Bekaert chooses SAS to make worldwide production processes more efficient with data and analytics

SAS, the market leader in analytics, has been chosen as a partner by the Belgian multinational Bekaert for the roll-out of a strategic data science platform. As a global market and technology leader in steel wire transformation and coatings, Bekaert aims to support production processes in factories around the world with data and make them more efficient. The software’s accessibility to the company’s engineers and the possibilities for rapid scale-up of models were important factors in Bekaert’s choice of SAS technology.

Companies from various industries are discovering the power of data analytics. Bekaert had realised that there was still considerable potential to optimise production. In the summer of 2020, together with SAS, the company completed a proof of value (POV) for advanced analytics in operations. Bekaert started up a few more projects in the spring of 2021, after which it decided to purchase a strategic data science platform. From a shortlist of three, it ultimately chose SAS as its partner.

Upgrading engineers to citizen data scientists

Bekaert’s choice of SAS was of course partly related to having already seen the technology at work during the POV and being able to build on its existing projects. However, there were also other reasons why SAS stood out from the other candidates. For example, Bekaert understands that the real value of analytics will be generated not only by a team of data scientists, but above all by the engineers responsible for the production processes.

“Bekaert wants to make its engineers more data-driven, and the SAS platform is perfect for that. With its no-code approach and user-friendly interface, the platform brings together multidisciplinary teams, so that people with an engineering background can also start working with analytics as ‘citizen data scientists’ and improve their production processes themselves,” says Gunter Van Craen, Chief Digital and Information Officer at Bekaert.

With the SAS platform, Bekaert will be able to focus in the years ahead on widening access to analytics, but data scientists also find the technology to their liking. For example, the open system allows the use of open source and encourages collaboration between data scientists and process engineers. Bekaert’s ambition is to have some 300 to 500 people working with SAS. The company has a handful of data scientists at present, and plans to expand that team in the coming years.

Scaling up models to multiple factories

Bekaert wants to do much more than experiment with data analytics. Ultimately, its plan is to go live with tens or even hundreds of models. It is therefore important for the technology in the area of governance to maximise the automation possibilities, and for models to be rapidly scalable to other factories in different countries. This is another reason why Bekaert decided to work with SAS.

“Bekaert wants to use advanced analytics to see how it can make its production processes more efficient. SAS has a standard methodology consisting of four steps. First we identify the most relevant use cases, after which we run pilot projects for several weeks to validate whether there is value in them. If so, we industrialise the case and finally make the model scalable so that it can be used in other environments too,” says Sébastien Verhelst, SAS expert in advanced analytics for manufacturing.

Partnership with Microsoft

For Bekaert, there were other benefits besides accessibility and scalability in choosing SAS as an analytics partner. For example, Bekaert is preparing to evolve to Microsoft Azure – and SAS has had a strategic partnership with Microsoft for several years. “Bekaert doesn’t want a patchwork of technologies. During the pilot projects, it could see for itself that SAS integrates nicely with the Azure platform. We therefore wasted little time discussing the integration possibilities,” says Joeri Van Vooren, Sr. Account Executive at SAS.

Finally, Bekaert can count on people at SAS who have industry expertise and can enter into a dialogue with the company’s engineers. Joeri Van Vooren: “The pieces fitted together nicely. Although companies often have the ambition to get started with data analytics, they struggle to actually extract value from it, usually because they are not yet working in a sufficiently structured way and because the bigger picture isn’t right. At Bekaert, the digital transformation in operations is supported by the executive management and major steps had already been taken to make production data available. As a result, Bekaert will be able to apply advanced analytics in an effective and scalable way in the coming years. The first business results are already promising: within a short time several new insights have been generated that would not have been feasible with a traditional way of working.”

Sophie Van Nevel, Global IT Lead Strategy, Governance & Data Platforms at Bekaert: “Bekaert sees data and analytics as crucial building blocks in a successful business strategy. After seeing SAS at work in a few concrete cases, we were convinced by its approach. By taking the time to understand a business problem and building a model together on that basis, we are able to create real value with data and analytics. It’s also important to Bekaert not just to focus on technology, but also to pay attention to the people and processes involved. SAS is therefore more than a data platform for us. Its proven approach to end-to-end change management was one of the key criteria for choosing SAS.”

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