Case Study: Increasing Time to Engineer by Simplifying Data and Decisions with Microsoft Power Platform
Our longstanding client of 25 years, a global automotive manufacturer, was experiencing ongoing delivery issues resulting in low engineering output. The client struggled with visibility on spend, engineering progress, risks, and issues.
A key cause of this was that engineers were spending 20% of their time manually entering and gathering data from multiple siloed sources. This data was then used to generate complex reports that were of low quality and often inaccurate due to issues with data quality. These low quality reports impacted their leaders’ ability to make high-quality informed decisions.
The MI-GSO | PCUBED team identified that a scalable digital dashboard solution was the best way to help overcome these issues. The team aimed to deliver a simple and intuitive solution in order to enhance consistency, transparency, and accountability for the client engineering teams as they readied themselves to launch new models.
MI-GSO | PCUBED were engaged by the Material Planning & Logistics department, who are responsible for the network of transportation and packaging needs across vehicle programmes. Their main objective is to ensure parts are safely transported between the suppliers and manufacturing plants.
By using lean diagnostic tools, our team assessed that instead of focusing on core engineering activities, the client teams were spending nearly 20% of their time on repetitive and administrative tasks. These included gathering data from various Excel documents and databases which the engineers would then analyse to create intricate PowerPoint decks to report back to stakeholders.
These complex reports also included a web of add-ins and macros, which had been built over time. To compound, engineers also struggled with limited access to data stored within legacy business applications.
Common pain points highlighted by the engineers were:
Not only did the construction of these reports illustrate significant inefficiencies and waste, but we also uncovered further issues with the reports themselves.
Due to the complexity of the business processes and data architecture, it was extremely challenging to present an accurate and up-to-date picture of the current status. Client stakeholders lacked visibility of real performance within projects. Risks were not clear until they became issues, forcing engineers to work reactively and constantly firefight.
The solution proposed by the MI-GSO | PCUBED team consisted of a database and a reporting dashboard. The purpose of the database was to centralise data into a single source rather than having it in multiple locations. At the front end was a Power BI dashboard enabling automated real-time reporting of information.
The client was tentative about another digital tool as historically these solutions had come at a very high cost and level of complexity. However, as the client already had Microsoft Office 365 in place, a benchmarked customisable solution was readily available within the client’s current IT landscape. They already had a tool that could be easily scaled across the organisation whilst being compliant with internal IT security standards.
To further reassure the client, we prepared a proof of concept based on dummy data within a matter of days. This allowed us to show the client the feasibility and quality of the solution, providing them with the confidence to proceed.
Once we received the go-ahead, we partnered with the client to kick off a multi-phased delivery programme. The first phase was only 12 weeks where we delivered a minimum viable product or MVP solution. Full deployment of the finished tool across the department taking less than 24 weeks.
In order to develop a tool which would fulfil customer requirements we combined Agile story creation, Lean Innovation, and Adaptive Project Management best practices. We used Lean best practices to map out the processes supporting the digital dashboard solution. This included detailing out the solution’s interactions, inputs, and outputs.
Read our case study to learn how we used a Lean Assessment to Increase Delivery Productivity at a leading Aerospace & Defense supplier.
To accurately capture the client’s pain points and focus areas, we used an Agile approach to build a backlog of user stories. The user stories helped to ensure that the solution would provide real benefits – reducing complexity and increasing visibility.
Finally, underpinning our delivery was strong adaptive Project Management best practices. Throughout the 12 weeks, we used product demonstrations of the digital dashboard solution tool. We formed an iterative development process with regular checkpoints with the client. This allowed us to quickly adapt the solution’s functionality based on the clients’ feedback and needs.
What was delivered?
Previously, data was held across multiple locations. Our solution integrated all key data sets within a scalable reporting platform which also linked to other applications such as Oracle.
The custom low code business application developed using PowerApps, created fast and intuitive data entry for engineers. Power Automate was then used to automate the stream of business data while SharePoint was used for the safe and secure storage of data. The data synchronised instantly to a live Power BI dashboard containing standardised reports. As these reports updated in real time they provided instant feedback to the managers, with notifications of overspend as work progressed in real-time.
This meant teams would no longer need to wait for monthly governance meetings to discover issues via a PowerPoint slide as the data was visible in real time. Teams could act immediately on wasteful or costly production issues as they could capture risks well before they became issues.
The initial phase of our project was completed in 12 weeks and piloted in one area of the client. Upon conclusion of the pilot, we have now scaled the Power BI Dashboard solution to other areas of the department.
Additional ‘bolt on’ solutions were also identified as the client sought to further automate areas of their business.
Upon delivery, the benefits quickly became apparent. Instead of 20% of their day on reporting and analysis, teams now spent closer to 5% of their time on these activities.
A significant amount of time was given back to the engineers. As such, they experienced a sustained increase in output, dedicating more time to progressing technical activities.
Finally, by enhancing visibility, there was a significant increase in data and reporting accuracy. With the enhanced consistency and transparency of project status, the client could now forecast and prioritise their deliveries along with enabling better cost control on their new programmes.
Project Management Consultant
@ MI-GSO | PCUBED UK
Juan Calvo Paz
Project Management Consultant
@ MI-GSO | PCUBED UK
@ MI-GSO | PCUBED UK