Bowman chose to move forward with QlikView which pulls data from its Sage ERP 1000 system and business-wide stock database to great effect.
Bowman International Limited specialises in the development, supply and manufacture of plain bearings, ball bearings, sintered components, electrical motor brushes and carbon products.
Founded in 1972, Bowman is based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire and is widely recognised as a leading supplier to original equipment manufacturers, stockists and distributors across a wide range of industries, supplying over 2000 customers.
As an existing Sage ERP 1000 user, Bowman International was using standard Sage reports, SQL reports in Microsoft Excel and manually collaborating reports. The company has doubled in size over the past five years and for a business of Bowman’s complexity, these methods of reporting were simply too basic. Paul Mitchell, Managing Director at Bowman International explains, “The standard Sage reports were too rigid and we found Excel very flaky. Excel is a great tool but it can only do so much – if it’s asked to calculate one thing it will calculate just that, there is no way to easily manipulate a report once it is set up.”
The strain on Bowman’s servers when running regular Excel reports was also becoming an increasing concern; particularly loss in productivity due to servers running slowly and the possibility of the server and its applications becoming completely inoperative for users across the business whilst Excel reports were running.
With no dedicated in-house IT resource, nobody within the business held the expertise to build complex reports. “To generate accurate reports and for us to have confidence in the numbers, we really needed an IT person who knew what they were doing or find a more user friendly reporting solution.”
As it became increasingly difficult to produce accurate reports it was becoming near impossible to analyse the business. “Basic questions about the business couldn’t be answered, things like month on month or year on year sales trends, which are vital for business planning.”
Having used Crystal Reports in a previous role, Paul knew what a business could achieve from a dedicated reporting system. “I wanted to be able to look at trends on new products and predict our future stock needs – basically to better manage this business.”
Discussing the business requirements during an account management visit, ADT UK, part of The Waterdale Group, recommended business intelligence tool QlikView.
“Bowman has been an ADT UK customer for many years. As our trusted IT provider we value their advice and recommendations and so when they suggested QlikView we were keen to see a demo of the product. The ADT team gave us a ‘seeing is believing’ demonstration using our own data to build a sales history dashboard.”
Bowman’s managers and directors were impressed with the demonstration, finding the speed and simplicity of creating a useable, interactive dashboard with their own data inspiring. “In just one short session, ADT took us on an interactive journey of our data, enabling us to discover things about the business that we didn’t previously know. QlikView looked a much stronger product than the Crystal Reports software that I had previously used and poles apart from the Excel and standard Sage reports Bowman used.”
Bowman chose to move forward with QlikView, which integrates with and pulls data from its Sage ERP 1000 system and business-wide stock database. The company was able to start using the tool for reporting immediately, using the report ADT had originally written for the demonstration proving to the Bowman team how user friendly and intuitive the QlikView solution really was.
The way in which QlikView segregates data is very user friendly; unlike Excel, which slowly trawls through all historical data, the data look up in QlikView can be restricted to a fixed history period offering much more specific results. And QlikView can run automatically overnight to look at sales from the previous day. This gives the management team at Bowman an accurate view of figures from as recently as just a few hours before.
“I have used QlikView to improve visibility of the business for all employees. We print graphs depicting results such as sales figures and pin them up on the wall. This transparency has helped everyone to gain a greater understanding of the business and really boosted employee confidence.”
The business analysis capabilities of QlikView are proving highly beneficial to Bowman. “The most useful reports are those used by Sales. We can look at comparisons over set periods, for example sales during September 2012 compared to September 2013 and then further drill down to report on sales value by margin or look at specific customer product groups.”
“I am confident that QlikView has paid for itself and more.” To explain the return on investment of QlikView, Paul says, “The speed and simplicity of building reports has freed up a substantial amount of employee time, allowing people to focus on their core tasks. Furthermore, we have been able to identify customers who had dropped off our radar – clients who haven’t placed an order for a considerable amount of time can be spotted within minutes and we can then investigate further and align sales focus where it is most necessary. This tool has empowered our sales team to be far more proactive and as such, it has had a positive effect on the whole team”
Adapting to new software can be daunting for users and many of Bowman’s employees had used Excel reports for decades. Yet, everyone took to QlikView very quickly. “Once they had got their heads around the tool, the benefits were pretty instant. Everyone who uses QlikView immediately appreciates its value. A key user is our Purchasing Administrator; relies on QlikView to monitor stock levels and has it open constantly giving him a much better understanding of our situation which ultimately means our orders are more efficiently managed and our service improves”
The company is experiencing 10% year on year growth and is now on the verge of expanding into Europe. “Our European office opening is imminent. It is a brand new business angle and so analysis of this area is instrumental. They will be using Sage ERP 1000 and QlikView exactly as we do here in the UK which is perfect as it will allow us to monitor Bowman’s European success.”
Bowman is also working with a US-based company, developing an innovative product which will be brand new to the market. The success of this product could see the business double in size yet again.
As QlikView proves such an instrumental tool for Bowman, looking forward the company aims to recruit and train a dedicated member of staff to write QlikView reports. “There are so many possible reports that could be of benefit to the business; with the right resource in house there is the scope to do so much more with QlikView and I am keen to maximise its usage.”
In summary, Paul says, “QlikView is a genuinely exciting product. There is so much it can be used for and with our business developing and expanding it is proving to be a key business management tool.”