Personalisation still has a way to go, but there is progress

Having read the article “Why Websites Still Can’t Predict Exactly What You Want” by Kaiser Fung, I am inclined to agree with his conclusion that companies are looking at their data the wrong way.

Instead of looking for commonality between groups of customers and making generic offers based on that, companies should be looking at the individual’s transaction history and profile to make offers that are better suited to individuals. In this case, offers do not have to be specials or discounts in the traditional sense, but simply suggestions that might be useful in the context of the transaction.

Where to next?

As to Kaiser’s point – Is it being ignore because it’s too simple? It’s not like the data doesn’t exist to make this possible. I believe it’s simply a case of companies not looking at personalisation through the eye of the customer.

The few good examples I have come across are in the travel industry, but these customised offers are generally made via email instead of online at the time of transacting. But there are more and more companies investing in personalising offers to customers, more notably in the retail space.

The MOST Important Dashboard of them all

health_dashboard_200pxHaving spent quite a bit of time over the past month visiting various hospitals, I have come to the realisation that a dashboard that shows/monitors key indicators of the state of a person’s health is probably the most important dashboard of them all.

The heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, etc are all vital signs that are monitored when someone is unwell and in hospital. If any these go below (or sometimes, above) their normal values there is cause for concern and usually triggers some action from the medical staff.

These dashboards or monitors have to be real-time. They also have to be accurate. Whilst most organisations would like their dashboards to be real-time and accurate, the consequences are rarely as bad as having a patient’s health deteriorate and no one knowing anything about it.

Dashboards in the Supply Chain – Manufacturing

Abfüllanlage Bottling plantManufacturing is another area in the supply chain for which you could have lots of KPIs that can be indentified and monitored. To a fair extent, a many of the KPIs for a warehousing operation also apply to a manufacturing environment, such as:

  • Monitoring the status of orders, including Priority Orders
  • Monitoring order turnaround times
  • Monitoring incidents on the production floor

Other items that could be monitored via a Dashboard in a manufacturing operation include:


Most manufacturing operations have productivity KPIs for staff, and by monitoring productivity via a dashboard in real-time will allow the company to identify and resolve any issues whilst they are occurring.

This information can also feed into trends, be it seasonal, type of product being manufacturing, etc so that adequate resources can be scheduled as required.

Raw Material Stock Levels

Whilst many ERP systems these days have real-time monitoring of stock levels and some have the ability to place orders automatically, it is still vital that planners are able to see what triggers these stock levels to run low and when. Any information they can gather about the items and their stock levels will assist with materials planning in the future and also guide them in adjusting the minimum stock levels.

Real-time monitoring via dashboards and/or alerts can provide input to this process.

Damaged Goods

Producing damaged good in the manufacturing process is a costly exercise as in some cases there is no option but to start again from scratch.

By monitoring any reported damages in real-time, the plant or factory manager will be able to identify the problem, analyse the cause and implement changes to reduce any further potential for damaged goods being produced.

Of course, the value of the goods being produced need to considered when implementing a monitoring process. Trying to fix the occasional damage in a low value item such as a plastic straw isn’t as important as trying to eliminate 5% of large crates turning up with defects.


Material wastage does happen in most manufacturing operations. However, identifying the causes of this wastage and trying to reduce or eliminate it will result in significant cost savings.

A real-time dashboard can be used to monitor how much wastage is being produced and if any particular workstations or machines is producing more waste than the others. In the case of a machine, it could indicate something as simple as a machine requiring recalibration!

Hopefully this is useful in some way and I would love to hear from you with any examples you wish to share.

Dashboards in the Supply Chain – Warehousing

warehouse_conveyor_belt_200pxWarehousing or Warehouse Management is one aspect of the supply chain for which a myriad of KPIs can be indentified and monitored. As most of these don’t have to be real-time, I have tried to call out those which I believe could be monitored real-time via a Dashboard:

Order Status

The aim of most warehousing operations is to be able to fulfil an order when it arrives, and complete an on-time delivery. Seeing how orders are on or off track, in terms of picking and packing, is one way to ensure that any backlogs don’t get worse. Additional resources could be put towards bringing the orders back on track if required.

Priority Orders

These orders tend to be urgent by their nature and have tight deadlines. The amount of delay tolerable on these are minimal, hence it helps to see how these orders are progressing. Any issues with these orders should be addressed faster than the normal orders.

Order Turnaround Times

The turnaround times of an order can also be monitored via a dashboard. If a trend is noticed during the course of a day, it can be investigated, addressed and brought back to acceptable levels.

Items Running Low on Stock

This is especially important if these items are fast moving. Most ERP/WMS systems these days have rules for automatic order placement, and many warehouses run lean. If not properly managed, orders requiring these items could hold up progress in a warehouse.

Current Incidents

An incident could be anything from a jammed conveyor belt to an injury to a staff member. Being aware of the incidents and how that affects the warehouse operations could in turn help management decide how to change the processes/priorities of what needs to be done.

Monitoring these incidents also helps to identify blackspots within the warehouse and to address them in the long run.

Warehouse Space Utilisation

Monitoring this measure would indicate if the warehouse is likely to run out of space (or reach set thresholds) anytime soon.

 Being aware of how much space is available or being used is also important for operational decisions such as how to make more room (e.g. focus on completing the current orders before receiving any more good in), or which area of the warehouse floor should be used next.

 The unit of space could be measured as a single tray or rackspace, a shelf, a bay or a whole warehouse.

Total Warehouse Metrics

Depending on where the warehouse is, what it is constructed from, and other criteria, there may be limits as to how much weight can be placed on the warehouse floor (or on a shelf). Dashboards could be used to monitor and alert on any of these breaches.

Financial Metrics

Various incidents, delays, etc have a cost associated to it as there could be fines or penalties imposed on the business. It should be the goal of any business to reduce or eliminate such incidents, and in turn reduce costs or expenses. A dashboard can help flag issues as they happen, or in some cases before they happen.

All businesses would be insured for the total stock it carries at any one time. However knowing the actual value of goods in a warehouse at any one time will also identify if the business is under insured or over insured. A dashboard should be able to show this information real-time.

Again, a good starting point to identifying what to include on a dashboard would be KPIs for the organisation/business unit.

As always, I’d love to hear from you with any examples you wish to share.

Dashboards in the Supply Chain – Transportation

monitor transportationFollowing on from my previous blog about dashboards titled Dashboards are a great way to know how you are tracking, below are some examples from a Transport Company’s perspective. These list some of the information being monitored via dashboards and how they help the business operations on a day to day to basis:

Monitor Delivery Performance

This helps determine if deliveries are on schedule, are tracking within their variances, or if any action required to be taken to assist the driver or delivery destination.

Monitor Driver Fatigue

This helps ensure compliance, but also provides the ability to understand exceptional circumstances and how they could be avoided into the future.

Monitor Delivery time SLA’s

This could be based on different customer or product segments. If high value customers are regularly receiving deliveries late, remedial action could be taken or SLA’s adjusted accordingly.

Monitor load volumes & profitability

 This helps understand which loads during the course of the day are not profitable and if anything can be done to the load or delivery schedule to improve the situation.

Monitor compliance & driver behaviour

 This help ensure that drivers stay within the legal limits for speed, weight, and size on their designated routes

Monitor vehicle performance

 Helps the driver find a mechanic or workshop enroute, should there be a problem with the vehicle

Financial Reporting

 A whole suite of dashboards could be generated with financial information such as profitability of loads, routes, customers, products, etc, the use of third-party or sub-contractor drivers and associated costs/savings

A good starting point for what to include on a dashboard are existing KPIs for the business. From here, these dashboards could be fine-tuned and improved. The beauty of dashboards is that they are real-time (or near real-time). The same information could be generated from operational reporting, but there is nothing like a “here and now” viewpoint and dashboards are a great way to covey this information.

 Are there any examples from your experience that you would like to share?

Dashboards are a great way to know how you are tracking

dashboard_200pxDashboards are great way to keep an eye on things to ensure what’s important to you is on track, and if not, to highlight areas that need attention or help. I’ve always been a massive fan of dashboards and encourage most companies I work with to consider some form of dashboards that help operational and strategic decision making.

What are a dashboards?

As we all know, cars have a dashboard which show about 15-20 different pieces of information about the state of the car at a particular time. A flight deck on the other hand has hundreds of little indicators that provide information on a range of measurements which are all useful to ensure the plane stays on course.

For all intents and purposes, think of dashboards as being similar to a car’s dashboard or a flight deck but for your business or personal life. With a business, a dashboard could say how the business is tracking against budgets, the cashflow position, the success rate of meeting customer orders on time, productivity in the manufacturing plant, etc. In personal life, a dashboard should show information such as your current financial position, how you are tracking against life goals, etc.

How do I create a dashboard?

Dashboards can be simple and developed using tools such as spreadsheets, or be complicated and developed using specialist software applications. Or, they could be a combination of both!

For the simple variety, you could have a series of data or information in tables on one worksheet and summarise it on another to provide you with the high level information you require. For the more complex ones, there are enterprise grade software applications that talk directly to a range of databases and provide real-time information. With these applications, you can configure alerts to be sent should exceptions occur and the like. But for now, let’s keep this topic simple!

Dashboards in my life

Personally, I use a combination of spreadsheets and software including web-based applications, google finance & iPhone applications to monitor personal finances, projects and goals. For business, I use spreadsheets for some aspects and software applications for different information such as finance, projects, sales, marketing, analytics, etc for others. One day I hope to be able to bring all of these information onto one portal to make my life easier, but this isn’t high on my list of priorities at the moment.

In future posts, I will write about examples of dashboards that I have come across in various industries. If there is anything specific you would like to read more about or wish share with our readers, please feel free to comment on this topic. As a starting point, do you use dashboards in your life? What do you monitor and how do you monitor it?