With an annual distribution of over 1,100,000 MT (megatons) of dairy products, Interfood is one of the leading global dairy suppliers. Since 1970, the organization has supplied dairy products and services to the dairy and food industries for applications such as fresh milk products, beverages, yogurt, desserts, cheese, chocolate and confectionery. In order to better align supply and demand, predict trends and gain more insight into the organization’s performance, Interfood started its transformation into a data-driven organization several years ago. In addition to a modern data and integration platform and a dedicated and skilled data team, a community of data champions was established throughout the organization. A model that is clearly bearing fruit. In addition to ERP system JD Edwards, Tableau, the interactive data visualization software for business intelligence, plays an important role.
The Netherlands office switched from Oracle BI to Tableau in 2020. Data Analyst Iris Wijers, together with Cadran, helped with the implementation. Tableau Server was set up and only the relevant dashboards that were in Oracle BI (still almost a hundred) were migrated to Tableau. “By doing so, we made the transition to Tableau approachable for employees : they could continue to work with their existing and familiar dashboards. By transferring the dashboards we also controlled a lot of data. The data quality has improved a lot,” says Iris. Due to the new possibilities, most of these dashboards have now been replaced by improved versions.
Because of Covid-19, the launch went remote. “This was quite exciting,” says Iris. “The combination of a onepager with information, launch sessions and Q&A sessions worked well. In addition, Tableau is very intuitive. That helps with understanding how reports work.” This was immediately the moment Iris introduced the new role of the data champion: experts from the business who, armed with the right business knowledge, create and adjust dashboards. In choosing Tableau, it played an important role that anyone who wants to can build their own dashboards. The data champions are the pivot between the data team and the business. They are the first line to catch common questions from the department, and also help Iris when she wants to map out requirements for new reports. These data champions were immediately included in the sessions.
Iris and other members of the data team have built many of the dashboards of today, but some were also created by the data champions themselves. Iris supports all new data champions with an onboarding and training program. She also gives online “Bite-sized Workshop Sessions” and there is an e-learning of Tableau. Tableau’s active community is also where users can go for questions and answers. Most recently, Iris finally hosted an on-site training session in Uruguay since two years. “So nice! We couldn’t do that because of corona,” she sighs. Most people have no background in data, so they are really trained from scratch. They are often colleagues from the finance department, supply chain, logistics, trade or quality department, so they are used to working with Excel. Just thinking along is enough, the data champions don’t have to build it themselves, but many love to build a beautiful dashboard themselves. “Tableau is fun to work with and they think so too,” says Iris.
Where previously the data analysts created the dashboards and the business then used them, the business is now much more involved in setting up the dashboards. “Tableau is very user-friendly. We can now do much more ourselves and are not dependent on an external party,” says Iris. As a result, the gap between business and IT is no longer there.
Supply Chain Lead Herman Woestenberg is one of the data champions within Interfood. He has now built more than ten dashboards for his department. Herman: “For example, I made a dashboard about cheese delivery. This allows us to see the age of the cheeses from various suppliers for a particular week. We can see averages and compare quarters with each other.” He has also created KPI dashboards for his own department: “With these we can measure the workload, or the volumes, reservations and allocations (red. linking a supplier to a customer) in our book. For example, we can see that in terms of powders we are on track, while cheese is lagging behind.” Herman never learned anything about data analysis in his education, but has a great affinity for it: “I watched some videos on Youtube and then it just worked out. I may not be the fastest or the best, but I’m right in the middle of the business and this makes it easy to create a dashboard that matches exactly what we want to know.”
Much of the data is loaded into Tableau from the ERP system JD Edwards, via Tableau Prep. In Tableau Prep, database tables are combined, data is cleaned, and the necessary calculations are performed. The result of each data model is a table that contains all the necessary data in a particular subject area, so that analyses can be easily performed in Tableau. Operational, financial and logistical data in particular is extracted from JD Edwards, which was also implemented by Cadran. In addition to the JD Edwards data source, Interfood has various other data sources that they can access in Tableau. From ‘non conformities’ to price and market information.
Interfood employs 350 people from 14 international locations. The Netherlands, Dubai, Singapore, Poland, Australia and Uruguay now use both JD Edwards and Tableau. Iris: “The cooperation with Cadran Analytics is good. They are always easy to reach and respond quickly. Even when I found out on a Sunday evening that Tableau Server wasn’t working. Great, such service! The implementation also went well. There were some stumbling blocks, but that’s to be expected and together we dealt with them well. I can still go to them with questions, for example recently about Tableau Mobile.”
Iris concludes: “Tableau is updated a few times a year. I keep a close eye on the updates, because there are always new features to play with. We are also implementing Tableau Mobile and rolling out Tableau to the other offices. Miami is next on the schedule for the summer.”