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Driving Innovation and Manufacturing Insights From SAP Data


Time needed to refresh business data for end users


Reduction in time spent running and managing data replication


Computing costs

INDUSTRY: Manufacturing
CLOUD: Azure

Textron is one of the world’s best-known multi-industry companies, recognized for their powerful brands such as Bell, Cessna, Beechcraft, E-Z-GO and Arctic Cat. The company leverages their global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses to provide customers with innovative products and services. Seeking to support their new SAP S/4HANA ERP solution with the right data architecture and blend the SAP data with other ERP data, the Textron Specialized Vehicles (TSV) division implemented Qlik’s Cloud Data Integration solution to replicate data into the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform. TSV now uses Databricks in tandem with Qlik Replicate to stream near real-time data that is made available to their business users. The capability provided by Qlik and Databricks is helping TSV save work-hours and lower computing costs while empowering decision-makers to carry on the company’s technological innovation.

Major ERP upgrade required the right supporting architecture

TSV manufactures a wide range of vehicles for consumer and B2B customers in various industries. In the process, TSV generates vast amounts of manufacturing and sales data across their business lines. TSV decided to migrate from SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) to SAP S/4HANA, in order to standardize their SAP environment across their various business units, and upgrade the extract, load, transform (ELT) process.

“Our transition to SAP S/4HANA primarily affected two business units,” explained Brandon Haddock, Director of Communications at Textron Specialized Vehicles. “Those two businesses shared a particular instance of SAP ECC that we wanted to migrate as part of a long-term plan to consolidate all our businesses onto a single ERP system and environment.”

As TSV transitioned to SAP S/4HANA, the company needed to be able to extract data directly from this new platform. But TSV also wanted to deliver data to business users for various purposes, including analytics on the Qlik platform.

“Our SAP S/4HANA system is a complete order-to-cash ERP,” said Sondra Gillespie, IT Data Operations Manager at Textron Specialized Vehicles. “It draws IT and OT data from multiple sources. We needed to be sure that when we made the transition to a new ERP, we were supporting that platform with technology that would allow our business users to continue accessing and analyzing data as freely as before.”

Databricks Data Intelligence Platform serves as a single source of truth for a diverse business

TSV evaluated several potential solutions for broadening data access. However, those options did not meet TSV’s desire to consolidate their data in one place in real time. TSV then explored the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform and discovered that using it alongside Qlik Replicate would be the best way forward.

“Although our top priority with this project was to support our manufacturing businesses, we have data coming in from a wide variety of systems,” Gillespie remarked. “Moving to the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform built on the lakehouse made it easy to collect all our data in one place and have it accessible for all possible business purposes.”

After going live on the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform, TSV set up an architecture designed to give business users flexibility while implementing rigorous security. Qlik’s Replicate uses change data capture calls to SAP and replicates data into the data lake. Databricks Delta Live Tables then performs the data transformation and applies software engineering best practices like testing, monitoring and documentation to deploy reliable pipelines at scale. This process produces Silver-level tables (for curated data) in Delta format and puts the tables in a location where the data lake can access them. Along the way, rules in Qlik Replicate help normalize the SAP data table names.

“Some of the rules in Qlik Replicate enhance our data as we’re ingesting it and make it easier to provide reliable data to our end users,” said Gillespie. “For example, we eliminate characters that could disrupt our data further down in the pipeline. If we were to turn off that feature, we might have records that aren’t read properly, resulting in bad data.”

Streaming data serves business needs with less human involvement

TSV’s goal is to make data available to their business users in near real-time. With Databricks and Qlik, the company now streams data throughout the day. “The biggest wins we’ve seen out of this project are performance and timing,” Gillespie reports. “We’re now connecting Qlik Replicate to new data every few minutes.”

Previously, TSV’s business data was only available to users in batches upon request. The new process involving Databricks and Qlik is helping the company save work-hours and lower compute costs. TSV hopes to reduce the amount of time their team spends running and maintaining the data replication process from 80% to less than 10%.

“We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Gillespie. “We’re down to about 60% of time spent on running and maintenance, which is already a 25% improvement. In the long run, our team will be able to spend much more time in productive activities that serve our business and help generate revenue.”

With the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform and Qlik Cloud Data Integration, TSV plans to continue maximizing the efficiency of their operations so they can deliver more of the revolutionary technology their customers want. After establishing a single source of truth for their SAP data, the company is well on their way.

“Databricks Data Intelligence Platform and Qlik Cloud Data Integration have given us the systematic data operations process that we’ve always needed,” Gillespie concluded. “As a result, we’ve been able to increase the robustness of our operations and gain valuable insights into how our products are used so that we can continually improve. We’re excited to continue this partnership.”