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Process Mining – the dream of many Supply Chain Improvement experts

Posted on: 25-02-2019 08:33:01661

Every Angle Process Mining

The art and pleasure of Supply Chain Improvement Analysis

In my opinion, as an Operations Management consultant, Supply Chain Improvement projects were the nicest projects to do. Figuring out where bottlenecks are and what’s causing them, making lead-times more reliable, shortening lead-times (which is a great technique to increase lead-time reliability by the way) and reducing effort and expenses throughout the process is very rewarding and highly fascinating work. You can compare it with the work of a detective, who first tries to get a clear view on the characteristics of the overall business (market, products, sales, engineering, purchase, production, distribution, invoicing, and so on), and then starts looking for flaws and anomalies. From a Supply Chain view, one will be heavily interested in the various existing types of ‘orders’ (quotations, sales orders, and orders in engineering, purchase, production, distribution and so on). The second point of interest then is ‘how are these orders flowing through the system?’, and more specifically ‘who is executing what specific activities in which order?’ The answers may be based on actual process diagrams and process descriptions, prepared during a quality project or a previous Supply Chain improvement project. When that material doesn’t exist, the consultant prepares it himself based on interviews and observations. Such an interview and (re)design process may take quite some time. In both cases, the process descriptions reflect what the interviewees or process designers believe the situation is. And then the ‘process detective’ starts his detective work, comparing the descriptions with the reality on the floor. Are all these activities necessary, and if so, is the customer willing to pay for it? Where do we see deviations from these well-defined processes and why? What are the various lead-times and what is the variation of these lead-times? And so forth… Fun, very useful, but also time consuming and costly.

Process Mining software, the vehicle towards process insight

Process Mining software is designed to automate the work described above. Process Mining is promising when one has the proper Supply Chain analytics skills and the proper basic data. The analytics skills may be available in your company, and definitely are available at the specialized consulting firms. The biggest problem however (both on cost and lead-time) mostly turned out to be ‘getting the proper basic data’, because it can be quite hard to find reliable process descriptions in business environments. Therefore, another approach had to be figured out. This approach is based on the realization that there is a useful source to get this data… the ERP system! Not surprisingly, because an ERP system contains all the transactions supporting the process actions, stores all the relevant data, and logs all the event data (e.g. who has executed these transactions when). That insight gave birth to the development of ‘Process Mining software’, software to harvest the available data and apply data mining and process analysis logic to generate a realistic view on the various processes. Lots of developments have been done in the meanwhile and several software vendors offer solutions these days. If correctly applied, the insights are surprisingly clear and informative and that’s probably why Gartner mentions Process Mining in its Top 10 Technologies for 2019 as a ‘disruptive trend’ and a key factor in data preparation, data analysis and business process management. Worthwhile investigating, for sure!

The difficulty of getting the proper ERP information

The Process Mining algorithms work, no doubt about that, if (and only if) they can be fed with the needed information from the ERP system. And that’s exactly the point where the shoe pinches. Most of the time it is not just a matter of installing the software, pushing a button, and here’s your process picture. More often it will take many weeks, if not months, to get the proper information out of the ERP database. Simply because one needs to have a thorough understanding of the vastly complex ERP data structure (many hundreds of tables and thousands of fields) and the ERP system logic to generate the needed information. The reviews of the Process Mining software packages do show to be very positive. The negative comments are generally about the need for ERP data experts, the lead-times to get the correct information and the associated costs.

The ease of getting the proper information with Every Angle on an SAP-ECC system

This info-gathering problem is nearly non-existing when you are running an SAP-ECC system with an Every Angle Self-Service Business Analytics system connected to it. Every Angle already delivers cross-process self-service analytics for SAP users for many years, which is only possible because our software fully understands the underlying SAP data structure and configuration and contains cross-process intelligence. A new installation is live in less than three days and adds value three minutes later. Ideal to deliver the needed process information!

That’s why our package has recently been expanded with Process Mining functionality. This visualization of the end-to-end business processes across global operations is the result of 20+ years of SAP knowledge, combined with out-of-the-box Process Mining functionality. With the three available out-of-the-box models for Purchase to Pay, Supply to Demand and Order to Cash you will be up and running in days.

Does Process Mining work? No doubt about it! Can it be up and running in days at an acceptable price in an SAP environment? Ditto!

How? Check Every Angle Process Mining.


Jacques Adriaansen 
Business Improvement Thought Leader

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