Increase Accountability with Business Dashboards

Business dashboards are designed to increase productivity. As Peter Drucker says, “What’s measured improves." By bringing visibility to issues as they arise, dashboards maintain a team that keeps each other accountable.

What is a Dashboard? It is an overview of important business metrics in an easy to read format, a majority of us have used one before.

Related: Supply Chain Experts Are Now Designing Software

In today’s “Big Data” economy, business dashboards are essential. That being said, for most executives deep data analysis isn’t a task that is an effective use of time. However, having real time and historical data presented to them is. Business dashboards are designed to provide a snapshot of critical information, information that impacts business.

Why is Data More Effective Visually? 90% of information transmitted the the brain is visual. To maximize their effectiveness, we design our dashboards to be visually engaging.

Is information for one worker critical for another? Maybe. But maybe not, which is why most people advocate for the customizable dashboard. As everyone has unique responsibilities, their dashboard should reflect such. When our operations team logs into Fusion, their dashboard shows purchase and sales orders that need action.

Visibility is more than just a buzzword for supply chain professionals. Without proper visibility collaboration cannot take place. So on a business dashboard there should be some static components visible to all team members. Let’s say you have a critical truckload arriving an hour later than operating hours. Everyone needs to be aware of this, for the client’s sake.

Dashboards Designed to Propel Success

Business dashboards are most effective using real-time data. Real-time data allows managers to make the most informed decisions by giving them peace of mind that they are always using up-to-date data. Even though it is an overview or summary, dashboards need to allow users to click through to details in order to pinpoint the exact data that they want to see. Business dashboards need to have an accessible data history. It’s important for managers to compare present quota and targets versus historical data. According to document automation company, Esker, the dashboard helps decision-makers spot trends and craft new strategies in response.

How do they propel success? If they’re properly aligned with your business goals, dashboards provide motivation. As dashboard design company, Grow, puts it: "If you, or your team, needs an extra motivational push, there’s nothing like the whole office knowing you aren’t meeting your goals. Dashboards don’t call people out. They just show the plain and simple facts. Data calls people out and makes accountability the focus."


An Investigation into Indoor Positioning Systems (Part One): How IPS Can Save Lives

Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) are gaining traction in many different industries, including supply chains. From airports to emergency response the benefits are becoming more clear. The most important part of this conversation is why it matters to you. For anyone to adapt the technology, it has to have a noticeable impact. In this post we'll cover the safety aspects, navigation within large buildings, the technologies IPS utilizes, and how this translates to helping out your supply chain.

In last month’s article, one of the big advantages we noticed in Augmented Reality was safety features offered. IPS can work within AR to help improve the safety of workers in a warehouse. Due to the ability to track devices, emergency responders will be able to attend to those in danger areas. Triangulating the whereabouts of a mobile device in large buildings (such as airports and warehouses) is what IPS is all about. Large buildings can be difficult places to navigate. When was the last time you went to Ikea and didn’t feel completely lost at least once? Now, imagine trying to explain to someone where in the store you are when faced with an emergency. Luckily Ikea, with the help of Google, is one of the early adopters of IPS within their stores.

The FCC has been working on this technology since 2012, making it a priority because people are abandoning landline telephones for cell phones. Emergency responders have the ability to locate landlines within large office buildings and apartments. Cell phones don't offer this functionality. According to the 2012 report, they were years away from having the technology functional. This is one of the rare cases where the mainstream spread of smartphones has actually pushed back our technology.

Google is currently gathering data for indoor maps (surprise, surprise). Most people are familiar with Google cars driving around cities, but indoor maps naturally use a different method. In 2014, Google unveiled The Cartographer, an indoor mapping backpack. The backpacker will walk around a building with The Cartographer to create a floor plan. Building owners are also able to submit blueprints, adding points of interest such as museum exhibits or room numbers.

For those in metropolitan cities, chances are Google has started to incorporate some local buildings into their maps. Here in Toronto, buildings like the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) have been mapped out. It’s a neat little feature we didn’t know existed until starting to write this article. In Google Maps, you’ll notice compatible buildings contain detailed floor plans. In this case, the ROM has seven different floors and all contain a floor plan and label each section. As a first time visitor, you may find value in walking directions between the exhibits. See below for a couple screenshots.

IPS relies on different technologies: WiFi, Bluetooth, and RFID to name a few. Each of the technologies has its advantages. Wi-Fi is already integrated into a lot of buildings, so often it is the easiest technology to integrate. Regardless of the method chosen, transmitters need to installation throughout the building. Google’s system uses the existing Wi-Fi hotspots to track your location indoors. Bluetooth offers better reception but involves the installation of many Bluetooth beacons. Disney has started integrating RFID in their restaurants. Through the use of a MagicBand, the staff knows of your table without them ever having sat you. Other companies are using magnets or Visible Light Communication for indoor mapping.

Different companies use different technologies but they are all working towards the same goal, locating you.
Now, we originally decided to tackle this topic because of it's ability to optimize supply chains. This is a technology that we are considering implementing in our software, Fusion to help boost picking productivity. Larger warehouses with a quick turnaround on stock that utilizes temporary workers would see the greatest ROI. (Anyone who has worked a retail job knows that it takes a while to learn a stock room.) An IPS can make warehouse operation teams more productive by directing workers to stock on pick lists from their smartphone, smart-glasses or other connected devices. In these scenarios, IPS is much easier to setup since usually only one location needs setup with the required hardware.

Now that we have discussed some of the benefits to an IPS and the technologies that help make it possible, we want to discuss how to implement this into your business. Maybe you find yourself in the position as a business owner or warehouse manager who could benefit from an IPS. In part two of our series, we are going to look at how you can work with an IT team to have one setup, what it takes to implement such a system, and at what point it becomes beneficial to your business.


4 Things We Learned From Black Friday/ Cyber Monday

It’s that time of the year when the seasons change over and we pour into the malls to take advantage of retail sales. The question is: Are we still going to the mall? With the projected $65 billion in global e-commerce sales this holiday season[1], how are these retailers (and their subsequent supply chains) adapting to the e-commerce wave?

Here are 4 things we learned:

Not only is shopping going digital, it’s going mobile too.

In the past, navigating mobile shops was frustrating and tedious. Now our credit cards are linked to our phones and even if they aren’t we can simply take a picture of it to make a purchase. Online shopping is easier than ever, you can do it from home or even on the road. According to the e-commerce analytics firm Custora, mobile shopping accounted for roughly 36% of all online shopping on Black Friday in the US. This is up 4% from last year.[2]

Going to the mall still has advantages.

There is still a demographic that prefers to go into retail stores to see and feel what they are about to buy. Of course, this brings certain advantages. When buying clothes, why not try them on first? Beyond this example, when it comes to the holidays, retailers have an advantage for those last minute shoppers. As Shelly Banjo put it on NPR: “That's when these retailers can really win. But that's when you show up, people are tired, the stores look all tuckered out, inventories picked over. You know, that's when people really need to rely on those brick-and-mortar stores.”[3]

Companies rely on customized software solutions to manage their supply chain.

E-commerce industry leader Amazon has been using in house software to process orders and shipments, but what impact has it had on its competitors? Up until recently, retailer Wal-Mart was using off the shelf software that was said to only display in-store items. It wasn’t until 2012 that Wal-Mart started to implement a customized shopping experience that could tailor results to customers. That year online sales went up 20%.[4]

Each Company Has its Own Mindset & Challenges

Sure Wal-Mart is targeting the market share that Amazon occupies, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense for them to copy the same technology. This year Wal-Mart will invest $2-billion into their IT infrastructure to leverage existing assets to win market share. Wal-Mart CTO Jeremy King’s plan for this holiday reflects this approach, “… by appealing to prized customers who shop across channels. People in stores, for example, will be able to use Wal-Mart’s mobile app to search inventory and see a map of hot products on the shelves. Online shoppers will be able to pay for sale items that were in the past reserved for stores, and arrange to pick them up before Christmas Eve.”

TQS Technologies believes that each business and supply chain has unique characteristics that account for it’s success. Our goal is to implement systems that enable each to thrive and allow management to forecast these activities. A majority of our products were tailored to specific requirements from our clients.

[1]"E-Commerce Returns Best Practices." Packaging News 2015. Shorr Packaging Group. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
[2] "Custora E-Commerce Pulse." Web.
[3] "As Americans Increasingly Bypass Malls, What's To Become Of Black Friday?" All Things Considered. Michel Martin. NPR, 28 Nov. 2015. Radio.
[4] Nash, Kim."Wal-Mart Revamps E-Commerce Technology as Amazon Applies Pressure." CIO Special Report. The Wall Street Journal, 25 Nov. 2015. Web.