Alfa Laval optimizes its production infrastructure by implementing an immediate-feedback reporting system

Alfa Laval is a global leader in three key technologies, all of vital importance in industrial processes: heat transfer, separation, and fluid handling. The Alonte facility in the Vicenza area of Italy consists of five production complexes where these technologies provide value for customers. According to the requirements of the parent company, every month the plant must generate a very complex management control data set covering all aspects of the company's organization.

According to Pierangelo Callegari, head of the management control office, “every month we have to prepare more than 20 Excel spreadsheets summarizing the figures for all the KPIs that we monitor. There are about 10,000 measurements and elaborations per month. Our ERP systems contain much of this data, but in a scattered way, so it requires a great deal of elaboration and integration. That's why we had to implement an automated reporting system.”

Alfa Laval created a new reporting system for the Alonte facility using Instant Developer, a platform for developing high-productivity mobile and web applications. The system was implemented by “line of business” programmers in collaboration with an external consultant, and the first version took less than 20 total man-days of work.

Data, data everywhere

The measurement and monitoring procedures established by the Swedish parent company require the extraction of data from several ERP and departmental management systems, including: Jeeves, BCPS, Easy Pilot, etc. The data collected in the management control data warehouse system requires daily elaboration of about 5,000,000 records from more than 10 databases and diverse data sources. Before becoming part of the reporting grid, the data must be manually integrated with additional data not present in any management system.

In addition to preparing the monthly data for the management control system, Alfa Laval wanted to create a series of departmental dashboards to provide immediate feedback on the performance of various production processes and to collect the additional data needed for management control.

Pierangelo Callegari comments, “we initially evaluated a Business Intelligence system, but we realized that the implementation costs would be high and we would not have obtained all the results we needed, such as the collection of additional data.”

100% flexible

After ruling out the adoption of business intelligence tools, management control evaluated the use of native development tools, but this option would have required highly qualified personnel and a great deal of time, the extent of which, most importantly, would have depended on the priorities of the international IT department.

Searching for a solution among RAD tools, Alfa Laval evaluated Instant Developer, and after the initial prototyping phase the project manager explained the reasons for the choice: “Instant Developer was simple enough to be used by our internal staff, allowed us to integrate all the data sources that we had to process, but most importantly it was flexible. We were able to achieve all our objectives.”

Immediate feedback for all

Without having to waste time searching for staff with advanced programming skills, Alfa Laval was able to use its own programmer, who became productive with Instant Developer with just a few days practice, thanks to the on-the-job training that Pro Gamma provides.

According to programmer Marco Orio “Instant Developer allows you to program in an almost completely visual way. This makes it easier to use very complex data schemas like those of an ERP such as Jeeves. Also, the application I built is web-based and uses Ajax, but I didn't have to worry about the details of these technologies.”

In just 20 man-days, Alfa Laval successfully produced the first version of the reporting system, which included a night scheduler for reporting data collection and a web application installed on its private cloud to display the data in the form of a graphical dashboard.

At the production organization level, the feedback has been extremely positive. All department managers consulted the data and took actions to correct any anomalies and achieve the highest possible scores on the balanced scorecard. Within a few months, they were all aligned to business objectives.

As controller Laura Palmieri tells it, “we realized the importance of the system when, for organizational reasons, we had to stop the service for a day, and the phones never stopped ringing. And these were the same people who before were content to see the data once a month!”

The world's lowest TCO

When a system becomes so important to the business, continuity of service is essential. But at the same time it has to evolve to keep in line with a very dynamic business environment. And it is these two additional problems, continuity and maintainability, for which Instant Developer was able to provide a surprising solution.

Pierangelo Callegari explains, “in the last few years the system has never stopped, every morning the data is updated. And when we had any concerns that something failed, the fully integrated debugging and logging systems allowed us to determine what happened in the space of a couple of hours.”

Laura Palmieri adds, "specifics often change: when our parent company requires different data, the algorithms need to be updated. I work together with Marco and sometimes the Pro Gamma consultant, who helps with the most complicated parts. In the space of two days, the work is always done.”

Good ideas always spread

The results obtained were excellent and somewhat unexpected. Not only was the Alonte facility able to produce most management control reports automatically, but the immediate feedback allowed department managers to improve their performance in line with business objectives.

This system has been so useful that requests for expanded functionality from department managers have multiplied, which has led to implementation of other useful modules, including quality control, access control, label printing, management of external staff, scheduling of external visits, OEM management, etc.

Pierangelo Callegari concludes, “today Instant Developer is an integral part of our facility's operations. We would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their industrial processes.”

Pro Gamma is proud that Instant Developer has helped Alfa Laval reach its goals, and will remain by its side for every technological challenge it faces in the future.

Pierangelo Callegari, Head of the Management Control Office, Alfa Laval

About Alfa Laval

Alfa Laval focuses on energy optimization, environmental protection and food production through our technological leadership in heat transfer, separation and fluid handling. With more than 1900 patents, we provide worldwide solutions in areas that are vital to society both today and for the future.

Alfa Laval’s worldwide organization helps customers in nearly 100 countries to optimize their processes. We have 28 major production units (15 in Europe, 8 in Asia, 4 in the US and 1 in Latin America). The company has some 16 000 employees, the majority of whom are located in Sweden, Denmark, India, China, the US and France.

Alfa Laval Reporting: web application for management control

Sector: Business Intelligence
Company department: Controlling
Customer benefits: Reduced costs for collection and processing of data
Development time: 20 man-days (first version)
Technology: 100% Instant Developer
RIA Web Application: .NET 4.0 architecture
Database: SQL Server 2012, DB2/400, MY SQL, Access
Mobile application: iOS & Android offline
Alternatives rejected: Visual Studio, Business Objects