Advancing digitalization with new data warehouse architecture
// by Matthias Rensing
Data & Analytics
2G Energy AG is simplifying the controlling and steering of internal processes
From the construction of the first prototype in their own garage to becoming one of the world market leaders for combined heat and power plants (CHPs) – that's the interim balance of the 2G Group from the Münsterland region. The rapid growth and increasing internationalisation bring along new challenges for control and operation, as well as, in particular, for the Controlling specialist department. In order to also satisfy all future requirements in this dynamic environment efficiently, the company started the enterprise data warehouse project "2G-Facts" in late 2014 with the support of the IT management consulting firm noventum consulting GmbH. Today, 2G is already using the new business intelligence platform in select application cases in various commercial and technical specialist areas and is therewith excellently positioned also for future requirements and for increasing demand for information.
The 2G Energy AG, headquartered in Heek (Germany), is an internationally leading manufacturer and supplier of systems for the decentralised supply of energy. With the development, production, and technical installation as well as digital network/grid integration of combined heat and power plants (CHP plants), the company is offering holistic solutions in the growing market of highly-efficient combined heat and power plants. The 2G Group employs more than 600 employees worldwide in ten subsidiaries domestically and abroad. Since its early days in 1995, the company was able to install more than 4500 combined heat and power plants in more than 43 countries around the world already. Additionally, 2G is ensuring the operation of these plants with its technical service.
The expectations posed for controlling and steering grow with the technical options.
The "2G-Facts" project is pursuing an objective that is both clear and sophisticated: To derive decision-relevant information from heterogeneous and non-integrated collections of data of different operational systems. Quick, indicator-based decisions, flexibility, and efficiency are to be driven by this. Data from the Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system implemented at most subsidiaries and from other systems that are not integrated with one another was to be made available for queries in a central data base, relieved of redundancies, and across systems and companies.
A data warehouse (DWH) based on Microsoft SQL Server technology with a MicroStrategy frontend was to make it possible for select employees to automatically receive and create sophisticated analyses and reports without IT expert knowledge, independent of location, and in the most time-saving way possible. From this, 2G is expecting a significant added value in terms of quality in reporting, enormous time savings, as well as an reduction in the number of errors in case of standard analyses, as well as the option of a flexible ad-hoc reporting – from within each connected specialist area.
Management dashboards for sophisticated data analysis
As the first milestone, the most important companies of the group were developed in the DWH, and the sales & distribution reporting of 2G was redesigned and newly implemented in a pilot project. Today, a Sales Data Mart is integrating all relevant sales & distribution indicators and dimensions. With the help of the business intelligence solution from MicroStrategy, always identically structured and updated reports for sales & distribution management and for executive management can be created automatically, and individual ad-hoc queries can be generated spontaneously.
In the further implementation plan, the sensor data and master data of the CHP plants was integrated into the DWH in the areas of engineering and service. With the increasing digitalisation, more and more CHPs are sending more and more frequently current, detailed information regarding, for example, operating states, error messages, or performance data. In a "Power Plant Dashboard", this technical data is being brought together and made available to the respective departments to support a pro-active service. The dashboard provides an overview of the whole park of plants, from highly condensed information and map visualisation to historic performance data and error messages of an individual system.
Through the additional integration of the service ticket system, automatic standard reports are sent out daily that provide an overview of the support cases so that an overview of the unplanned volume of work in the service department can be provided. The company is well prepared for future requirements or application scenarios in these areas since the data spaces are already today being prep-processed much more broadly than what is currently being utilised in the frontend.
The purchasing department is also utilising the opportunities afforded by the company-wide enterprise DWH. Here, a data mart was developed that allows for a flexible analysis and historical assessment of all warranty cases with respect to the following departments: purchasing, sales & distribution, and service.
In the most recent sub-projects, the CRM was integrated into the DWH as another operative system and expanded by corresponding analyses spaces.
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In coordination with the accounts receivable management, requirements were developed, and a dashboard as well as standard reports were designed and developed. The dashboard provides a history of the open posts, a daily current, company-wide overview of all billing data grouped by due date, dunning levels, etc., all the way to an overview by customers, sales & distribution employees, and service regions. If needed, even broken down to the individual documents. With this, the accounts receivable management has more time to focus on its core business. A large number of analyses from perspectives other than those of the ERP can be retrieved via 2G-Facts by the push of a button, and they don't need to be created and maintained first in a time-consuming fashion.
Furthermore, the partner and customer portal "my.2-g.com" - introduced at the end of 2016 - is being provided with data from the DWH in order to be able to provide the partners/customers a lot of relevant data of its 2G part of plant systems both historically and virtually in real-time via the Internet portal.
MODERN DWH ARCHITECTURE PROVIDES OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
With its enterprise DWH, 2G gains cross-company access to relevant information that previously was available only individually and with a significant expenditure of time for each business process. The new, group-wide reporting environment allows for high quality analyses, quick, comfortable access, regular standard reports, and a flexible ad-hoc reporting in the whole company environment. Dietmar Brockhaus, CFO at 2G Energy AG, is convinced that the decision for the project was the correct one: "The complexity of such a broadly positioned DWH project is ultimately, of course, not limited to technically enable a better analysis of business data. In case of corresponding utilisation by the experts in-house, workflows and routines also change. We can improve the substance of our work and that is a great perspective for increasing both efficiency and yield!"
noventum consulting GmbH