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The Big Data Challenges
By Jamia Yant
April 19th, 2012

 

When Volvo separated from Ford in 2010, it was breaking free from an IT infrastructure that consisted of a tangle of different systems and licenses.  The need was there to develop a new stand alone IT infrastructure that could provide better Business Intelligence, boost communication capabilities and enrich collaborations. 

Volvo Car Corporation Integrates the Cloud into Its Networks
The ability to collectively harness the wealth of data being mined was invaluable.  Volvo collects terabytes of data from embedded sensors in their cars, from their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, from dealerships, product development and design systems and from their production/factory floors. Volvo then, via the cloud, transfers and archives this Big Data to its Volvo Data Warehouse where it can be stored for Long Term Archival and Retrieval or it can be accessed by Volvo’s employees.  In 2010, Volvo stretched across eight main business units and twelve support areas with production plants in 19 countries.  The platform used to link employees at the business units, support and production plants together are done via Volvo’s cloud with Saas software as a user interface and display.  They have employee web portals, as well as supplier and vendor web portals to improve collaboration.  Volvo has a high-performance infrastructure that includes parallel multi-processing, high-speed networking, and fast I/O storage.

How Volvo Car Corporation Transforms Data into Knowledge
Volvo transforms this data into knowledge by taking all of these data streams into Volvo’s Data Warehouse and combining and analyzing them to yield all types of useful information.  They even have the ability to obtain early predictive information on matters like manufacturing defects that haven’t occurred yet.   This data gives Volvo big insights through the use of analytic velocity or rapid, almost real-time analysis to assist them with providing better service to their customers and move ahead of their competitors. The software used gives Volvo the ability to make data driven decisions.  A good example of this is with regard to Volvo’s continuous focus on safety.  Their vehicles have rated among the safest and a lot of that, I think, is their ability to review safety and system data collected from their vehicles.  Another example would be developing the most effective maintenance plan for their vehicles because they know when specific components need to be checked or replaced. 

Volvo Implements a Real-Time Information System
Volvo deployed Microsoft Server Production Portfolio including Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence (to assist them with Business Performance Management), and Microsoft Office 2010.  The company also utilized Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services (including Power View) and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analytical Services to perform the business analytics and handle the reporting.  The impact of streamlining their IT architecture allowed Volvo to simplify their IT environment which reduced costs by not having to keep up with multiple seats and licenses for multiple systems.  It also improve efficiency by allowing employees to work on a system they were already familiar.  All while enabling Volvo to have better business intelligence and richer collaboration because their employees could communicate with one another and share huge volumes of data across large distances faster and easier.

Big Data Gives Volvo a Competitive Advantage
The real time analytical abilities give Volvo a clear advantage over its competitors.  Knowledge is power and having all of that power available and at your finger tips allows Volvo to use a Big Data Strategy to provide better service to their customers.  They have the ability to accurately anticipate the needs of their customers.  Big Data also gives Volvo a creative advantage over its competitors by placing near real time graphical reports and analytical findings throughout the collaborative process of design to engineering to manufacturing.  It is clear that from conception to delivery, rapid prototyping has a whole host of benefits derived directly from Big Data. 
The cars hundreds of sensors and CPUs embedded throughout the car (from the brakes to the central locking system) not only stream data to Volvo’s Data Warehouse but are also for use within the vehicle itself.  I think this also gives a competitive advantage to Volvo.


     By building their information system architecture integrated with cloud technology, Volvo is in a position to have a clear competitive advantage as well as a system that allows their employees almost real time data to make informed decisions with.  They have been able to harness Big Data and extract Knowledge that adds value to their company and products across the board.   By enabling their employees with better Business Intelligence, communication and richer collaborations, they have allowed them to make great strides in product development and customer service.

 

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