Building a global cost command center for a large food distribution company


Major worldwide distributor of food and non-food products had experienced erratic spikes in spending at various sites across its U.S. distribution network. EXL had a working relationship with the client, providing management and IT consulting on global projects since 2021. The client tasked EXL with assessing its variable spending patterns to determine the best way to benchmark costs and enable the finance function to become data-driven.

The company had no connected view of its variable costs, including handling costs such as storage, transportation, labor, and packaging. Instead, managers reviewed manually prepared spreadsheets, PDFs, and general ledgers (GLs) using siloed dashboards to assemble information sent from multiple sites, suppliers, and departments. Some PDFs exceeded 100 pages.

Solving these issues would enable the client to use its finance data to make impacts across the enterprise.


EXL began the project in September 2022 with a series of discovery workshops to understand the business requirements, determine data sources, and map a solution. The company already had the technology in place to manage the process satisfactorily. So, EXL focused on benchmarking base costs for various expenditures incurred across the network.

These expenses were benchmarked according to company sites and categorized based on factors such as metro and non-metro areas, union and non-union facilities, transportation costs, land use costs, production and non-production sites, parking considerations, and other granular cost influencers covering upwards of 400 separate GLs.

With the analysis complete, EXL then harmonized the information into a cost command center so that the company could leverage the data located within its finance function to identify opportunities for improvement. EXL then presented “the art of the possible” for achieving data-driven finance, showing company executives how they could lower spending in line with benchmarks to achieve potential savings up to $200M.

The plan imposed minimal change to the operation. Using the client’s existing Amazon database services and Tableau data visualization software, EXL reconfigured executive dashboards to display spending information in real-time. The design offered easy maneuverability and storyline flow, while supporting deep dive analysis, with specific callsto- action relative to insights gleaned.


The minimum viable product (MVP) was ready to launch in four weeks. At the end of 12 weeks, EXL’s solution was in place across the client’s U.S. footprint, offering a rich user experience and yielding several positive outcomes:

EXL helped a global distribution company for food and non-food products realize $50-60M in cost savings in 12 weeks through
data-driven finance.