Saint-Gobain Research Integrates and Analyzes its Data to Promote Innovation

One of Saint-Gobain's main research centers uses Talend Open Studio for Data Integration to respond more quickly to its clients.
Talend was the only vendor offering a truly powerful open source tool capable of seamlessly integrating to our information system. Aside from the financial aspect, the participation of the community, in terms of support, development, and bug tracking really appealed to us. Finally, Talend Open Studio Data Integration's flexibility and the variety of connectors convinced us.
Clément Bourgeois, IT Project Manager

One of the top 100 industrial groups in the world

With offices in 59 countries across the globe, Saint-Gobain - a global leader in home construction - designs, produces, and distributes construction materials bringing innovative, energy-efficient, and environmentally sound solutions to the expanding markets of emerging nations. In 2008, revenue totaled 43.8 million Euros ($64.1 million); the company employs a staff of 209,000.

Founded in 1665, Saint-Gobain has always supported innovation. Today, one out five of its marketed products did not exist five years ago. Saint-Gobain has twenty research centers with 3,500 employees and files an average of 300 patents per year. One of these centers, Saint-Gobain Research, founded in 1978, employs 400 people and has a budget of 41 million Euros, comprising 11% of Saint-Gobain's total R&D budget.

At the forefront of industrial research

Saint-Gobain Research is one of Saint-Gobain's four main research centers. Serving all of the Group's areas of activity, they maintain and develop Saint-Gobain's most important skills and key technologies. They host large strategic projects and their size and multidisciplinary features enable them to interact efficiently with the academic world, keep a watch over scientific advances, and recruit first-class technicians and management.

To better manage its projects, Saint-Gobain Research works with the technical, marketing, and R&D teams from Saint-Gobain's different areas of activity. To facilitate communication with different clients and analyze project management and progress, the center wanted to create a web tool with reporting functions to monitor research studies.

"€œWe wanted to structure and standardize our analyses, and move from a paper-based system to a web tool used by all of our departments,"€ said Clément Bourgeois, IT Project Manager. "This tool had to be integrated into our Intranet to facilitate access. We also wanted to improve communication with our clients so that we could easily demonstrate the progress of our research studies and justify our activities and deadlines. For that, we needed a powerful, easy-to-learn tool, able to recover information from all types of databases and flat files."

Talend, Smile and BIRT: innovating to foster innovation

After exploring several options, Saint-Gobain Research decided to combine Talend Open Studio for Data Integration with BIRT reporting functions, integrated by Smile, France's leading open source data integrator.

"The combination of the two technologies met our needs perfectly,"€ said Clément Bourgeois. "€œTalend was the only vendor offering a truly powerful open source tool capable of seamlessly integrating to our information system. Aside from the financial aspect, the participation of the community, in terms of support, development, and bug tracking really appealed to us. Finally, Talend Open Studio for Data Integration's flexibility and the variety of connectors convinced us."

Saint-Gobain Research developed a web interface to streamline the project's first stage - capturing key data from research projects by the users themselves, with links to documents, notes, and supplementary information. Today, approximately 300 people use the tool to input new data.

Every night, Talend Open Studio for Data Integration extracts data, and then transforms it before placing it in a database specifically dedicated to analysis. A consistency check ensures the reliability of the information. These calculations, currently handling more than 200 records daily, take two hours and create approximately 20,000 lines of usable information. At the end of the cycle, users analyze this data with BIRT (project monitoring, cost analysis, progress monitoring, planning, etc.).

A Talend consultant helped Saint-Gobain's IT team structure the target database and create transformations. Smile coordinated the entire project and was responsible for the BIRT implementation.

Saving time, structuring methodology, and better communication

"€œThis is a strategic project for us because it let us formalize our reporting method, which changed significantly in less than six months, transitioning from a local, manual process to a web-based global tool. Our management is now able to draw on a clear and detailed view of our projects and their progress, almost instantly because of the formal indicators,"€ said Clément Bourgeois. "€œMoreover, this information and the ease with which we get it, helps us communicate better with our clients who appreciate our responsiveness; we can clearly measure our daily contribution. All of this was done within a reasonable budget, 100% allocated to services and the ROI was realized in one year."

With the training and internal transfer of skills, Talend Open Studio for Data Integration is now used in other projects at the research center. "€œBeing able to continuously improve our skills through the Talend community and regular exchanges on its Forum is a guarantee of stability,"€ concluded Clément Bourgeois. "€œWe can confidently plan future projects."