Ford Motor masters its data in move to SAP

Ford Motor's supply and logistics division has improved the quality and governance of its data after moving from a range of legacy systems to SAP.


Ford Motor's supply and logistics division has improved the quality and governance of its data after moving from a range of legacy systems to SAP.

Half a million scheduling agreements, plus Ford's materials management, forecasting, warehouse management and commercial order management from customers and suppliers are sourced and maintained in legacy systems. However, after an intensive 12-month data cleansing project, the American car manufacturer is now processing this data in SAP tools including SAP ERP, CRM and Business Intelligence.

“It took a year of a lot of people working really hard to even be comfortable that data was ready for SAP,” Michelle Nemeth, IT systems manager at Ford told the SAPPHIRE NOW conference in Florida this week.

“As clean as you think your data is there is always exceptions. There was information in legacy that had been broken for years but no one knew, or had created a workaround where they knew of a problem, but never changed the source.”

Last year, Nemeth was tasked with tackling Ford's complex master data project.

Master data is, Nemeth said, information that is entered once but reused throughout the system. Master data needs to be managed on an ongoing basis, as it is “essential to running business processes”, she added. Without accurate data, the quality of the system and the business processes would be seriously compromised.

“It was crucial for us to establish an environment and culture where every employee shares in the accountability for master data and its accuracy,” she said.

When Ford made the decision to utilise SAP’s toolsets to manage its data, it was faced with two challenges. First, the department had to keep the legacy systems to input data, as they were are tied to engineering corporate systems. An entire migration, although simpler for this specific project, would cause disruption to other departments.

The second challenge was that information was fed in up to 30 years prior, and needed to be cleaned before processing in the SAP tools.

Nemeth and the five-strong central data team developed a data clearing house which sat on SAP. Data from legacy systems were fed into the staging systems where completeness checks were run and once it has all the fields that SAP needs to process it, only then is it moved into SAP.

Crucially, all dirty data needed be amended in the legacy system - not in SAP. This meant that tens of thousands of records from Ford’s departments across the globe needed amending, and some departments were physically altering records line by line. Some systems were poorly documented, and following staff retirements Ford had to outsource to find developers who could understand the code.

Nemeth said that following the move into SAP, the supply and logistics department now has complete visibility and certainty of its data’s integrity. Further, troubleshooting, error resolution and data governance have become more effective and quicker, and Ford can now utilise its integrated system across its global departments.

However, she warned that enterprises need to spend time putting quality best practices for data management in place.

"An IT solution placed on top of a business practice that doesn’t fit IT will fail,” she said.

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