Food processor delivers strategic data

With 18,000 employees and sales of $5.1 billion in 2002, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a major Canadian food processing company delivering food products to consumers around the world. The Toronto-based company includes 15 independent operating companies in North America, Europe and Asia. As it acquired new businesses with different reporting formats, it faced the challenge of quickly consolidating information.

To support its growth, Maple Leaf uses Business Performance Management software from Hyperion Solutions Inc. of Sunnydale, Calif. According to a Hyperion press release, the software enables the food processor to do currency translations, inter-company eliminations and generate consolidated reports for the board of directors, securities commissions, the legal department, tax authorities, and management. As a result, even through reorganization, the company has access to information and reports centralized on the Web.

“We acquire businesses and start them reporting within a month after the actual acquisition takes place, because of the flexibility of the Hyperion software,” the press release attributes to Daniel Engels, director of financial applications for Maple Leaf Foods.

Maple Leaf also uses the software to analyze customer sales and use this information to provide detailed reports for its customers. Maple Leaf sells a variety of food products, ranging from bakery goods to prepared meats, to leading grocery retailers and food service customers. Each food category has its own sales, marketing, finance and product development groups, and each retailer has separate buyers for each food category. Maple Leaf applies the software to pull all the information together for consolidated sales, gross profit and volume reports to its clients.

These reports enable clients to see the figures for the total amount of business with Maple Leaf, or learn sales figures of specific product categories. Maple Leaf can then work with clients to maximize product sales.

In related news, Hyperion in May released a version of its financial management applications with features designed to help companies improve their internal accountability and comply with new American financial reporting laws mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. For example, the software can aid CEOs and CFOs in certifying the accuracy of financial results.

Matthew Geyer, manager of financial planning and analysis at Skyworks Solutions Inc. in Woburn, Mass., said he could see potential value in the new offerings. “The bar has been raised for all companies, and Hyperion’s products are an excellent way of helping monitor business performance and compliance,” Geyer said.

Skyworks, which makes wireless chips for cell phones, uses Hyperion’s business planning application to create quarterly financial forecasts and then measure its performance against them. Geyer said the company also extracts data from its SAP R/3 ERP system and uses Hyperion’s software to do analysis in an effort to find variances and trends.

Hyperion also announced partnerships with middleware vendor BEA Systems Inc. and NCR Corp.’s Teradata data warehouse software division. Teradata will resell Hyperion’s Essbase XTD analysis engine and work with Hyperion to develop an adapter that will let Hyperion users access information in Teradata databases.

Warren Shiau, a software analyst for Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., predicts that data and content management will come together, especially as companies focus more on the business processes than on the tools, and realize they want all that information pulled together. “The greater point of KM (knowledge management) to my mind is to pull together (information) – if you’ve implemented right and rid yourself of data islands, and taken into account business processes and flow – to help you get a more holistic view of your organization.”

Shiau says that one of the biggest product trends that the KM industry is seeing is the inclusion of KM software as a functionality of ERP solutions. Enterprise vendors are adding analytics or BI throughout their suites, and Shiau includes those solutions as part of knowledge management.

“You’re pulling out data from various sources or applications in an organization and then framing that data where someone can understand it,” he said.

— With files from Marc L. Songini, Computerworld (U.S.) and Victoria Berry

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