Consumer Goods / Retail



Our experience stretches back to the late 1980s and you will see from the case studies below that we have worked on many projects throughout the supply chain.

Forecasting Labour Requirements

Our client is one of the UK's leading supermarket chains with over 450 stores and annual labour costs of some 1bn. In 1998/99, Maddox Ford developed an application to help them monitor and forecast labour requirements in each store, in order to identify where cost savings and productivity improvements could be made. This work was a redevelopment of an earlier system, also written by Maddox Ford in the late 1980s, brought about by changes in both business requirements and the IT infrastructure.

In both cases, we produced detailed specification and design documents and managed the project from inception to implementation, supporting the system thereafter.

The application calculates labour requirements by applying sales volume and store specific and general 'characteristic' data to formulae that have been entered and maintained by our client. By applying seasonally adjusted volume data and the store's profile to the time taken to carry out a particular activity, the application determines the total amount of time required by the store to perform each activity in a selected week.

Technically, the application involved the use of Visual Basic, C, DB2, Cobol and Brio.

Promotions Management

Maddox Ford has worked on various projects over many years for one of the UK's leading consumer packaged goods manufacturers. In one project, we were commissioned to develop a promotions management system (Delphi:Oracle) for use by our client's national sales function.

The application maintains details and assumptions about product promotions and performs return on investment calculations on proposed promotions to assess their likely profitability. Various parameters are used in forecasting the impact of a given promotion; for example, start date, length of promotion, promotion type (e.g. multi-buy) as well as resourcing/cost implications ands substitution factors (the impact on product and/or brand substitution).

Soon after completion of the first phase, our client undertook a large-scale implementation of SAP and the Manugistics supply chain management suite. This had quite an impact on the promotions management system, both in terms of functionality (for example, promotional planning became a weekly exercise) and in changes to the data model. Furthermore, interface modules had to be developed to allow the automatic transfer of data between this application and both SAP and Manugistics.

Data Warehousing

Our client is one of the world's leading manufacturers of consumer packaged goods. The European region has spent a number of years developing a pan-European data warehouse which acts as a central repository for sales data from 14 markets. Data is collated from transaction processing systems hosted on a variety of AS/400 and Unix systems and packages such as SAP.

As well as being involved in the basic warehouse design, Maddox Ford was responsible for designing higher-level aggregates required to optimize the use of Oracle Sales Analyser.

We also developed the Unix shell scripts scheduled and executed on the data warehouse hub system to transfer data from the feeder data sources into the warehouse. Complexity is increased by a combination of: some incoming data files requiring manipulation to facilitate the load process; comparisons of successive data files to submit only changed data to the warehouse; examination of log files for records that have not been successfully loaded; error handling routines to enable scripts to be restarted and to signal errors at an appropriate level to system operators and/or users.

Furthermore, we developed a PowerBuilder application to monitor the load and aggregation process and to enable the data warehouse support team to vary the incoming file specifications and validation routines.

Strategy Review and System Specifications

An IT strategy review for the board of a major regional bakery involved a review of IT operations and the specification of a new generation of IT systems for the company. This initial strategy study led on to projects such as Data Warehousing, Sales Order Forecasting, Plant Monitoring Systems, ISO 9000 automation and a review of the company's transaction processing systems. For each project, we either led the project team or provided technical advice to it.

For the same client, a review of the delivery of management information led to a project to select an Executive Information System. A summary requirements specification was produced and we managed the package selection process. A follow-on project involved the rollout of the software to one of the operating divisions and we project-managed the implementation process. The application used an Oracle database that gathered data from a network of AS/400s. The EIS is now running on over 100 workstations at 8 sites.

Stock Level Forecasting

Our client, one of the UK's leading high-street jewellery retailers, uses JDA Software's Arthur Planning to help it produce enterprise-wide plans and enable coordination between stores and the head-office marketing, merchandising and finance divisions. Maddox Ford was asked to develop a Visual Basic front-end to the product to impose a control structure on to it that matched the way in which the organisation's buying and merchandising functions were organized.

In a related project, we developed a comprehensive management information system with data fed into an Oracle Unix server from an AS/400. Data import routines and standard reports of performance summaries by store, product and aggregate level were automated. By combining the MIS data with that from Arthur Planning, we were readily able to produce long-term stock level forecasts.

Sales Forecasting

Our client, an international manufacturer of consumer goods, uses Manugistics for its supply chain management. Maddox Ford was asked to develop an application that would extract data from Manugistics and other data sources and present our client with a range of reports that are aggregated to weekly, monthly or annual levels at product, family or product type level with a flexible drill-down facility.

With relevant data available within Manugistics, SAP and AS/400 transaction processing systems, plus a product catalogue detailing product and family hierarchies, we produced Oracle SQL and AIX shell scripts to extract appropriate data, combine them and aggregate them to different levels before storing the data in temporary, reporting tables. This process is scheduled to run every night. We also developed a PowerBuilder application as a front-end to the tables and to provide the drill-down capability.

Budget Modelling and Forecasting

As a follow-on to the above project, Maddox Ford was commissioned to develop a system that would capture anticipated sales, production and promotional costs from each of 13 European regions in order to produce a two-year, rolling budget forecast at head office.

Developed in PowerBuilder and Oracle, the application provides immediate response 'what if' modeling to show the effects of rising costs and promotions. Users can investigate the effects on profit & loss over the next two years of changing any of the individual components of a profit & loss forecast.

As appropriate, the rolling forecast is exported to a Manugistics sales analysis system to become the 'official' group budget.

On the strength of years of experience of working with a leading retailer, Maddox Ford wrote and presented a series of in-house training courses designed to introduce some 250 users and developers to a suite of business intelligence tools working against their own data. The course content included extensive discussion on the corporate database as well as highlighting those aspects of the tools relevant to that group of users.



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