Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) is a leading confectionery manufacturer based in Sri Lanka. The company’s success story lies in its dedication to high quality standards, constant innovation of the products and processes, consumer insights, aggressive sales and marketing, and continuous R&D. To support its sales transformation journey, the company digitized its paper-based invoicing system and now uses Power BI to extract meaningful insights from its invoicing data.
Established in 1968, Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL)—the home of Munchee and one of the oldest confectionery manufacturers in Sri Lanka—owns over 50% of the domestic confectionery market share and exports to 57 countries.
The company’s distribution chain consists of 110,000 small scale businesses and several supermarket and hypermarket operators.
“The expectation for consistently high quality products makes the supply chain critical—from exceptionally high quality raw materials to the logistics of transporting it smartly to reach all consumer segments,” says Rasith Wickramasinghe, Group Director (Engineering & IT). “For us to keep growing and contributing to the local economy, it’s important that we cater to international markets as well. We want to be the number one confectionery and biscuits brand in Asia.”
01. Transforming Sales
“Ensuring that customers have access to our products wherever and whenever they need it is the prime responsibility of the sales team,” says I.M. Khan, Group General Manager – Sales. “We have the largest field sales force in Sri Lanka and it’s important that we increase availability of our products and push new innovations to the shelf.”
According to Khan, a single member of their 1,000-member field sales team used to compile 15 to 25 invoices by pen and paper and spend 90 minutes a day manually compiling daily sales updates for top management.
“With more than 15,000 invoices per day, coordinating with distribution teams and then generating the reports for monthly review would take us more than a day. This manual reporting process was extremely cumbersome,” explains Khan.
In 2016, the company developed a mobile application to digitize the paper-based invoicing in a bid to increase worker productivity. The user friendly app has been extended to third-parties throughout the distribution chain, ensures the integrity of their data, and delivers powerful market analytics.
“We saw an opportunity to automate our invoicing procedure to help empower the field sales team and ensure that their reporting was accurate and up to date,” notes Khan.
02. Driving Business Intelligence with Power BI
“To help improve our sales team’s productivity, we prototyped and deployed a mobile app to automate the paper-based invoicing” says Chandrima Rodrigo, Group General Manager Information Technology.
With the bulk of invoicing data being generated daily, the manufacturer’s next challenge was to analyze, visualize and extract deep business insights in real time. “We chose Power BI because of its self-service capability, scalability and ease-of-use. With Power BI, data visualization is made simple with its ‘Get Data’ capabilities. This, combined with the scale of SQL Data Warehouse allowed us to create dynamic reports in minutes against terabytes of data,” notes Chandrima. With recommendation by Microsoft, Fortude, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network specializing in Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Software Development, participated as a development partner.
“CBL was looking for the right partner to implement an enterprise-scale BI solution. With our experience in delivering projects across the globe, we were able to meet expectations in all aspects,” says Gaurika Wijeratne, AVP – Business Intelligence, Fortude. “Our goal was not only to craft an analytics solution which could tap in to sales insights, but to design and architect a cloud-based analytics platform which could serve as the base for future data & AI scenarios.”
“The cloud ensured that our solution was deployed with low upfront investment and minimal deployment time while Microsoft and their solutions partner, Fortude, helped us with the seamless integration. With our aggressive business plans to expand to other countries in the region, implementing this solution is as easy as plug and play,” notes Chandrima.
03. Huge Benefits
“The paperless nature of our sales transformation has empowered the entire sales force with real-time and accurate business insights,” says Nalin Karunaratne, Chief Executive Officer. “It’s also helping us make more informed decisions in a very competitive environment where everyone is fighting for the same wallet share. It has helped in many other ways such as monitoring selling route efficiencies, identifying hidden costs, improving sales and operational planning and forecasting sales.”
The organization sees considerable productivity gains with the automation. “We now have the means to be more efficient and smart. We can be more productive with our time, analyze the market better and faster, and plan selling strategies to be ahead of competition,” says Khan.
“The solution has significantly increased the efficiency of our sales team. It has helped them enhance their work-life balance as they can now work smarter and spend less time after working hours as they no longer need to spend time compiling sales updates for top management. Data gives us a competitive advantage, and we believe that by using data more efficiently and effectively, we will be able to get an edge over the competition,” he adds.
For CBL, business intelligence with Power BI is merely the beginning of their digital transformation journey. The manufacturer has extensive plans to take its journey further by integrating predictive analytics and machine learning throughout its manufacturing and sales pipeline.