Part I. Multi-Plant Footprints: Microsoft Power BI Analytics


What is Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is an analytics dashboard and reporting platform. It came on the scene in 2014 and has continued to increase functionality ever since. Microsoft Power BI provides a cloud platform for analyzing and visualization of data. Soon to be included with SQL Server 2016 on premise solutions. Additionally, it allows for data gathering against on premise (at your office) data and visualized with dashboards, reports, KPI’s. Ultimately, Power BI provides a web-based user interface with full mobile capability for most devices.

Now that you’re more familiar with the functionality of Microsoft Power BI, let me paint you a real-world picture. At Interstates, many of our customers run small agriculture and livestock feed plants. Their businesses provide specialized and general livestock feeder programs for agriculture companies across the nation and even globally. Therefore, automation is required to accurately replicate feed mix recipes and efficiently operate processing systems.

Our Customers are the Best

We were recently able to utilize Microsoft Power BI for a feed plant customer experiencing significant growing pains. One immediate difficulty was due to the fact that the customer had multiple plants in various locations. Unfortunately, this resulted in long, drawn out processes. For instance, each time a district manager wanted to provide a supervisor with rollup reporting and performance metrics, the district manager had to perform an extreme amount of logistical finesse to access each plant’s reporting. Then, the district manager would compile that information into an Excel spreadsheet and produce reports from that data. That is a lot of steps!

Power BI and the Customer

In an effort to remedy this customer’s issue, we thought about Microsoft Power BI. It was the best way to surface their feed plant data into a system that provided for better metrics and visualization of their remote and local plant operational data. Additionally, it was cost effective against the bottom line operating costs of a small business proprietorship.

First, we provided a managed Power BI configuration within the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Next, we installed a Power BI data gateway windows service into their network located at each plant to provide data access for the Power BI platform. Finally, we developed the required individual plant reports as well as their top-level rollup reports. Now, the customer has a single web-based user interface that brings together all remote and local plant required metrics and reports. Given this included seven plants with a multitude of reports at each plant, we were able to save the customer significant time and effort. Now, the district manager can access the Power BI web pages and execute reports or dashboards immediately. Plant metrics and reports are available at a glance, rather than having to run the massive collection of reports against each plant.

Value Added Solutions

We love providing value-added solutions that result in savings for increased profit, reduced bottom-line, and happy customers. The Power BI offering by Microsoft allows us to gain customer efficiency and trust that existing data can be used to create profitable solutions.

Watch for more to come on Microsoft Power BI in Part 2!

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This blog post was written by Chris Stanga.