Improving reporting for The Textiles Industry

When leading textiles manufacturer International Fibres Group wanted to untangle their reporting processes, we came in to help

International Fibres Group has been making textile fibres for use in the home, cars, industry and building for over 50 years and is a world leader in their manufacture.

In late 2020 International Fibres Group was growing strongly. As a result, they were sitting on a mountain of raw data. With hundreds of customers (sometimes serviced by multiple parts of the group), they knew there were benefits if they could make sense of it. They could provide a more joined-up service to their existing customers and win new business.


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Multiple Threads

One problem was that with three major businesses within the group (based in the UK, Austria and Belgium), there was no single reporting template. To make matters worse, all these businesses had evolved independently and had different legacy technology providing the data.

Consolidating all of this into a monthly reporting pack was a substantial amount of manual work and simply not sustainable.


They had a strong vision to make joined-up groupwide data available to the management team and customer-level data to the sales team. But they lacked the systems to deliver this.


That vision is a great place to start and the perfect time to work with us. We believe that clarity of purpose from the management team is one of the defining features of a successful data project. So together, we set out to weave the data into the perfect reporting architecture.


Designing The Pattern

We began the engagement by reviewing the existing systems landscape and proposing an integrated target data architecture.


One essential requirement was that it must allow the right people to get at the data they required, irrespective of whether they sat in IFG Drake (UK), IFG Asota (Austria) or IFG Exelto (Belgium). In principle, data needed to be able to be shared with the parent company, Duroc AB (Sweden). 

Stitching The Data Together

We designed a data warehouse that consolidated and aligned the data from all these sources. The goal was that by harmonising the three sets of data, we would be able to present it back in a joined-up manner. We included a customer matching capability to identify shared customers across different parts of the group.


The international nature of the business also meant that we had to translate data item names and the contents of fields from German and Dutch to ensure the warehouse compared like with like. This was not always an easy feat when the data itself related to highly technical (but often abbreviated) product descriptions! In addition, with the UK sales in Pounds and the other sales in Euros, we had to ensure that all financial values could be viewed in both Euros and local currency, with agreed exchange rates.


We built the warehouse on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to ensure that it could be made accessible to users anywhere in the world whilst also keeping operating costs down.


Tailor-made Reporting

Working with the Sales and Finance teams, we developed a series of dashboards to show the key metrics to the sales team, the finance team and the group management team. These started life as a series of rough sketches before being mocked up first in Powerpoint and later in Power BI. 


To ensure that dashboards were relevant to individual groups of users, we designed each to tell a story – the journey of one particular customer or an analysis of the whole of IFG. We presented the data through the most valuable lenses in different roles, be that tonnage for the Sales team or Euros for the Finance team. But underneath, it all tied back in the database, ensuring that everyone could agree they were looking at the same base data.


We embedded the dashboards directly into Fibres Group’s Microsoft Teams set-up. As a result, the sales teams can see historic and forecast sales data alongside other information on each specific customer. The management team also sees their key performance indicators as soon as they log in each morning.


Once we had brought live data into the dashboards, we continued to work collaboratively with Fibres Group. We further enhanced and improved the overall reporting process, automated all the once-tedious data preparation work, added to the dashboards, and provided exception reports and new analyses.


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Spin-off Benefits

In practical terms, the project has already paid dividends in terms of time saved to produce the monthly reporting, but the benefits don’t stop there.


Through the development of their data, International Fibres Group has been able to more easily and more quickly evaluate new international markets, the profitability of individual products and the opportunities to simplify areas where multiple group companies may be delivering the same service.


It has been a pleasure to work with Cobalt Beach on this project. So much so that we have contracted their services again for a second year to bring even more tailor-made reporting solutions to our data. Cobalt Beach’s work to date has saved countless hours of data consolidation and provided easy to use, visual and adaptable dashboards that are able to be utilised by employees at commercial, financial and management levels across our business. Their services come highly recommended.

– Richard Barker-Poole, Sales & Marketing Director, International Fibres Group

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