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Komatsu cracks open data collections, slicing costs and accelerating insight

Komatsu makes the sort of machinery that digs through dirt as though it were soft butter; to remain competitive and provide the sorts of services customers expect, it needed its information systems to be as powerful – digging through vast reserves of data in order to uncover nuggets of value.

The problem Komatsu Australia was facing was that the data was spread across multiple systems, not easily accessible, and difficult to interpret.

Komatsu Australia is the local arm of the globally trusted Komatsu brand that manufactures equipment for construction and mining businesses, utilities, manufacturers and foresters.

 According to Todd Connolly, General Manager Construction Solutions at Komatsu Australia; “The fuel for innovation and digital disruption in our business and our industry is data.

But data itself is not enough—we need to turn that data into actionable information,” in order to make a difference for employees and its customers.

The company was ripe for digital transformation; while it had vast data reserves, digging through the data spread across multiple systems could take 20-30 minutes to prepare the information an employee needed before visiting a customer. And there was always the risk that an error would creep in as data from different systems was manipulated.

Now, an integrated data management platform has been developed and rolled out in Australia that could become a blueprint for Komatsu globally. According to Connolly; “Now with the click of a button we can get all the information. The right information at the right time at the right place is the key whether it’s to our staff or our customers.”

Now we have a single consolidated source of truth that everyone uses, and we can increasingly automate our analysis for a deeper dive into the intricacies of the data. – John Steele: General Manager, Business Technology and Systems, Komatsu Australia

Value unlocked

Komatsu Australia has more than 30,000 machines in daily operation that stream data on productivity, machine condition, and other factors. To unlock the value in the data the company needed tools to aggregate it, interrogate it and identify issues and exceptions.

Previously data was spread across multiple platforms and applications.

To create a unified data estate, Komatsu selected TimeXtender Discovery Hub, which includes a powerful, built-in adapter for Microsoft Dynamics AX—which Komatsu currently uses—and a graphical user interface for data management. Discovery Hub runs on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

According to John Steele, General Manager, Business Technology and Systems at Komatsu Australia; ““We like what we see with all the current Azure services, and we’re looking at moving more of our IT resources to the cloud

“As more Azure services become available, we can tap into them more easily if we’re already in the cloud rather than running on-premises systems.”

Underpinning the solution is a Microsoft Azure SQL Database Managed Instance which is now ensuring there is streamlined access for staff and customers, improving performance and halving costs.

According to Nipun Sharma, analytics architect, business technology and systems, Komatsu Australia; “We’ve seen a 49 per cent cost reduction and 25-30 per cent performance gains.”

And because the data is unified rather than spread across different systems, Steele says; “The accessibility and visibility we have now makes it possible to perform advanced analytics and extract more value from the data.”

As the repository for all the data, Azure SQL Database Managed Instance has become a single source of truth across Komatsu Australia. The company uses Discovery Hub to do its extract, transformation, and load operations. It publishes the data in Azure Analysis Services, where that data is available for reporting and analytics, giving employees access to all relevant data from multiple sources—all the data they need to give customers the best possible service.

Managers also have much greater clarity about parts and service sales, inventory transactions and stock levels. Stock reports that once took up to 10 hours to generate can now be accessed on demand. For managers that transparency means decision making is more informed and actions optimised.

Sharma explains that; “We have 1.5 terabytes of data and that number is growing fast—we currently process around a million records per day—and we determined Azure SQL Database Managed Instance was the best choice for us in terms of scalability, cost, and performance.”

We determined Azure SQL Database Managed Instance was the best choice for us in terms of scalability, cost, and performance.… We’ve seen a 49 percent cost reduction and 25 to 30 percent performance gains. Nipun Sharma: Analytics Architect, Business Technology and Systems, Komatsu Australia

Risk has also been reined in. “Prior to setting up Discovery Hub and Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, logistical data was managed on an ad hoc basis by different people across the company, creating real potential for data errors,” says Steele. “Now we have a single consolidated source of truth that everyone uses, and we can increasingly automate our analysis for a deeper dive into the intricacies of the data. We simply didn’t have that capacity before. Having a single platform has really helped us clean up our data and understand it better.”

To put the power of the data into people’s hands, Komatsu Australia has rolled out Microsoft Power BI with dashboards and visual analytics supporting employees across the business.

The next step planned for the data modernisation and transformation is to use the business intelligence platform to enrich the information available to Komatsu Australia customers.

Customers already use telemetry data from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to help manage their fleets. Komatsu serves up this telemetry data and insights from their Komtrax platform and online portal to give customers greater visibility into their fleets.

“We deal with such large volumes of data that we need fast, easy, and robust solutions in place to make sense of it,” says Connolly. “We don’t want to have rooms full of business analysts processing and reviewing the data, so we use Microsoft and TimeXtender solutions to provide our employees and customers with the right data at the right time and in the right place.”

Future possibilities for Komatsu Australia include using AI to incorporate predictive analysis into its business intelligence platform. Its data scientists currently work on predictive models based on equipment telemetry data, and the company hopes to apply the same sort of processes and methodologies to business data as well.

Komatsu Australia is also working on expanding access to key information through mobile apps and desktop apps to put data even more at the centre of the business and provide it to the employee or customer who needs it, when they need it.

Komatsu Australia anticipates that its technology choices will serve the company well for many years to come and could be rolled out to the global business. “When we select technology tools for our company, we want something that can grow with our business at enterprise scale,” says Steele. “That’s why we have a great level of comfort working with Microsoft. We trust that Microsoft solutions will be technologically advanced, supportable, and maintainable and that they’ll continue to meet our business and technology needs moving forward.”