Case Study: Pally Biscuits Uses Modern Data Estate to Enhance Decision-Making

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Click to learn more about author Heine Krog Iversen.

Pally Biscuits makes more than three billion biscuits every year. The company has been around since 1868. From its factory in the Netherlands, the biscuits find their way to more than 40 countries worldwide. Pally Biscuits has seen massive growth since 2012 and to facilitate this expansion, the company has made big investments in modern production lines and technologies. One of the objectives of these investments was to create a data-driven organization to achieve what it calls “smarter production.”

Marco de Haan is the chief financial officer at Pally Biscuits. He is one of the change managers within the organization who initiated the journey towards becoming a data-driven organization. 

“If you want to take a smarter approach to business, everyone – from the CEO to the production line operator – needs to have access to management information. And quickly too. An operator can’t wait around for an official report. A purchaser should be able to take action based on today’s prices, not the prices from last week,” says de Haan. “If you wait until you have a customer forecast, you’ll often be too late. It is much better to have access to your own forecast compiled from historical data. In short, you can’t manage the business using a data-driven approach if the information you have at your disposal isn’t complete, on time, and accurate.”

The first steps towards a data-driven organization were taken in 2019 with the rollout of Qlik Sense: visualization software that simplifies data analysis with interactive reports and dashboards. 

“Like most companies, we started with a couple of dashboards at the management level,” says de Haan. “We filled them with data from Navision, our ERP system. In no time, the data became increasingly important; the organization discovered more and more possibilities. This included analyzing data from our Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), data from our Warehouse Management System (WMS), external data from customers and suppliers, and so on. 

“Although we made rapid strides forward and extracted more and more value from the data, we ran into bottlenecks. The massive volume of data in Qlik Sense undermined its performance, despite the vital importance of managing on a minute-by-minute basis, rather than hours or days. There was also no documentation of what was done with which data. The arrival of a new version of Navision was accompanied by the introduction of reporting options using Power BI, a different analysis tool than Qlik Sense, that added the risk of creating ‘two versions of the truth.’ In short, we had to adopt a smarter approach.”

Since the organization had a relationship with Provelu, the company that had rolled out Qlik Sense at Pally Biscuits, they started discussing options with them. 

“At Pally Biscuits, we were seeing a trend that we had encountered before with customers in manufacturing,” explains Yorick Esser, business manager at Provelu. “Pressured margins and increasing competition made it increasingly important to operate as efficiently as possible. This requires an enormous amount of management information, derived from different sources and systems, which we needed to be able to access from various BI self-service tools, predictive analytics solutions, or directly from customers. A single central data warehouse, a data estate, offered the solution to give everyone in the organization access to relevant data at all times and in a secure manner, in a way that is relevant to them.” 

Provelu suggested adopting our company’s Data Management platform, and in just a few months, the way data is accessed has been completely transformed. All data from a wide variety of systems, from ERP to WMS, from time registration to MES, as well as data from external data sources provided by customers and suppliers, is now centralized. Using scrum methods, the dashboards and reports in Qlik Sense have been redesigned – with the data now fully extracted from our platform – making for better alignment with the needs of the individual users and increased adoption of the solution. 

Numerous benefits of creating a data estate at Pally Biscuits have become apparent, and only months after development started. 

“Where we used to use data to look back to the past, we are now looking to the future, and are able to optimally combine our data. Based on sales forecasts, we calculate the expected consumption of raw materials, using that information to engage in contracts when the price is right,” says de Haan. “From CEO to operator, everyone has access to the information they need to make smart decisions. Pally is not a big company, but we are able to switch gears very quickly – and because we now have insight into the business and can immediately identify exceptions, we benefit twice over.

“Our time is spent on analysis and discussion, not on searching for information. We have also made progress on compliance. We now know exactly what happens with what data from which source. We have an overview of the entire flow; the data lineage is displayed neatly. So, if someone asks what data is stored where and what exactly happens to that data, you can make that very transparent,” adds de Haan. 

There is a strong foundation in place now and the organization remains ambitious. After all, a data-driven organization not only requires the right tools – it also requires increased awareness and training, especially in the field of storytelling. 

“If you do not have a strong narrative, people will see what is happening, but they may sometimes find it difficult to use the data to make changes. If you teach people how to use data to tell the story, it results in real organizational change. That is what we are working on right now: to eventually create an organization where our information systems, the data estate, and our Qlik Sense environment enable every employee at Pally Biscuits to make a proactive and independent transition to the future,” concludes de Haan. 

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