Greene Tweed relies on analytics tools from Qlik to examine every aspect of its processes, says Manager of Enterprise Data and Analytics David Hufnagle.

Sep 19 2023
Data Analytics

Why Companies Are Using Advanced Analytics for Better Visibility

Awash in data, businesses deploy sophisticated analytics to organize, integrate and visualize information — all in search of insight.

You may not be familiar with Greene Tweed, but the products this company makes save lives.

The Philadelphia-area manufacturing company makes high-performance components for industries including aerospace and defense, operating in roughly the same orbit as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, but with a much lower profile due to its focus on products like O-rings and brake system seals.

“You’ve probably never heard of us. But without us, the plane doesn’t stop,” says David Hufnagle, the company’s manager of enterprise data and analytics.

Greene Tweed’s manufacturing process is meticulous. Products are made from raw materials that are combined, pressed into shapes, baked and cured in high-temperature ovens. Perfect calibration and precision are key.

It’s Hufnagle’s job to measure as much of the process as he can. Sensors capture data at every step, and analytics software helps him turn all of that raw data into insights.

Click the banner below to learn how a modern data platform supports smart decision making.

Greene Tweed uses SAP software to unify data in an enterprise data warehouse. It then uses a replication solution from Qlik to transfer that collected information to a cloud system hosted by Microsoft Azure. Finally, it leverages a Qlik analytics tool “to take it all in and make sense of it,” Hufnagle says.

For many companies, the data they gather can pose both opportunities and problems. Parse it well, and it may provide a path to everything from improved business processes and efficiencies to better customer service. But when issues arise, it’s usually because of the sheer volume of data and the siloed sources from which it’s derived. Data that’s unorganized or hard to visualize may be more likely to lead to false signals and confusion than actionable insights and business clarity.

“Companies have had analytics capabilities for decades,” notes Tim Crawford, founder and CIO at AVOA, a technology research firm. “The challenge always has been integrating and analyzing data in meaningful ways for business decision-making.”

EXPLORE: Here are five steps to analytics and AI success.

What Is the Next Step in Data Analytics?

Hufnagle uses Qlik Sense to get data-driven alerts and visualizations on every aspect of the business. Information is presented in easy-to-understand tables, charts and graphs, and users can click between dashboards to see how any aspect of the operation is affecting others.

“It’s all about being as close to real time as possible with our information, and proactive instead of reactive,” Hufnagle says. As the company’s machines are running, he can track everything from parts being made and work orders being processed to how efficiently and effectively the equipment is operating. “If there’s a supply chain issue or a temperature variation in a machine, we can address that before it starts costing money,” he says.

Before, Greene Tweed had access to reams of machine data. However, that information was only available in isolation and was rarely received early enough for timely action. “Now, we’re able to make better decisions because we have everything we need right in our hands,” Hufnagle says.

Greene Tweed is hardly alone. The agricultural giant Conagra Brands, for example, is using Microsoft Power BI mainly for the benefit of its administrative employees, not its technologists.

“We are using Power BI to collect and organize data into reports in formats that help us gain insights and make decisions efficiently,” says Dan Hare, the company’s senior director of communications.

Such business intelligence tools have typically required companies to copy data from various sources into a central repository that serves as their single source of truth for any ensuing analyses. That’s what Greene Tweed is doing with its enterprise data warehouse.

This has been a stumbling block for some companies that would like to make greater use of analytics. But Crawford says that requirement is starting to go by the wayside as analytics firms upgrade their solutions. The most recent iterations allow businesses to leave their data where it rests, Crawford notes.

“This is new to the marketplace in 2023, and it’s a game changer,” he says.

In addition to simplifying the analytics process, accessing business information on the platform where it resides is a way to improve data fidelity, Crawford says. As more companies adopt this new functionality, he says, it should make business analytics tools more valuable than ever. “The rate at which we talk about analytics is going to increase exponentially.”

LEARN MORE: What are data platforms, and how do you build a modern one?

How to Use Data Analytics to Tell Stories

Animesh Bhattacharya is one technology leader who’s already sold on the value of cutting-edge analytics solutions. The IT manager for enterprise systems with ZS says that everything the management consulting firm does “is driven by data.” With nearly 12,000 employees in offices in 29 cities across the world, the company works with clients in a wide range of industries. “Data in general is gold to us,” he says.

ZS Associates uses analytics technology to analyze its own data and the data of its clients. For example, to help a national insurance plan grow its specialty pharmacy service by expanding its connections with healthcare providers, the firm would work with sales forecasts, incentive compensation and patient claims data.

“That data has a story behind it, and we want to know what it means.” Bhattacharya says.

Because it works with such sensitive data, security was a key factor in ZS Associates’ decision to start using Microsoft 365 E5 in 2021. The suite includes Power BI, which integrates easily with SharePoint and other platforms that businesses often use to process and store data. Critically, it’s also cloud-based, which means it’s accessible to ZS Associates’ largely remote workforce.

David Hufnagle
It’s all about being as close to real time as possible with our information, and proactive instead of reactive.”

David Hufnagle Manager of Enterprise Data and Analytics, Greene Tweed

“A lot of our consultants are road warriors,” Bhattacharya says. “When they meet with a client to share a report, they can do that on any device.”

It isn’t necessary to be a data scientist or IT professional to work with the solution to generate reports.

Modern platforms deploy technologies such as generative AI to serve the “citizen-analyst” as well as they do IT professionals. “You no longer need to be able to write code to run an analytical algorithm,” Crawford says. “Instead, you can use natural language text, and an application behind the scenes will do the work.”

At the height of the pandemic, ZS turned to Power BI to optimize its internal operations. Working closely with Microsoft to tailor the technology to fit the firm’s specific needs, the IT team gathered data on everything from where and how employees were logging in to work to details on project status and resource allocation.

“We could throw all of the data that we could think of into this one solution and immediately start seeing results,” Bhattacharya says. “Power BI gave us a source of truth that was scalable, secure and easy to use.”

Today, the platform is still delivering for both ZS and its global roster of clients. Getting to a “single pane of glass” has been a long journey for the company, Bhattacharya says. “But now that we’re there, everything is making sense. When it comes to analytics, life is a lot easier.”

Photography by Gene Smirnov

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.