Ascend Performance Materials Improves Data Quality and Accuracy with Winshuttle Foundation

By Jeanette Mifsud on Oct 22, 2020

Bad data leads to poor decision making, but it also costs businesses millions in potential earnings. According to Gartner, poor data quality is a primary reason for 40% of all business initiatives failing to achieve their targeted value, and data quality affects overall labor productivity by as much as a 20%. Gartner research has found that the financial impact of poor data quality on organizations, on average, is $15 million per year in losses. And in the U.S. alone, research conducted by IBM  showed that poor data quality is responsible for businesses losing $3.1 trillion annually.

Based in Houston, Texas, Ascend Performance Materials produces chemicals, fibers, and plastics for the automotive, electronics, textile, and consumer industries. As Ascend is one of the top 60 exporters of goods in the U.S. by volume (exporting over 25,000 containers annually), the result of the supply chain having bad data could be disastrous to the business. In an effort to ensure clean and accurate data, the master data governance (MDG) team at Ascend identified three use cases of supply chain process workflows that could benefit from automation (involving sample material requests, supplier approvals, and mass updates). And it turned to Winshuttle Foundation, a business process automation and data management platform, to automate the three workflows, streamline processes, and improve data quality and compliance. As a result of better data quality, less manual data entry, and optimized processes, Ascend was able to achieve 99% data accuracy and massive timesavings in the supply chain.

To share Ascend’s success story with others, Winshuttle recently ran a small virtual C3W customer session, led by strategic account executive Phil Williams. During the customer session, Phil connected with Rod Johnson, who manages the global MDG team at Ascend. Rod introduced the MDG team members (senior master data specialist LaMona Jones and master data specialists April Hargraves and Melinda Hyder) to discuss the projects they led, review the use case in depth, and identify the impact on the business, such as reducing cycle times, data errors, and the number of people involved in the process.

Three Use Cases Took into Account the “Voice of the Customer”

For each of the three use cases, the MDG team performed a “Voice of the Customer,” Ascend’s variation of Six Sigma quality function deployment (QFD) process, at the start of each project to transform qualitative user demands into quantitative parameters. “The Voice of the Customer is part of Ascend’s internal process improvement methodology to ensure the project’s business requirements and objectives are addressed and met,” said Johnson.

The first use case discussed how Ascend automated the workflow for fulfilling requests for sample materials from one Ascend facility to another. This workflow had been a combination of manual processes including email, phone calls, and spreadsheets and could take up to 45 days complete. Using Winshuttle Foundation, the team was able to streamline the process, reduce the number of handoffs, and optimize the workflow communication. “That communication is all channeled automatically through the Winshuttle solution, allowing us to be more agile,” said LaMona Jones. “We streamlined the number of handoffs and approvers in addition to reducing cycle time from a minimum of 14 days for a stock keeping unit (SKU) to one day.”

The second use case focused on the workflow for approving and onboarding new suppliers of raw materials. The original process involved many manual handoffs and emails with a single quality specialist in charge of managing all the requests and approvals. Using Winshuttle Foundation, Ascend automated the process flow so that all new suppliers now follow the same process for obtaining approvals, and automated email notifications are routed to workflow participants, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and nothing is held up waiting for an approval. The automated workflow allows users to enter comments during the approval or attach required documentation, which are automatically stored for easy reference. It significantly reduced the number of manual touches and is saving a ton of time, according to April Hargraves. “Previously, some qualifications took up to two years, and now we‘re down to most qualifications taking about three months,” she said. “Anyone involved in the process can see where the workflow is and have clear expectations of what is needed or expected for each task.”

The third use case involved automating the mass updates of requests submitted for MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) materials, which previously was error prone and involved manually copying data from spreadsheets and submitting individual requests for multiple materials. The approvals for material requests over a certain value had been taking a long time to secure, and there was no visibility into the history. The new workflow using Winshuttle now has approvals happening in parallel. “No one has to wait on the next person’s approval for the request to go forward,” said Melinda Hyder. “Cycle time, as well as error occurrence, was substantially improved — all in one simple request.”

Benefits of the Automated Workflows

“The distinction between the different use cases really shows the flexibility of Winshuttle Foundation in that it enables users to automate a process that’s agnostic of the system,” said Johnson. “We need that flexibility to refine our processes rapidly to meet the business needs in this dynamic environment.”

While flexibility is important, data cleanliness and accuracy are crucial to the success of the business. After auditing the company’s master data toward the end of 2019, and finding data accuracy to be very low, the team was able to build governance rules embedded in the workflows in Winshuttle to improve the accuracy to 99.9%. In addition to data accuracy, some other benefits mentioned of the Winshuttle solution cited are that it provides visibility into the status of the process, forces consistency and accountability across users, lets users reuse previously created templates (even scripts created with Winshuttle Studio), and provides an auditable record for internal and external auditors.

Learn more details on these three use cases by reading the article that will be published in the Q4 2020 edition of SAPinsider magazine.

About the author

Jeanette Mifsud

Jeanette leads the product marketing team at Winshuttle and has over 25 years experience helping technology companies define and market products that solve real-world problems for customers around the globe. Although based in our Bothell, WA headquarters, Jeanette hails from the UK.

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