LCBO keeps supply chain flowing

As the largest single purchaser of wine, beer and spirits in the world, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is using business intelligence (BI) technology to keep up with the flow.

The LCBO is using a BI system from MicroStrategy Inc. According to Toronto-based Dave Blommers, information resource management manager at the LCBO, a big challenge is finding “ a single version of the truth.”

Blommers was in attendance at the MicroStrategy user group held last month in Toronto. Sanju Bansal, COO for McLean, Va.-based MicroStrategy, said BI is now being extended and playing an important role in areas such as supply chain, human resources and logistics.

Blommers said reconciling the data produced from each business unit is a key issue. The $3 billion provincial government corporation copes with more than 6,000 products via its integrated distribution and retail network. The BI technology “puts the data in all the users hands,” Blommers said, allowing staff to analyze daily sales transactions, inventory and shipment data. LCBO staff can then determine whether it is at port, on a ship or en route to a warehouse, the company said.

According to Dan Vesset, an analyst for Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC, the potential benefits of giving BI capabilities to more employees include productivity and operational gains.

This is particularly true as companies spend time aggregating data and converting it to a structure that’s accessible to end users, he said.

The organization has had a central data warehouse in place since 1997, Blommers said. LCBO’s staff — category managers, inventory managers and financial analysts — can then distribute purchase order reports containing data on the status and expected arrival of outstanding or shipped products, to staff and agents. The BI technology extends the supply chain and enables the LBCO to better track the stream of goods from the time an initial order is placed with the supplier, to its final destination, Blommers said.

MicroStrategy recently unveiled a Unix-based version of its MicroStrategy 7i BI platform. MicroStrategy 7i Universal Edition is compiled to 32-bit and 64-bit modes from the same code base and can run on Microsoft Windows, IBM AIX and Sun Solaris. This follows an earlier release of MicroStrategy Office, an offering designed to integrate BI back-end to MS applications such as Microsoft Excel and Outlook.

Canadian companies often have various BI toolsets within the IT environment; consolidating these toolsets on a single platform is a crucial issue, said Gary Filan, Toronto-based business development manager for MicroStrategy.

Blommers agrees. The LCBO is now looking to consolidate on a single operating system such as Unix. Specifically, the organization is looking at updating the data warehouse and possibly using scorecarding tools as a way to visualize data on a single dashboard, Blommers said.

IT is being asked to become business experts and “resourcing is going to be our biggest issue,” Blommers said. BI not only reduces inventory, he added, it also helps visualize what’s going on in the business right now.

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