What we did
A data opportunity
Every day, some of the world’s best-known brands entrust their goods and services to Metro Supply Chain—a world-class third-party partner provider. Headquartered in Montreal, the company has a team of 6,000 employees and operates almost 100 sites across North America and Europe. Thanks to a combination of financial strength, buying power, and vast warehouse space, it offers a wide range of innovative and automated distribution services, including warehouse and order fulfillment, transportation, contract packaging, automation, and much more.
Founded in 1974, Metro Supply Chain began as a single public warehouse for the paper industry. Over time, it expanded to serve major consumer packaged goods (CPGs) , retail, footwear and apparel, industrial, food and beverage, and more industries in North America and Europe. Then, while many of its competitors struggled during the pandemic, the company grew—and with acquisitions came new opportunities.
Metro Supply Chain had always understood data’s potential to help reach its goals. By providing key KPIs—labor reports, inventory turnover, and (for its new B2C customers) order status—it could provide tangible benefits to customers, fulfill its long-term vision to amplify value-add services, and create a foundation for future growth.
“Business intelligence is one of our differentiators. It’s an important aspect of how we compete in this industry, so we knew we had to invest in it,” says Edgar Seiden, vice president of information systems and technology at Metro Supply Chain.
The company was ready to modernize its capabilities—and Slalom was proud to be chosen as a partner.
The lay of the land
Like many organizations, Metro Supply Chain had long relied on static and spreadsheet-driven data. The company embarked on an analytics journey internally, but issues with its on-premises architecture soon brought the work to a halt. Leadership knew they needed a long-term solution and invited Slalom to join the project.
In our initial assessment, the Slalom team found that the architecture had hit its limit and would no longer scale. Reports took hours to refresh and reload, costing teams valuable time. The organization would need to either purchase more costly hardware or leverage the elasticity of cloud services, and ease-of-use was critical to the project’s short- and long-term success. Because Snowflake was designed and built in the cloud, the company had already begun to explore a partnership.
”Leadership is certainly very innovative in the way they think about what they want to do for their customers,” says Louis Cheuk, director at Slalom, ”and they want to do it in a way that isn’t too cumbersome for their internal teams.”
We asked ourselves: Would we have a partner that would stay with us and work through the problems? And Slalom didn’t walk away.
Journey to the cloud
In the first phase of the work, we agreed on a hybrid approach—some data remained on-premises and some was moved to the cloud. But with Metro Supply Chain’s rapid increase in size came an increase in data, and the solution we’d hoped would last for 12 months instead lasted for six.
The Slalom team developed a number of different options for the new ecosystem, and together, we decided to fully modernize with an all-Snowflake solution. “It gave us the opportunity to have more robust data refreshes and a securable source of information,” says Paolo Mari, vice president of business analytics and commercial management at Metro Supply Chain. “We could have backup information in the UK, for instance, and our main source data in Canada.”
Our goal was to keep the data sources where they were, move the data lake into the cloud, build the ingestion process through a cloud-based product, and merge with the company’s existing visualization tools. “Our teams worked really well together. They were very open to feedback and guidance about what needed to happen and helped us prioritize the right work for our sprints,” says Kim Waselovich, senior director at Slalom. Over the course of the project, Metro Supply Chain’s three-person team expanded to 10 people, most of whom were able to learn the business even while we created the new environment.
The project, of course, wasn’t without its challenges. The ecosystem around Snowflake was still evolving, and data ingestion required considerable research and revision. “We asked ourselves what would happen if we did what we set out to do and it didn’t work,” says Seiden. “Would we have a partner that would stay with us and work through the problems? And Slalom didn’t walk away.”
Customers say we are far, far ahead of the curve.
Using the common data platform we built together, Metro Supply Chain can now provide customers and potential customers with a holistic view of operations—financials, warehouse volumes, and distribution center productivities. New labor and machinery reporting directly translate into cost optimization. “All that information is a new product offering,” says Mari. “I don’t need slides in the sales pitch, I just show a demo of the Power BI reporting. Customers say we are far, far ahead of the curve.”
Our work with Metro Supply Chain continues as the company modernizes its internal systems to visualize financial information, facilitates data-driven technology, and expands into machine learning. “We’re doing a lot more than letting customers view their own data,” says Seiden. “We’re enhancing it with labor tables, for example, which gives them a lot more insight into profitability and productivity, which they love. And I think they’ll keep asking for more.”