Exasol's analytic database enables Atheon Analytics to unlock data's full potential for CPGs


Consumer package goods (CPG) brands and retailers generate enormous amounts of data each day. This data ranges from sales information through to where products are in the supply chain.

Atheon Analytics has billions of rows of this data under management and provides both a consulting arm for CPGs and a SaaS flow-of-goods tracker, SKUtrak. Its mission is to reduce the complexity of data, making it accessible to all from account managers, to supply chain planners through to the board. This enables accurate data-driven decisions that have an impact from the supply chain to the supermarket shelves.

Using data, CPGs can apply the same benefits of e-commerce to the supermarket aisles, delivering better sales, margins and profits in the competitive, dynamic and evolving grocery and CPG market. It also allows CPGs to use data insights to build better relationships with their customers. To do this, there is a need to query large amounts of data within a matter of seconds, something which is not feasible with standard databases.

Data translated: Every day, Atheon Analytics collects billions of rows of data automatically from grocery retailers and visualises it in a series of interactive dashboards. This allows brands to explore, segment, compare and interact with their data and provides updates on sales, promotions and stock availability down to the individual stock-keeping units (SKU) at store level. The data delivers an understanding of what promotions and pricing is working to create the most impact on the CPGs strategy whether that's market share or increased margins.

Guy Cuthbert, managing director, Atheon Analytics explains: "Data is just numbers until you analyse it for patterns and humanise it using visuals. We help CPGs and grocery retailers make sense of the numbers and enable them to make decisions based on fact about the supply chain and products."

From humble beginnings: Atheon Analytics started with Exasol's free community edition of its in-memory analytic database. The community edition allows users to load their own data, run their analytic queries and conduct their own preliminary "proof of concept" projects. Atheon Analytics put EXASOL through its paces by loading 250 million rows of trading data from a large supermarket into the database. This enabled Atheon Analytics to quickly explore the food business for six months, looking specifically at statistics around waste reduction and stock control.

Guy Cuthbert continues: "We found Exasol to be the responsive, highly capable analytic database engine we need. We have now moved from other database technologies to Exasol, which has become a great enabler of exploring and manipulating data at much higher speeds for our clients."

Easy to get going, easy to use: Atheon Analytics needed a database that provided simple and fast data loading, but any new database implementation needed to prove its ability. Atheon Analytics found that even a small R&D EXASOL device was capable of importing millions of rows of data in a few minutes and found the live platform even faster.

They also needed a database that supported standard SQL language. Here Exasol ticked the box and it was easy to migrate data from MS SQL Server into Exasol with only limited changes.

Guy Cuthbert says: "We were able to get Exasol up and running within an hour and we were loading data and content into it within minutes. The key feature for us is that it is simple to use; we can load data quickly and generate results for our clients extremely fast."

Exasol's self-optimisation also means that Atheon Analytics does not need to employ a dedicated database administrator. Administration is so straightforward that Atheon Analytics manages it through its database development and DevOps teams after minimal training. This also means the database development teams spend their time on responding to customer needs rather than on database optimisation. Guy Cuthbert says: "Traditional database technologies have required us to dedicate resources on tuning and optimisation. This both increases their cost of ownership and reduces development speed."

Speed has become mission-critical. Companies need the right tool for the job: In today's highly competitive CPG world, it's incredibly important that brands can understand and analyse their data as quickly as possible to gain the greatest advantage. The unprecedented growth in the amount of data retailers and suppliers have access to has made it difficult for many technologies to cope in a responsive way.
With Exasol, Atheon Analytics now has a back-end analytic database system that unearths valuable data insights in near-real-time and one that works seamlessly to speed up the front-end visualisations from Tableau. Since implementing Exasol, Atheon Analytics has found that queries run up to 300 times faster than on MS SQL Server.

A lasting partnership: Atheon Analytics started using Exasol in the consulting arm of the business but has been quick to integrate Exasol into its SaaS offering, SKUtrak. Exasol is now fully embedded for half the supermarkets Atheon Analytics works with.

Another key attribute of any new database implementation was scalability. Exasol has always majored on scalability, which means that granular analysis can be carried out when necessary, including performance per product in each individual store, no matter what the data volume. In addition, Atheon has found innovative ways to use EXASOL - from the very small "Exasol in my pocket," which consists of Exasol loaded onto a single NUC (a small-form-factor PC), through to the very large "Exasol in my backpack," which is an n-way cluster that can be scaled up or down accordingly.

From descriptive to predictive: Exasol's power makes this a reality: Atheon Analytics is also moving from descriptive to predictive analysis, which will require complex algorithms to run in the database. Guy Cuthbert says: "With EXASOL in place, we are confident we have the right engine behind our data analytics. Exasol keeps delivering, no matter the test. There is no other analytic database like it. It's the complete package; it does what it says it will, it's simple, it's reliable. Its speed continues to amaze me to the point that I sometimes wonder whether it has actually finished the job in the time it has taken. It has, always."

The complete package - performance and personality: Not only does Exasol help Atheon Analytics deliver the fastest information to its clients so they can better meet the needs of their consumers, but Atheon Analytics has found working with Exasol an experience like no other.

Guy Cuthbert says: "Exasol inspires complete trust, not only through their superior technology and its performance. More than this, the team at Exasol is a pleasure to work with. Their flexibility and can-do approach means we know we will always be fully supported as a partner and customer."

Aaron Auld, CEO of Exasol, comments: "Businesses fully understand the benefits and value of data analytics. Thanks to the fall in the cost of computing, gathering data is affordable, but there is no point in storing it and not doing anything with it. The volume and complexity of data has made it increasingly difficult to get meaningful insights at the right speed. You need the right tools to analyse data and turn it into value fast. We are delighted to be working with Atheon Analytics, helping them supply mission-critical insights to their customers at the speed required in the competitive CPG and retail sector."

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