Alteryx + AGC
AGC Inc. was founded in 1907 and succeeded in becoming Japan's first industrial producer of flat-glass. The company has expanded its business with the times and now provides materials in a wide range of fields, including glass, electronics, chemicals, life sciences, and ceramics. The longstanding AGC Chemicals business began in 1917 as a way to supply the company with soda ash, a raw material required for flat-glass production.
As part of their efforts to roll out digital transformation across the entire company, AGC have adopted Alteryx for AGC Chemicals to leverage data, and they are now using Alteryx as an essential platform to transform their business and stay ahead of the curve.
Three Steps to Drive Smartification: Visualization, Understanding and Transformation
A goal for the entire company is to enable digital transformation. The mission of the AGC Chemicals Digital Transformation Office is to take on everything from smartification strategy formulation and planning to the establishment of technologies and skills.
"Digital transformation is much more than simple digitization. We are always thinking about how we can utilize data to transform our business and maintain a dominant position in our field," says Tetsu Honjo, General Manager of the Digital Transformation Office.
"We're driving smartification through three steps: visualization, understanding and transformation."
In the first step, visualization, data is collected and stored in a usable format, and then this data is rendered visible, allowing issues to be identified. In the second step, understanding, the visualized data is analyzed to hone in further on the issues. And finally, in the third step, transformation, the insights gathered from the data are applied in reality, driving change.
"The manufacturing industry handles an extraordinary amount of data," says Takanori Ishii, Group Leader of the Technology Planning Group. “For example, AGC Chemicals handles a huge range of products in the fields of commodity chemicals, special chemicals and the life-sciences sector. Any of these products can be broken down into development, manufacturing, and sales, each of which comes with its own data, and the inputs and outputs are always changing. In order to move forward with sustainable digital transformation and smartification in a manufacturing industry like this, it's important to be able to be able to quickly and easily gather the data, break it down and analyze it."
From acquisition to analysis
AGC Chemicals considered various different platforms for driving forward their smartification, but in the end they decided to adopt Alteryx.
"Alteryx is great for business users because you don't need any programming knowledge to start using it. High data-processing readability is another benefit this platform provides — even when looking at items compiled by someone else, you can still tell what is happening. We did compare Alteryx with other platforms, but the abundance of functions for dealing with data all the way from acquisition to analysis, and the ability to easily link everything up under tool icons, were major attractions for us," says Ishii.
“People got the hang of using it within one to two weeks. I think we've managed to acquire the foundations of data engineering far quicker than if we had staff learn programming from scratch. And for learning how to use it, there was a wealth of online webinars, manuals and Q&As that proved very useful. There were a few technical issues that arose when we actually started using the tool, but these were easily solved thanks to Alteryx's online support," says Taikan Yasui.
AGC is presently putting Alteryx to work in areas such as data gathering and analysis, work-process improvement and machine learning. One example of this is their aim to use data visualization for problem solving and value creation, optimizing and enhancing data collection on the information-gathering system "CHAMP," launched in 2019. Yasui went on to add that Alteryx had been essential in the development of this system, too.
Improving Motivation and Literacy to Progress toward Smartification as One
The adoption of Alteryx has brought with it various benefits, including shortened development times and reduced development costs.
"With CHAMP, we utilize data to try and solve problems by ourselves. In the past we couldn't aggregate or organize our data without the help of a system engineer. But since introducing Alteryx, we've actually been able to build a system that allows us to aggregate and consecutively process data to obtain the data we want, shortening development times. When we calculated our savings from one instance of leveraging Alteryx, we realized we had been able to cut costs by more than 80% compared to outsourcing the system building externally," says Yasui.
"The adoption of Alteryx not only resulted in reduced costs, but also had a profound effect on motivation and literacy," notes Ishii.
Changes in motivation
“Before, even when the data was provided it took around one or two months to get analytical feedback. With the introduction of Alteryx, some feedback can now be generated in a matter of days. Alteryx also allows departments experiencing issues to quickly grasp how the data they have provided is being used. It helps them really understand the value of providing data and increases their motivation to gather, provide and utilize it”
Changes in literacy
“The Alteryx user interface is excellent, and we can easily share details of the analysis while presenting the processing screen. Even if you are unable to conduct the analysis you want to, you can easily grasp what is lacking. Literacy is improved to the point where you just have to look at the Alteryx screen to understand what you need to do next to obtain the data we want.”
"We've gained the ability to take on digital transformation and smartification with a mindset shared by both smartification planning departments like us, and by user departments."
Solving problems individually
"Up until now, only certain experts have been able to handle data, but now anyone can do it thanks to Alteryx,” says Honjo. “For a business with limited human resources to transform at speed, it's essential that the organization comes together as one to deal with data. I think that having a weapon like Alteryx in our arsenal has allowed us to get closer to our image of the ideal organization."
“Thanks to Alteryx, data literacy has improved within the organization and we've learned to think more like programmers,” says Yasui. “Recently I've felt that this improvement in our skills has led to more meaningful conversation with external IT engineers, and it's allowed us to create a firm foundation on which to achieve things of even greater value."
Boosting the Future of Japanese Manufacturing
So what’s next? Yasui states: "AGC is currently building a system for the centralized gathering of various data via the introduction of the 'CHOPIN' integrated operation and quality management system and a private LTE network for our factories. We anticipate that using Alteryx as a data pipeline to aggregate and analyze the data accumulated by these systems will allow us to make discoveries that lead to the creation of new value."
"An increasing number of people from other departments are taking interest in Alteryx. Even without explaining about Alteryx, whenever we talk about digital transformation or smartification, all I have to do is show my colleagues the results of our analyses and they are immediately interested. I feel that more and more of our contemporaries will be using Alteryx to push their digital transformation," says Ishii.
"The manufacturing industry is all linked by supply chains, so there's no room for a winner-take-all mindset. As the number of Alteryx users within the manufacturing industry increases and these users encourage each other to improve, this will hopefully boost the whole of the Japanese manufacturing industry. To this end, I think it would be great if Alteryx could back a mechanism that allows users to connect with one another," says Honjo.
Head office: 1-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
Representative Director & President: Yoshinori Hirai
Business description: AGC was founded in 1907 and started out as a flat-glass manufacturer. The company has now expanded into a wide range of fields including glass, electronics, chemicals and ceramics. In 2018, the company changed their name from "Asahi Glass" to "AGC" and adopted the Group's shared brand statement "Your Dreams, Our Challenge." The company is undergoing a global brand restructuring as a manufacturer of superior-quality materials.
Tetsu Honjo, General Manager, Digital Transformation Office, Company Strategy General Division, Chemicals Company, AGC Inc.
Takanori Ishii, Group Leader, Technology Planning Group, Digital Transformation Office, Company Strategy General Division, Chemicals Company, AGC Inc.
Taikan Yasui, Project Leader, Technology Planning Group, Digital Transformation Office, Company Strategy General Division, Chemicals Company, AGC Inc.
• The challenges pre-Alteryx
AGC didn't want simple digitization, but a complete digital transformation that reformed the business and secured their place at the top. To this end, the company required the ability to properly gather, analyze and quickly and easily understand large amounts of data.
The results of introducing Alteryx
- A system has been established allowing the whole company to deal with data as one to achieve digital transformation
- The company is not dependent on a small number of employees to carry out data aggregation and consecutive processing
- Wide-scale optimization has been achieved through the reduction of development times and costs
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