corporate system requirements.
Besides the possiblity to create reports covering actual data, SAP BW data warehouse has been pre-pared to register the planned data, which gives con-trol over plans execution with the use of flexible reporting functions available in the data warehouse. The implementation of the data warehouse in finance finished in August 2004.
Przemysław Olczak, Analyses, Planning and Controlling Deputy Manager in DEC (GATX Rail Poland), sums up the advantages of the project:
”Starting SAP BW data warehouse has given us previously unavailable opportunities. The implemented model of finance reporting complies with the SOX – Sarbanes-Oxley act. We have obtained new reports which help us analyse indrect costs in many dimensions (eg. reports of costs and quantity indicators of fleet maintenance, a report of consolidated profit and loss statement). The ease of comparing the data projected with actual ones adds to a new quality of financial planning in DEC. We can estimate that thanks to the warehouse the time of obtaining reports has shortened by half.”
The next area covered by the data warehouse implementation was sales. Naturally it is an area which generates a lot of information that must be analysed quickly and efficiently. Apart from that, in DEC (GATX Rail Poland) it is an area which gives the company information about the number of rail cars available and those used by clients at a particular time.
The project of warehouse implementation in sales lasted from April to August 2005. When compared to the original plan, its scope was extended by sales budgeting elements.
Beside classic sales reporting a very important requirement was an analysis of the condition of leased cars. Such analysis gives information about the number of cars that have been leased, are leased or will be leased by a client; where a particular car was, is or is going to be.
In order to meet those requirements SAP BW warehouse was equipped with special non-standard data structures, and data on contracts, clients’ orders as well as material and clients’ data were taken from mySAP ERP.
The implemented changes have given a possiblity to prepare many managing reports, the most important being:
- Report of ending contracts
- Cars at the client’s disposal as at a chosen day
- Average number of cars and income
- Change in the number of cars leased in a particular period
- The condition of cars per lease rate
- Lease rates: minimum/ maximum/ average.
Andrzej Ciećwierz of Client Service department in DEC (GATX Rail Poland), who participated in the project, thus comments on new possiblities:
”From users’ point of view, we have made a big step ahead in terms of details of the data available all the time. For example, we can report on the number of cars leased now or as at any day: by client, by car type, by a production segment or car group, or some other criteria. According to those criteria we can obtain a detailed history of changes in the number of leased cars down to a single day. We can analyse the cars and lease rates by date as per contract: its beginning or closing date, or its renewal day. We can report and compare income not only on lease in any defined periods. We compare the number of cars obtained and the income with the projected budget in different forms. New reports are a basis for taking decisions such as discount policy for cliens, optimizing the use of the fleet. So we can see that starting a data warehouse may indirectly affect both the company’s efficiency and the client service”.
Characteristic maintenance activities
A next project of giving access to information through SAP BW has covered maintenance executed by GATX-owned ZNTK plant in Ostróda. Planned and unplanned maintenance works are a priority in keeping cars working.
The way to taking good decisions is shorter and easier
The third project, called the technical one, made it possibile to report on maintenance activities and improved reporting financial data for technical needs.
The project focused on:
- Taking over the master data of the cars maintained including their classification and statuses (eg. a rail car or its elements like chassis; main-tenance order)
- assuring that the master data coming from various areas in order to obtain information important for maintenance are cohesive with other warehouse elements, like maintenance costs from controlling area. DEC (GATX Rail Poland) speificity required numerous expansions of data of the controlling order and material. indexes in comparison with mySAP ERP standard
- taking over maintenance data from non-standard SAP data sources, developed by DEC (GATX Rail Poland) even before the implementation of SAP BW. It was important to create a solution to handle the so-called delta mechanism, which helps refresh in the warehouse only the data which were changed and not all of them
SAP BW technical project lasted from July to August 2005.
Mieczysław Nowak, Chief Specialist for DEC (GATX Rail Poland) technical modules, says:
”Managing maintenance in DEC requires using data that come from various SAP modules, not only from PM (plant maintenance). Moreover, the SAP system we use has been developed by many additions we needed due to the characteristics of our operations.
That is why we needed a data warehouse so much. Reports present data from many SAP areas. Before we started the warehouse, long-distance reporting of big amounts of data and cross-cut reporting which covered many tables in a quiery were all a load for SAP transaction system. Shifting the reporting to a separate SAP BW made generating reports faster without diminishing the efficiency of the transactional system. Working with the system is simply quicker and more comfortable”.
”Now we have current access to a wide range of reports that give managers current data on maintenance without the necessity to involve line workers into preliminary data preparation. Such a set of reports improves efficiency of those who control operational plans execution. We can analyse data in various forms and take them from different sources. New reports help us shorten the time of maintenance work planning, improve their efficiency and regularly control their execution”.
A solution for the whole company
SAP BW project in DEC (GATX Rail Poland) is an example of ‘’interdisciplinary” character of Business Intelligence solutions. To give access to new reports that take data from different SAP modules, separate data had to be made cohesive and connected. Those included: material index (SD module – sales and distribution), maintenance order (PM – plant maintenance /CO – controlling), functional location (PM module). Thanks to that every area could be used during creating reports and data from other modules could be connected.
Reports are a starting point for taking decisions in many areas which affect the efficiency of the company’s operations, its profitability and indirectly even the level of customer service.
Piotr Sandomierski, IT Director, project manager for DEC, remarks:
”The highest value of the new solution is giving the users ready tools in the form of a range of reports. Those reports are friendly because it is easy to export data to the handy MS Excel format. Before that creating more complex reports directly in SAP was sometimes a problem. Now starting a new report is much simpler, as it does not require programming in ABAP. We must just precisely define the scope of the necessary data.
Finally I would say that for the employees who participated in the project it was an opportunity to obtain new skills in SAP development. It was possibile thanks to a cooperation model we adopted with BCC. The way of executing the works enabled a full transfer of knowledge. Nowadays a lot of development work in the data warehouse may be carried out by the company’s employees”.
Waldemar Czaplejewicz, Board Member for finance, sums up: ”Thanks to the implementation of SAP BW the quality of managing reports has significantly improved. Our employees may focus on report analysis. Preparing data needs much less time and energy. This means that the way to taking good decisions is shorter and easier. Also external reporting is based on SAP BW; the solution perfecly supports a double reporting system, i.e. that based on Polish and American accounting standards”.
GATX Rail Poland (formerly DEC – Dyrekcja Eksploatacji Cystern) rents rail cars for transporting oil-based products, chemicals and food. It has the biggest fleet of rail cars for liquid oil products in Poland. GATX is one of the biggest owners of rail cars in the world; the owner of the biggest rail car fleet in North America as well as a holder of substantial shares in similar companies in Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.