By: Leslie Faughan
When it combined the businesses of Shell and Statoil in 2005 and 2006, Topaz Energy became Ireland's largest fuel distributor and forecourt retail group. It owns and directly operates llO service stations with convenience stores in every county in Ireland and employs nearly 1,500 staff. It also has 250 forecourt dealers partners together with an extensive heating oil distribution business.
"We have lots of information in the business. But unless it can be presented in a meaningful way with an overview from which we can drill down it is not as useful to managers as it could be," said Topaz retail director Frank Gleeson. That need was what led Topaz to invest in a bespoke business intelligence (BI) system with the technical assistance of Ergo.
"Clearly, fuel volumes and margins are key as oil prices constantly change and we buy daily and deliver twice a week or more often to the stations," Gleeson said.
"But we also have significant and growing business in the forecourt convenience stores, which stock hundreds of lines that we need to monitor. For example, we are possibly the largest hot coffee retailer in the country. But we also have lines from soft drinks to cigarettes, Lotto and phone top-up."
Topaz management was committed to 'lean retailing', according to Gleeson, following the principles of lean manufacturing to drive out waste and constantly learn from and review all of its business processes. "The BI system enables us to analyse and benchmark all aspects of our retail operations, from comparisons between our outlets of the same type to AC Nielsen research so that we can benchmark our business against the rest of the sector."
Data is blended from all key reporting system to generate business invaluable business scorecards for each level of management. "From coffee sales to overall shop margins to average labour costs to regional trends, all of the key performance indicators are combined to give a clear picture of how we are doing at every level," Gleeson said. "There are also many automated alerts to flag things that need decision or action."
Employees from senior management to individual outlets can use the system with a view of the data and KPIs appropriate to their roles. "From a central or area management point of view, we can look into every location in real time and see exactly how things stand."
But he stressed that pushing information down to outlet manager level was a major part of the success of the BI system. "They see clearly and accurately every aspect of the business that is in their remit. They can influence performance at that local level, whether they are controlling costs or improving sales through better customer service."
The Topaz BI system was still a work in progress with a formal data warehouse being built by Ergo engineers. "That will take out a lot of manual work on the reports which is still needed from the IT staff," said Ergo consultant Neil Young.
"The current system is working well using a combination of Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010. The next stage will offer the users more personal BI with the ability to connect directly to PowerPivot and build their own charts." "They will be working with data that is consistent and protected, but can be analysed in a very interactive and ad hoc way by each user."
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