Data integration for fresh bread – every day

Harry-Brot GmbH chooses Talend Data Integration
A graphical interface makes job development a breeze, but you can also examine the program code if error messages appear, which is very helpful. The Talend solution has really impressed us overall with its functionality, flexibility, scalability and low price.
Michael Ludwig, Information Systems and Organization, Process Engineering at Harry-Brot GmbH

In Germany, bread is more than just food – it’s part of the culture. Which is not surprising given the vast selection available. With over 300 varieties to choose from, Germans eat more bread per person than any other country in the world. One of the leading industrial bakeries is Harry-Brot GmbH, based in Schenefeld, northern Germany. Established on a small scale in Hamburg’s Altona district in 1688, the company has been supplying fresh, pre-packaged bread to food retailers since the early 1960s. Harry has become the most popular bread brand in Germany and its products enjoy a place of pride on store shelves across the land.

In 2012, the company employed a workforce of 3,770 across nine production locations with revenue of EUR 813 million. Local Harry bakery services cover northern, western and eastern Germany. In these regions, the Harry brand has captured a 24.5% market share. The local bakery services utilize a network of 45 distributors. A total of 848 minutely-planned delivery runs put bread on the shelves of 9,690 stores every day. Over 6,670 of these retailers receive the Harry par-baked range for their in-store bakeries. The company also exports baked goods to Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, France and the Czech Republic.

The Harry-Brot IT team employs a sophisticated IT architecture to support its complex administration, production and logistics processes. And Talend’s integration platform ensures a seamless exchange of data between the company’s five main systems and its data warehouse.

 

The challenge

Harry-Brot has experienced continuous growth over the past decade, with an average annual revenue increase of over ten percent. But as the organization has grown, so too has the need for tighter financial control. Modern corporate governance, as practiced at Harry-Brot, increasingly relies on analysis of relevant data and less on the intuition of decision-makers. The upshot is that management now needs to draw on a considerably bigger volume of data. In the past, it was enough to extract data from individual applications and consolidate it with data from other systems in Excel, for example.

In 2000, the company introduced analysis and reporting software that accessed the IBM z/OS mainframe database. At the time it also integrated Cognos PowerPlay as an analytics solution, later switching to Cognos BI. “For us the main problem was how to get at the data,” states Michael Ludwig, responsible for databases, analytics and reporting at Harry. In principle, there are two possible options: access the production systems directly and use operational data, or add an intermediate layer and access data extracts. But with increasingly demanding requirements, it became practically impossible for us to access the data we needed and wanted using the applications we had,” recalls Ludwig.

In addition, some managers were accessing operational data and others were working with extracts as there was no procedural guideline in place. To bring some order to this chaos, the company decided to build a central data warehouse and populate it with data from its five main systems – including SAP ERP with the HCM module for HR management – using an ETL tool.

 

The Talend solution

“We had several different priorities, but above all, the solution had to be scalable. We intended to start small and then scale up to support all sales reporting processes,” says Michael Ludwig. Another success factor was portability – the IT team ideally wanted to avoid a runtime environment. Specifications were defined with the assistance of Harry’s long-term IT partner CIMT AG, and the process of evaluating suitable solutions began. The shortlist contained a leading proprietary solution and Talend’s open integration platform. CIMT AG, who had recently used the technology in a major project for another customer (mobile.de), advised Harry to take a closer look at Talend.

“We took our time in the proof-of-concept phase,” remembers Michael Ludwig. “We hired experts and watched them very closely during live execution of our jobs. In the end, Talend was able to meet or exceed practically all of our requirements, with the bonus that it was considerably less expensive.” CIMT AG supported Harry during the implementation process.

They kicked off with two pilot projects. The first focused on the production report on bakery quantities and tonnages for materials management. Internally, it is known as “Äquator” (equator) because it represents an imaginary line between production and logistics. The production report uses master data from SAP obtained via remote function calls (RFC) as well as mainframe data. The second pilot was dedicated to product feedback. An internal SAP-supported workflow system was implemented for product-related customer feedback, both positive and negative, and also for complaints. Data extracts are processed and included in a report for management, who can then react, for example, if certain problems are occurring frequently at a given production location.

The link to SAP was implemented with a connector which was provided free of charge. The Talend functionality allows direct integration of the typical RFCs in SAP. At the same time, an ABAP program is used to process IDocs for ETL access.

 

The benefits

CIMT AG remained on board after the deployment phase to help develop a job management system for Harry. The tasks here include recording when particular jobs have been completed, which data has been processed and where errors have occurred. IBM’s corporate job scheduling platform Tivoli Workload Scheduler is the tool Harry uses for this purpose. Talend also offers a high-performance job management console, but the IT team was keen to have centralized control of all jobs on a single platform. With Talend, this can be achieved with ease. All ETL jobs are Java programs which can also be accessed as dedicated applications. The competitive product that Harry looked at would have required installation and operation of a dedicated server, whereas with Talend, “a Linux machine simply has to execute a few additional jobs”.

Harry did not need to make any concessions when it came to functionality with Talend, and they got everything at a lower cost. This is where the open source vendor’s customer-friendly licensing model really pays off. Unlike proprietary systems, Talend’s data integration platform doesn’t count data volumes, systems, applications, CPUs and so on. The licensing model is straightforward and transparent, based on developer seats. Harry is using the subscription version of Talend Data Integration with one developer seat. The competitive product would have cost several times more for the same configuration.

Michael Ludwig has since taken the programming and monitoring of the jobs into his own hands: “Anyone who knows anything about Java programming will quickly be able to get started with Talend. A graphical interface makes job development a breeze, but you can also examine the program code if error messages appear, which is very helpful. The Talend solution has really impressed us overall with its functionality, flexibility, scalability and low price.”

The migration to the new architecture is not quite complete yet, but more and more processes will gradually be enabled for the data warehouse thanks to Talend. There are ongoing projects in the areas of HR reporting and article management, with the highly complex reorganization of sales reporting coming further down the line. “Talend plays a crucial role in our controlling and reporting tasks and allows us to develop our reporting on a step-by-step basis,” concludes Michael Ludwig. “We definitely made the right decision for our specific needs.”