North and West Melbourne Data Analytics Hub case studies

In the past, I would generally have to go and do all research on a one-off basis and find the right index and understand what it is and how the market works. Now all the information is available to me all the time; I don’t need to keep doing the same exercise. We went from a labour intensive, ad-hock process to something that is now automated.

Peter Cook

Founder, Fulcrum Procurement

Business Fact sheets
Brite - Data Transfer

Overview

Brite provides training and employment for 150 people living with a disability or who are vocationally disadvantaged. Services include packing, a nursery and training. Much of Brite’s data is paper based and stored as single copies. This made analysis difficult and meant that someone had to physically organise the information.

Critical need

  • Data visibility
  • Digitisation of data

Solution

  • Digital business status dashboards

Benefits

  • Centralised storage of data
  • Easy & fast access of information
  • Clarity & reliability of information
  • Major reduction in loss of data

Capabilities used

Data capture
Data cleaning
Data visualisation
Data measurement
Statistical analysis
Forecasting
Machine learning

The problem(s)

  • Lack of visibility between lines-of-business
  • Disparate information locations
  • Much of the data is paper based
  • Managers needed to physically go to (or call) different areas of the business to get the information they needed

Project implementation

The solution was implemented within three months across the four services Brite provides.

Ten dashboards were developed, providing increased visibility of information between services. Now, with a single click, managers can see sales and production for the day without visiting the different areas of the business.

They now have a foundation of information which provides greater clarity and certainty in making future decisions.

 

“As a result of this project our data is all there in one place. Now with one click I can see our sales and our production for the day. Any future projects we do will have a solid foundation to kick off from. We hope that we’ll be able to access other students from the Data Analytics Hub to continue the great work.”

  • Mark Kuzmanoski
    Quality and Compliance Manager, Brite
Customer trends analysis

Overview – Company

The business sells a variety of home brewing supplies as well as their own alcohols. They’re a small business with a loyal customer base that often buy several products at a time.

Critical need

  • Insight into the sale of products by time of year and by product type.

Solution

  • Analysis of the last 3 years of data mapped out.

Benefits

  • Clarity around product sales and consumer behaviour.
  • Insight that can be used for marketing and sales.
  • Customer segmentation and insights into their spending habits.

Capabilities used

Data capture

Data cleaning

Data visualisation

Data measurement

Statistical analysis

Forecasting

Machine learning

 

The problem(s)

  • The business has little visibility into what customers are spending their money on, when they are doing it and other related habits.

Project implementation

While the business was aware that they had a certain percentage of their customers making up most of their sales, they had no hard figures to back up their beliefs. They also had no way of knowing how best to either grow that core customer base or increase the profitability of the existing group.

The students looked at 3 years of customer data to map customer spending habits. This includes consumer profiles/segments to identify what products are selling with what demographics as well as how purchasing habits change depending on other factors such as seasons or holidays.

This information was used to develop trends maps that can inform decisions on what products the business should be manufacturing at different times during the year.

This information can also assist with marketing as different deals can be offered during peak and trough times to increase sales and maximise profitability.

Fulcrum Procurement - Dashboards

Overview – Fulcrum Procurement

Fulcrum Procurement aggregates buying volumes across a range of food manufacturing companies. They aggregate what people spend across ingredients, packaging and factory items. They find sources for these things on behalf of their clients and deliver savings through lower costs.

Critical need

  • Data visibility
  • Data structures

Solution

  • Development of data aggregation and visualisation tools that can automatically update.

Benefits

  • Automation of labour-intensive processes
  • Time is saved
  • Development of predictions and trends that can be used for future purchases

Capabilities used

Data capture
Data cleaning
Data visualisation
Data measurement
Statistical analysis  
Forecasting
Machine learning  

 

You can see the result of the project here under ‘Commodity Prices’.

https://fulcrumprocurement.com.au/

The problem(s)

  • Processes are all ad hock
  • Are a very small business that must consume high volumes of data
  • Needs to repeat processes for every new client

Project implementation

Historically, Peter, the owner of Fulcrum Procurement, would need to spend hours replicating the same process each time he got a new client or tender. The labour-intensive process involved scouring databases for information and data on pricing for various food commodities to make an educated judgement on what prices were good.

The students developed a series of dashboards that collated data from various open sources and displayed it all in one place. They also helped to structure the databases Fulcrum will use in future.

Now, rather than spend hours upon hours searching through the same sources of data for each new client, Peter can simply go to his dashboards and have all the information instantly.

 

“There were two components to this. One was working with the Melbourne’s North Food Group to get this buying hub launched. Second was me developing the capabilities to be able to deliver it well. Those two things have been happening in parallel. The food group has done everything and is now in a position to say that they’re ready to launch, and through this data project I have the data and systems in place, set up and ready to go.

One of the students is still doing a few hours a week for me on another project and he will also start helping on something else when that is ready to go. We’re paying him as a casual. He’s progressed from an internship into an employment role. He was the student that kept the whole thing on track.”

  • Peter Cook, Fulcrum Procurement
NORTH Link - Database migration

Overview – NORTH Link

NORTH Link is a strong regional partnership of industry, education, health and government, established in 1995, that plays an integral role across northern metropolitan Melbourne. Industry engagement is a key focus for NORTH Link. Through its database of over 5000 business contacts, NORTH Link communicates regularly with local businesses and organisations of all sizes.

Critical need

  • An updated system that is in line with the work NORTH Link does now rather than when it was first created.

Solution

  • A complete data cleanse and migration into a system that is customisable and in the 3rd normal form.

Benefits

  • Dataset that can now be transferred into whatever system is needed in the future because the structures have been normalised.

Capabilities used

Data capture

Data cleaning

Data visualisation

Data measurement

Statistical analysis

Forecasting

 

Machine learning

 

The problem(s)

  • Database had been developed in a very ad hock way, systems and structures were not normalised and had conflicts.
  • Lots of information and data was missing, out of date, or otherwise incorrect.

Project implementation

Melbourne Polytechnic students worked on a year long capstone project to address the problems.

The students checked all the data in each category to ensure that it was filled (if possible) and that it was still current. Many businesses had been on the database for well over a decade, and much of the information needed to be updated.

The students developed an ER diagram, outlining the data relationships and creating a structure that is in a normalised form so that the database can now be easily transferred into any new system.

The new database can either be used as is or moved into something new.

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I learned data analytics is much broader than I would have ever thought. It’s not just about numbers, it’s not just abstract data, it’s about recognising trends and gaps as well as areas for improvement.

Mark Kuzamoski

Quality and Compliance Manager, Brite

Case study stories
Brite - Data Transfer

Project overview: Brite provides training and employment for 150 people living with a disability or who are vocationally disadvantaged. Services include packing, a nursery, training and more. Much of the data at Brite was on paper and stored as single copies. This made it difficult to analyse and meant that someone had to physically collect all the information in order to use it.

Project outcome: Four draft dashboards were developed: one for quality, one for packing, one for the nursery and the last one for training. No longer is the data on paper on a wall, it can be accessed by any of the people who need it with just a few clicks. Eventually every department will have its own dashboard.

 

Mark Kuzmanoski

Quality and Compliance Manager, Brite

“We had an idea of what we wanted, but none of us at Brite are data analytics experts. We understand the field, but we don’t know the work involved. It wasn’t until we talked with the students that we understood the kind of time and work it would take to get us a foundation from which we could progress.

At Brite, data was everywhere. There are so many parts of the organisation and each area had its own way of collecting and storing information. One manager would print out orders and stick them onto their wall. That system worked for them. But the data stuck on a wall in one office doesn’t help someone who needs to know the information in another place. It needed to be visible to more than just one person at a time.

So that was a real challenge, getting our staff to subscribe to the new systems, getting them to change what they were doing to the benefit of everyone. It was a slow uptake, but once everyone started to see what the work could do for them they came around. Now they’re starting to suggest ideas for data projects that would help them.

As a result of this project our data is all there in one place. Now with one click I can see our sales and our production for the day. Any future projects we do will have a solid foundation to kick off from. We hope that we’ll be able to access other students from the Data Analytics Hub to continue the great work.

Our placement students came from different personal and professional backgrounds, with different styles of working that complement each other. Having the two working together enhanced the placement and expanded what was possible. Different perspectives on issues and discussions helped us work out the best way to go about things.

The students had a broad and innovative mindset that allowed them to understand and fully listen to what we had to say, which means they could incorporate it into their own ideas. They also took the time to understand our management team, as well as our culture and what Brite stands for.

I hope that from this experience the students have learned that what they’re doing goes beyond just putting a graph together; it actually makes an impact. For us, it’s made a social impact, allowing to us to be sustainable and ensure that we can continue to offer training and employment for people that are disadvantaged for another 40 years!”

 

Vinit Panchal
Master of Business Analytics, La Trobe University

“Data analytics fascinates me. Working as a systems analyst, I realised that data analytics was the next big thing, so I enrolled to study at La Trobe. It was a good decision and I’ve enjoyed the course.

I applied for this industry placement because I knew it would make me more employable. Also, interviewers always want people with Australian workplace experience and I didn’t have that.

Our project at Brite was to develop four dashboards, one each for each key operational area, and get all their data into a digital format. Before we came to Brite, everything was on paper. Now organisational data can be clearly seen in one place, providing instant answers and showing trends over time.

This was really different to completing academic assignments. We had to talk with management to find out what they really wanted and prioritise the tasks. We explained to staff what we were doing and why it was necessary. Then we had to demonstrate how the change would be beneficial, starting with the people who were most receptive to new systems. We knew that to do our job well we had to convince everyone.

What I’ve learned on this placement is something that you don’t get in a university course – dealing with management, communicating with staff, prioritising tasks and bringing everyone on board with a project. These skills are useful because they apply to every job.

The placement directly related to my studies at La Trobe. I was applying what I learned at uni in a real workplace environment. I also learned to work with a new data analytics tool. I gained more confidence, experience in project management and skills in dealing with a whole organisation, from the CEO down.

I’ve really enjoyed taking on a project from start to finish. And it’s a great feeling contributing to an organisation like Brite, where everyone was so approachable and open to our advice. My long term goal is to work in data science and this placement was a valuable experience that will help me build my career.”

 

David Cottrill
Master of Business Analytics, La Trobe University

“The project asked us to build several data dashboards that would include data from across the whole organisation’s operation. They wanted the dashboards to improve efficiencies inside the business because their current systems were dated.

I knew the dashboards we would be making would require a lot of work because Brite has so many areas of the organisation with so much data to collect. They have the nursery, factory, packaging, training and other areas that contain a lot of untapped data. Because of all this data had previously been recorded in paper and sporadically managed so we had to rely on help from managers to bring the data together. Collecting the data was one of the biggest challenges.

The managers have been great in helping and providing feedback. With the skills I’ve gained in my studies and other data roles, I was able to take on their feedback and effectively apply changes. And working closely with the managers we set an objective to improve efficiencies in the business by teaching them how to use the dashboards.

The staff working here are great too and contributed a lot to the friendly atmosphere in the workplace.  Working alongside them and the rest of the La Trobe team, I was able to learn so much, which helped add to my skill set. Because I’m a mature age employee, it’s getting harder for me to get a job. I know this placement has improved my employability and it’s It has definitely given me more confidence to approach potential employers.

I’m hoping these employers will be in the data science space because that’s the direction I’d like my career path to follow. Originally my plan was to work in data science for a large business but following this placement I wouldn’t mind working for a smaller organisation such as Brite where you have more flexibility to use your skills.”

Fulcrum Procurement - Dashboards

“Fulcrum Procurement aggregates buying volumes across a range of food manufacturing companies. We aggregate what people spend across ingredients, packaging and factory items. We find sources for these things on behalf of our clients and deliver savings through lower costs and better services.

The Melbourne’s North Food Group (MNFG) buying group is very data heavy. It relies on and requires information from many sources and needs this data analytics to operate effectively. That can be a real competitive advantage for us, to have good sources of data and quality analysis of what that data is telling us. We believe that the Hub is a really good way to help us to establish our structures and get our foundation right.

We needed assistance on setting up and structuring a database and how to build analytics tools and dashboards to track and monitor underlying commodity prices. It was not something our business had done before.

As being quite a new business and one that offers a unique service, everything we do is a stretch project. For our business to be successful, we need to be building tools and IP that nobody else has. This will be our competitive advantage in the future.

The commodities tracking dashboard becomes a really valuable marketing tool that can bring people to our website. While they’re there, they can learn about our business and what we provide. It also gives us with a valuable source of information that helps us when we’re running tenders.

In the past, I would generally have to go and do all research on a one-off basis and find the right index and understand what it is and how the market works. Now all the information is available to me all the time; I don’t need to keep doing the same exercise. We went from a labour intensive, ad-hock process to something that is now automated.

The students exceeded expectations. They were from two unis, but they worked really well together. They worked out their own responsibilities and effectively managed the project themselves.

The students were very good technically as well. We were asking them to do things that were a bit outside the things that they’d learned in their course, but they were able to learn things on the go and figure it out as it became needed.

I think the academics give a good foundation. It teaches you how to learn and how to think, I could see them applying what they’d done in other areas.

A couple of the students excelled at project management and did spend a reasonable bit of time checking in with me that they had the understanding right. From there, they’d go away and do some work and then they’d say, ‘this is our understanding of what you wanted, and this is what we started to do. Are we on the right track?’ If I needed to tweak things slightly, I could just say ‘go a bit this way or that way’. They were independent in their work, but comprehensive in ensuring it was what I was after.

They brought knowledge of systems and platforms that are available. Databases, Shinyapps and some Google apps and other tools. They also gave us a greater understanding about the power of analytics; what can be used and what can be done with it. They also knew how to structure data in general, and how that can change over a long period of time while ensuring that its all still usable instead of just having discreet pieces of information in different places.

One of the students is still doing a few hours a week for me on another project and he will also start helping on something else when that is ready to go. We’re paying him as a casual. He’s progressed from an internship into an employment role. He was the student that kept the whole thing on track.

 I saw how the student’s skills could be transferred into a completely unrelated project, and he is now setting up another business online for us on the side. He had never set up an online store or anything like that before, so he’s had the chance to figure it out with us. But because I’ve worked with him before, I know he’s capable and I’m quite comfortable for him to learn as he goes.

There were two components to this. One was working with the Melbourne’s North Food Group to get this buying hub launched. Second was me developing the capabilities to be able to deliver it well. Those two things have been happening in parallel. The food group has done everything and is now in a position to say that they’re ready to launch, and now, through this data project, I have the data and systems in place, set up and ready to go.

It’s a really good way to get those skills that we needed. We had 4 students. If you go to someone to develop the solution we achieved, that’s 50 to 100 grand straight up.

It surprised me a bit just how motivated the students were and how much work they put in. It made me think about what I could give them and what they might need, because they really were doing a lot of work on the project.

Our hope is that the buying group takes off and goes well. I would then get the student I hired to manage the new group of students for me. That could work really well because he understands the student responsibilities. We do a bit around building databases and machine learning algorithms to automate the procurement processes we use. For example, automating the pricing analytics, data categorisation and things like that. There’s a heap of work that could be done.

We need to keep doing smart data analytics around the information that comes in from clients and suppliers into that database. Our next stage is about scale and smarts.

This has been really good for me. Its not something I would have found by myself if the food group hadn’t put me onto the program.”

– Peter Cook, Founder, Fulcrum Procurement

Industry Beans - Metric tracking

Claire Brill
Marketing Manager, Industry Beans

“Our participation in the Data Analytics Hub project gave us a great result. We now have a custom-designed dashboard that visually tracks metrics and data points so we can easily monitor different aspects of our business, including our e-commerce, point of sale, app and website. We’re very happy with the outcome.

While we believe we have really good instincts about what our customers want, we now have evidence. The project definitely gave us more insight into our business and delivered a couple of surprises.

The process was easy. We gave the students a flexible outline and the outcomes we wanted. They chose the structure and the platform, then worked on site with us one day per week. They worked hard and were incredibly independent. I encouraged that. We’re a small and very busy team so we had minimal time to supervise. We needed them to adapt to our environment and they did that very well. They also showed great teamwork, discussing things between themselves and problem solving before coming to me with questions.

What we really appreciated was that they approached the task from a completely independent perspective. There was no inherent bias in their analysis. With our knowledge of the business and expectations, we might have interpreted things in a different way.

I can definitely say that all our expectations from this project were met and at times exceeded. We were very impressed when the students checked in with us beyond the project completion date to make sure everything was working correctly.

Based on the great work the students did, we spoke with some of the students about ongoing employment but were delighted to hear they had been offered graduate employment in their choice of prestigious organisations, and we wish them well.”

Rinku Bajaj
Master of Analytics student, RMIT

“As a direct result of the Data Analytics Hub project I did with Industry Beans, I’ve been offered a graduate position with a major global consulting company/Deloitte Australia. I couldn’t be happier.

The project was a great opportunity but a big learning curve. The business had different marketing tools but no solid proof of the levels of their effectiveness. Our job was to build a dashboard that included data across all marketing platforms to give them a comprehensive overview of how marketing related to sales figures. This wasn’t just a case of applying the knowledge we’d gained at university, we had to come up with solutions that were specifically applicable to the business

In the start it was a bit daunting. It took us a while to develop a strategy that would work, and first of all we had to establish data structures and warehouses. But it was so rewarding to come up with a dashboard that the company was happy with. I was studying a data visualisation subject while I was working on the project, so I could leverage the skills I was learning in my course. That really improved my understanding of the subject and how different aspects could be used.

The whole process was completely new to us because we couldn’t just go to a book for answers. There was lots of brainstorming about what was important to the business and what solutions we could offer. For me, this was a highlight of the project.

Apart from the technical knowledge I gained, the project helped me improve my consulting skills in terms of going in to talk to businesses and learning about their needs. There were four of us in our team and we all had different abilities, so that gave us professional teamwork skills. I definitely improved my confidence and problem solving also.

When I went for my interview at Deloitte, the interviewer was predominately interested in the fact that I’d applied my learning to a particular company’s needs through this student placement project. The project was a fantastic learning opportunity that helped me start my career in the field that I love. I’m very grateful.”

 

Dr Yan Wang
Course Coordinator, Applied Research Project (Master of Analytics), RMIT University

“The North and West Melbourne Data Analytics Hub is a great initiative that gives our students an excellent opportunity to utilise their skills in industry while they are still studying. The diversity of participating businesses means that our students can select a project that matches their interests and abilities, while giving them a real workplace experience.

Our work with the Hub has been very positive and we look forward to continuing to place our students through its projects.”

Melbourne Market

Kathryn Buhagiar
Chief Financial Officer, Melbourne Market Authority
(Bachelor of Accounting 2012, La Trobe University)

“At Melbourne Market, we collect a whole range of data but don’t spend enough time analysing and reviewing that data to our benefit. We’re a small organisation and we don’t have the budget to hire a data analyst full time. This placement was a way for us to test the waters and to see if we needed a person in that type of role full time.

The Data Analytics Hub project gave us an opportunity to look at customer visitation patterns to our site, providing our operational team with valuable insight.

Baker worked with myself and our ops team over a five-week period. We took time out to educate him on who we are, what we do and why. We wanted him to understand our business and see the relevance of the data he was working with.

Baker was very enthusiastic and a lovely person to have in the office. He was also super-keen to learn, which was great. We were mindful of his other commitments, such as his study and part-time work, and we were happy to fit the project around that.

The analysis that Baker provided supported a lot of what we already knew. It was a good pulse check for us, confirming that we were on the right track and providing evidence that we know our business well. We were pleased with the outcome.”

 

Baker Zaini
Master of Data Analytics student, La Trobe University

“What I achieved in my placement at Melbourne Market was a much better understanding of real world problems and how data analytics can help a particular business. I learned a lot.

My role involved understanding the issue, which related to site access, doing a lot of research, choosing the right analytical tools and working with the organisation’s IT people to understand their systems. I produced reports and visualisations that provided management with more insight into their various visitation patterns.

The Market was a good place to work. The people were very supportive and I gained insight into how a small organisation operates. I met with senior management and other staff regularly so I know that I improved my communication skills. I worked with a lot of data, more than I’d worked with previously, and that was a challenge. So was working independently, but I gained valuable experience in problem solving and applying the theory I learned at uni.

Every business has different ways of doing things, different systems, IT servers and programming languages and my placement exposed me to this. It also gave me confidence that I’ve chosen the right career. Through this experience I was able to choose electives that will help me gain the skills required to move ahead in my field.” 

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