Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. operates retail stores centered on MUJI, and moreover, product planning, development, manufacturing, wholesaling and merchandising. The company administers 1,029 stores worldwide, in breakdown 479 stores in Japan and 550 stores in overseas respectively (as of August 2020).
Ryohin Keikaku introduced Japan’s self-service data analysis solution Alteryx because they wanted to expand the use of Tableau’s report creation feature, a feature that had previously only been used in Japan, globally.
Alteryx allows for data processing and logic changes even in the absence of employees with expertise in areas like programming, helping contribute to the company’s global expansion.
Utilizing Tableau to analyze sales metrics
MUJI first debuted in December 1980 as a private brand of the Seiyu Group with a range of 40 products. Ryohin Keikaku became independent of the Seiyu Group in 1989, becoming a manufacturer and retailer for MUJI that is responsible for everything from the planning, development, and manufacturing of products right through to their distribution and sales. The product line has now expanded to encompass approximately 7,000 items that cater to everyday needs, including clothing, household items, and food. Ryohin Keikaku also operates 1,039 stores, both within Japan and internationally, including MUJI stores, restaurants, and IDÉE, etc. (as of August 2020).
In 2017, the company introduced Tableau as a BI (Business Intelligence) tool to visualize and analyze various kinds of data, including customer information and sales results, for the purpose of sales metric analysis. Ryohin Keikaku used a core system program in its sales and product departments to create metrics for use with Tableau and to generate reports. As everything continued going to plan in 2018, the desire to utilize the reports that were being used in Japan overseas became more entrenched.
“There were two members of staff, including myself, who were involved in the introduction of Tableau. There were many running reports, and we also felt some challenges on the maintenance side of things. Still, the amount of human resources available to increase the number of stores using this software was woefully insufficient.” (Ryohin Keikaku)
Adopting Alteryx for expansion without burdening development resources at the core system end
The global system reconstruction project commenced despite issues concerning a lack of skilled human resources.
As part of this project, Ryohin Keikaku decided to introduce the nine types of reports utilized in Japan to all of their overseas group distributors with the intent to make management decisions using standardized global KPIs. At that time, the following two distinct issues emerged.
- When Ryohin Keikaku created intermediate data for Tableau on the core system program, only the developers can perform maintenance. So, it is difficult to respond to requests from users to make improvements quickly.
- They lacked of people who had the required specialist knowledge to participate in the global roll-out of Tableau report creation during the project to reconstruct the global system.
That is why Ryohin Keikaku decided to introduce Alteryx as a tool to efficiently create intermediate data for use with Tableau, including overseas distributors, without burdening development resources at the core system end.
“Even before then, there were frequent requests regarding improvements to reporting, and we wanted to be able to take care of this in-house so that we could respond promptly to logic reviews. After comparing it to other products, we decided to go with Alteryx because we determined that it was a solution that would allow us to deal with data processing and logic changes even without staff with a knowledge of programming.”(Ryohin Keikaku)
Using new resources without needing technical expertise
In the initial phase, Ryohin Keikaku concentrated its adoption of Alteryx on global MD analysis. During subsequent stages the scope of use for Alteryx was expanded to forecast management and fi-nancial analysis in managerial accounting. Analyses of globally standardized KPIs were implemented during global MD analysis and the insights visualized on Tableau. As part of the third phase of its introduction, Ryohin Keikaku is currently working on utilizing Alteryx to analyze app members.
While there were no technical obstacles to its introduction, the introduction costs did result in additional new expenditure. Although the company does feel the weight of such expenses, overall, the introduction of Alteryx was right for the company from the standpoint of cost-effectiveness. One year and two months after its adoption, Ryohin Keikaku’s current assessment of Alteryx is as below.
Post-introduction assessment of Alteryx
- Visualizing workflows allows them to be understood intuitively, even without knowledge of programming or any other special skills.
- When dealing with improvement requests or performance improvements, it is possible to look at the workflow on a big screen together with all of the staff, which makes it easy for people to come forward with opinions like “Shouldn’t we improve the logic here?” or "This looks like it’s becoming a performance bottleneck,” and “An error may be occurring here.”
- "The response time from support is fast, and even if we are having trouble with something, we receive assistance very quickly. We often receive requests from our various departments and from the managerial level to improve the Tableau reporting, and because Alteryx is so intuitive to use, it allows us to respond to these requests promptly. It may be subjective, but I do believe that the introduction of Alteryx has halved the amount of time to process data.” (Ryohin Keikaku)
Continuing to streamline data and analytics in anticipation of increases in sales metrics
There have been many other benefits brought about through the introduction of Alteryx.
“When we want to look at Tableau-generated reports to check the raw KPI data, Alteryx is very handy because it allows us to easily pick out the data. This is one of the many benefits of Alteryx that we have noticed since its introduction.” (Ryohin Keikaku)
Ryohin Keikaku began using the “Gallery” feature on Alteryx Server one year after introducing it in the company. A simple API was created for ¬le uploads that were then opened up to Corporate Planning Department staff responsible for employee number management and individual store investment plans. Now, each party can easily upload data for reports. Alteryx has also made things more streamlined by allowing them to run column comparisons and existence checks between master and .csv ¬les when uploading, as well as by allowing us to make checks for redundant records within the .csv fi¬le.
“However, there have been challenges. One such challenge was that some parts of the workflow became more complex as we decided to prioritize the direct migration of the core system program to the Alteryx workflow thanks to the pressing need for global expansion. We want to make some adjustments to make the flow more speedy and efficient. Another issue is that we assume the business will expand. Data linked across different time zones from multiple overseas distributors is currently processed in parallel across eight cores by report type and distributor. As we advanced, we are assuming that there will be an increase in report types and distributors in addition to an enlarged scope of use for Tableau. So we are thinking about how we can efficiently utilize server resources and development licenses.” (Ryohin Keikaku)
Ryohin Keikaku has expressed a desire to analyze customer feedback in addition to sales metrics. As the amount and types of data handled will need to increase to achieve this, Ryohin Keikaku has also talked about its plans for optimizing workflows and server resources.
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