Turning data into knowledge at Bis

Posted: 23 Jun 2021

Moving data to the cloud is not only a question of replacing an outdated platform with a modern digital environment. For Bis, a resources logistics company providing haulage, materials handling and specialised equipment solutions the global mineral resources sector, a digital uplift was about creating new opportunities for leveraging data, while extending the company’s market advantage.

“If we have data, we can make smarter decisions,” says Russell Wellock, Group Technology Manager at Bis.

“As a logistics business that generates a large portion of its revenue from haulage – meaning trucks and equipment - you need to understand how much it costs to actually do the work, so you remain competitive.”

In an environment with many OEM technology suppliers and a desire to rapidly test and adopt new options while maintaining centralised access to data, a data lake was the ideal solution for Bis. And Wellock felt confident Telstra Purple was the right team to help execute the plan.

“We wanted the tools to make our data smarter, to help extend the longevity of our equipment, to understand our people, to understand our safety, and to understand our risk,” he says. “Having data in a central location means you can stitch all of that data together.”

“What this means for Bis is allowing our leaders to understand our entire ecosystem and to create relationships with previous disparate data sources to continue to drive productivity, safety and engagement.”

With many IoT devices in use, Wellock also saw a key challenge in unifying the data from across many different languages and systems.

“It was about finding a solution that can house and convert all that information into data that you can actually use within a stack,” he explains. “You need to be able to link data and come up with something that actually makes sense.”

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A partnership built on expertise and trust

Telstra Purple started the partnership with a discovery process, interviewing general managers across the business to understand the needs of the teams as a first priority.

“We are quite a diverse business where we provide different combinations of our solutions across our portfolio of customers and locations,” says Wellock. “The interview process gave the Telstra Purple team a perspective on our business needs across the operation and what makes our people tick. That way, when it came to aligning information, it was from a more needs assessed and solution focused perspective.”

Wellock also felt that, while many suppliers will aim to connect with you directly through experts in your own business category, Telstra Purple was well suited to bringing in knowledge from a broad range of fields that Bis could leverage in new ways.

He adds: "We know the Telstra team deals with lots of types of customers, so while we are well versed in what’s out there, they are in a better position to say, based on our product data across a variety of sectors, we believe this solution will work best for you."

Bis and Telstra Purple decided on using a Microsoft Azure data lake which would suit the needs of the company nicely as the basis for current needs and future strategic planning.

“As a business, we have always been inventive, so we see the Azure stack, and what we have done with Telstra Purple, playing a key role in our innovation and transformation journey,” says Wellock.

Wellock also hastens to warn against approaching a transformation journey as a search for a single solution to a problem.

“We have a roadmap and we are clear on the destination, however the deep domain expertise of Telstra is now allowing us to navigate that roadmap in a different, smarter way.”

“This is built on the trust we have in the relationship and the belief that Telstra understands our commercial objectives.”

Transformational benefits

Bis is already seeing many benefits to the business from its new data and analytics insights.

“We can now understand the consequences of actions in new areas of the business,” says Wellock. “We can look at fatigue ratings of our drivers, we can look at when they clocked on and off. All that information was in disparate systems and now it's merged. We now have a better understanding of people in their roles, and we have evolving shift rosters because of what we are seeing from the data.”

“Data tells you the truth. It does not have a tilt toward one person's perspective: it's simply black and white. You can interrogate your data and come to an evidence rich conclusion."

While other companies are on their own transformational journeys, Wellock believes that organisations with simpler information sources might not need to follow the same path as Bis. But for anyone with a similar need to understand and analyse many disparate sources of information, this path is a “no brainer”.

“Analytics is the capability to think,” says Wellock. “Sometimes you are just too busy to think. If you have a lot of information sources and you are trying to be more effective, you probably need to invest some time and money and look at the information.”

“Our next stage is to go and explore the data and bring in more data sources to see what happens next. Now we are beginning put AI over our data, so it starts telling us what we do not know. That’s going to take us to another level.”

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