Case Study | Forecast Automation

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About the client

 
Flextronics International Ltd. (simply known as Flextronics or Flex) is an American supply chain solutions company that offers design, manufacturing, distribution and aftermarket services to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Flex is a Global Fortune 500 company based in the Silicon Valley (filing in Singapore) and is the second largest global Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) company by revenue. Flextronics has manufacturing operations in over 30 countries, totaling approximately 27.2 million square feet and 200,000 employees.(source)
 
 

Overview

 
The Forecast Automation platform that we implemented for Flextronics is a web based solution that enables real time complex calculations with applicability in a wide array of domains. The platform supports the usage of calculations and formulas similar with those of Microsoft Excel but with a tight work flow control. At the same time it provides a controlled information manipulation environment typical of a custom software application that provides specific interfaces and formulas as well as user based access rights.
 
 

Challenge

 
The main purpose of the application is to integrate different processes of financial forecast between Flextronics sites. This brought about a series of specific challenges to be addressed. For once there is no single defined standard forecast process as many of the functions involved in the process are not aligned between sites. A notable aspect was the fact that the files used for forecast are different from one site to another and IN and OUT data is also not in the same format. There is also an increased number of touches for information and an increased lead-time of the process. Due to the high complexity of date, errors may occur and also simulations of changes is time consuming and sometimes not possible.

Another challenge is related to the application flexibility to a changing company reporting structure and costs distribution models.
 
 

Solution

 
The solution that was developed to answer the demands is a web based application with fat / rich web clients that are running in rowsers. The application is modular (a module (or sub-module) is an entity able to handle specific functionalities applied on a specific data set) and has multi-user with defined roles (or users profiles) based on each module functionalities.

In order to achieve efficiency objective, the tool has to be integrated with several internal standard applications like:

AD – for users authentication;
Baan/BO – for actual data and price lists;
OLS – for reporting final forecasting results/site.

The development and also the working approaches followed a modular pattern. A module will consist of multiple features, interfaces, and data manipulations in order to fulfill a well-defined task (or goal). A module dimension / complexity could vary. Due to the complexity of the Flextronics Automation Project a sub-module level inside the modules hierarchy was needed.

AD integration policy has been defined. It had to cover only the application access and not application specific users rights. These rights will be handled inside Flextronics Automation Project. Due to the modular approach, all rights are module specific. As a general philosophy, the application
deals with user roles (or profiles) and user roles are assigned to users. Multiple user roles could be assigned to one user.

The innovative character of the software is related to the definition of an architectural and computational model that assures the processing of data and direct and fast calculations that are afterwards propagated to different web clients. It also generates interface models for introducing and visualizing data. This way generating a new set of interfaces is much simplified providing an easy extensibility, versatility and maintenance for the entire solution.
 
 

Conclusion

 
The tool has all the computing capabilities of Excel and is available through a web interface to any
user in the company. It is highly adaptable to specific problems that presume real time calculations
by introducing primary date and visualizing them by different entities simultaneously based on
access rights.
 
 

Ongoing

 
Multi-site integration under the same management tool will follow. The aim will be to handle multiple installations on a consistent manner from a central management console in order to foster standardization and control.