Supply chain processes throw off a lot of data. If you’re a successful supplier who fulfills a significant number of orders then you understand that the detail of the transactions generated by orders, shipments, receipts, and all the miscellaneous transactions associated with every order is just too much to be able to read through, much less make sense of. But every part of your operation from your suppliers to your customers demand some kind of accountability, and it’s your responsibility to know of any problems or even potential problems long before everyone else. But with all the data flowing through your systems, is it even possible to separate the standard data from the trouble signals?
Old school tools like spreadsheets and even database reports can be harnessed to consolidate data and produce reports that can be reviewed and eventually acted upon. But these kinds of tools are only able to act on historical data; that is data that has already been stored after the fact. Modern techniques of Business Intelligence (BI) use data analyics to monitor data flowing through your systems in near real time. As the data is analyzed it is checked against rules and history to detect things that should or should not be happening, then issue alerts that can be acted upon.
The best of these kind of tools produce computerized dashboards - screens that display real time activities. And like automobile dashboards, when something is not as expected a flashing light or other visual indicator lights up alerting the operator to some kind of action. Some dashboards go the next step and issue phone, pager, text, and email alerts directly to the individuals who can take action and resolve the issue before it becomes a crisis.
The real test of using a dashboard is when the intelligence behind the dashboard takes action on the part of individuals and corrects problems as they occur. In some cases predictive analytics come into play and can anticipate issues before they happen based on historical patterns and current status.
As companies become more successful in their operations, the need for intelligent dashboards is heightened because increased business can also mean more opportunity for small problems to become bigger problems. The faster businesses grow, the faster they can fall victim to issues that for smaller companies with closer relationships with their customers, can be resolved with personal contacts. That isn’t always the case with larger relationships and higher volumes of transactions. If you’re still driving your business without a dashboard it may be time to consider how they can help you avoid running off the road to success.