February 20, 2023
In a world oversupplied with data- it may seem strange that we even ask a question- Are Dashboards Really Used?
So we carried out a survey of about 100 logistics professionals- branch managers, warehouse managers, corporate functions. DISCLAIMER: Most of these companies are mid-sized and based in India. Thus- their responses should be taken as reflective of such cohort.
When asked- if they carry out ANY analysis- over 90% said yes. How do they carry out analysis? Almost all said using Microsoft Excel !!
Majority of managers started with a data download from ERP/ TMS/ WMS systems, put them in their favorite excel sheet and ran various analysis. From simple pivots, to vlookups, to charts and some cases functions and rarely macros.
What about dashboards? Well, they had used them, at times. But always found them "lacking" or "complex" or "wrong" or "too static".
Why not start with Dashboard and drill down and then use Excel? Most said, the drill downs lacked data they needed- so they anyways need to fall back on data dump.
How do they present data? Most said using Pie charts, bar charts and trend charts. Not many takers for those fancy spiders !!
What is number of hours they spend on "analysis"? Operations users said less than an hour a week. Corporate users 2-3 hours a week.
How do they take decisions? Majority said "reacting to exceptions" or "daily set process" basis. How about data driven decisions? Most said used during quarterly or yearly review meeting.
Analysis or not- a truck will move, ship will sail, goods will be dispatched.
What was most used communication tool? WhatsApp is Numero uno !! Followed by e-mail. Collaboration software such as Teams and Slack were small minority.
What device was used to consume information? No brainer-Mobile was highest usage- 9 out of 10 times!
How many people involved in creating, using analysis? About 1-2% of employees.
Are top management meeting conducted using Dashboard tool? Less than 5% said yes. Most used Powerpoint and Excel sheets.
For many of us, above finding are not a surprise. This is not a reflection capability of dashboard technology- it increasingly does fancy stuff very easily, at cost way lower than just 5 years ago.
For logistics, is shows a larger issue- Investment in People. It is difficult to convince a bright MBA to work in a warehouse. As a low margin business or as a support function, logistics has lower budgets than say marketing. Also, business is seen as "physical" in nature. Analysis or not- a truck will move, ship will sail, goods will be dispatched. One cannot say so for say Google Adword campaign spend.
SO do we need more analytics? We absolutely do. As a TMS company we have seen some preposterous metrics- vehicle utilized at 20% for months before someone noticed, same shipment sent for delivery 10 times- even when consignee has shifted. Stocks lying at warehouse of months and years and expiring.
Start with a Executive Team focussed just on data analytics. Then use this team to train managers.
What can be done? Management is starting point. They need to start with a Executive Team focussed just on data analytics. Then use this team to train managers. Send them daily nuggets of insight. Most importantly- create an Action Taken Tracker and review in every Quarterly Review Meets. Going forward, create variable pay or incentive based on KPIs.
Yes, and surely train people to use Microsoft Excel better !! After all, if you cannot fight them, join'em !!