iDashboards for Manufacturing
Providing Insight for Operational Success
An iDashboards Whitepaper
“Use of the dashboards has allowed us to identify
adverse trends quickly and implement corrective
actions to address the problems. This has allowed us
to improve efficiency within the plant and drive incre-
mental improvement in overall performance.”
—Ray Snell, IS Director, Drake Extrusion
iDashboards for Manufacturing Providing Insight for Operational Success
An iDashboards Whitepaper
1. Overview 3
2. Exponential Growth in Data 3
3. Dashboards for Manufacturing 3
4. Managing Through Metrics 4
5. Dashboard Users 4
6. Differences Between Dashboards and Reports 4
7. Introduction to iDashboards 5
8. Applications of iDashboards 5
9. Empowering Employees 5
10. Key Features of iDashboards 5
Microsoft Excel Integration 5
100% Browser Based 6
Role-Based Security and Privileges 6
Data Drilldown 6
View versus Save Privilege 6
Ease of Use 6
Data Pivoting and Filtering 6
Real-Time Alerts 7
Real-Time Analytics 7
11. Software Requirements 7
Organizations around the world are rapidly adopting business
intelligence dashboards to provide insight into their daily
and long-term operations. In recent years, dashboards
have become even more common among the public as an
increased number of service providers offer dashboards to
their customers to monitor metrics such as sales, credit card
expenses and monthly bills.
By definition, a dashboard is a visual display of the most
important information needed to achieve one or more
objectives, consolidated and arranged on a single screen so
the information can be monitored at-a-glance.
Dashboards have become a preferred user interface for
presenting information. Dashboards can positively change the
way we view, disperse and work with information. They allow
for a better understanding of data and greatly reduces the
amount of time spent gathering and analyzing data.
2. Exponential Growth in Data
Following Moore’s law, as computing power doubles
every two years, so does the ability to collect and process
greater amounts of data. This in turn has led to growth in the
applications of the collected data in every field.
However, as decision makers are presented with such
varied information, a key challenge remains in presenting the
information. Software companies continually try to improve
their report formats, using charts and graphs to provide a
user-friendly interface to data and information. One offshoot
of such innovation is the dashboard.
Business intelligence has adopted the dashboard concept
of displaying data to the driver of an automobile through a
collection of gauges and meters.
3. Dashboards for Manufacturing
Manufacturing organizations are increasingly adopting
business intelligence dashboards to gain insight into their
data and monitor performance. Manufacturers leverage
dashboards to track and gain an at-a-glance view of key
performance indicators (KPIs), saving time and resources.
Dashboard displays can include tables, charts, maps and
other innovative visual cues such as thermometers, traffic
lights, speedometers, etc. Such a dashboard may also
contain links to other pertinent information, summaries,
highlights, personalized information and external URLs.
Manufacturing dashboards can be customized for
each organization, common dashboards utilized within
the industry are Production Dashboards, Supply Chain
Dashboards, Quality Control and Six Sigma and Executive
4. Managing Through Metrics
Successful management requires developing appropriate
metrics to measure performance relative to objectives.
Creating metrics and aligning them with organizational
objectives is key in establishing an effective monitoring
system. A scorecard is a popular term for describing such a
monitoring system and mapping it to individual responsibilities.
Dashboards are particularly effective in delivering a scorecard
to a wide audience. It is common to expect that different user
groups within your organization will require different sets of
metrics and dashboards. The creation of a diverse and rich
collection of KPIs makes dashboards an essential driver for
change and positive transformation.
5. Dashboard Users
Dashboards are not only for top-level executives, even though
it is the traditional perception of dashboards. Dashboards are
increasingly becoming a tool for tactical and operational levels
within the organization.
Administrators, directors, managers, executives and IT personnel
will find dashboards helpful. However, each department must
be able to see the metrics relevant to itself, and individuals
within the department must have secured access to the metrics
Dashboards must, therefore, be deployed within a framework
of relevance, roles, privileges and security. Simply put, each
user with access to a dashboard will have permission to view
metrics that he or she owns and will not be able to obtain/view
information that is unauthorized for that individual.
6. Differences Between Dashboards and
There is a common notion that a dashboard is a collection
of reports on a single screen. Put together a collection of
spreadsheets with some charts in the mix, and it becomes
a dashboard. Such a presentation may meet a very basic
definition of a dashboard, but it fails in delivering the
essence of a metrics dashboard.
Dashboards can be utilized as a very effective means of
communicating information for which spreadsheets or reports
are ill-equipped. Reports may be effective at presenting raw
data but fail to deliver dynamic insight into the data. With
recent advances in data visualization, new forms of conveying
information are available that are far more effective.
A well-designed dashboard uses color and graphical symbols
to create a whole new paradigm of information portrayal,
next to which the reporting paradigm pales. Such dashboards
require very little user training and have a much higher
adoption rate. They engage the user in an interactive and
media-rich interface and deliver information empowerment to
Moreover, dashboards provide drilldown into details, enabling
root-cause analysis. Such ready access to accurate and in-
depth information far outperforms the reporting paradigm to
which we have, until now, been accustomed.
Overwhelming spreadsheets Visually rich, graphical dashboards
7. Introduction to iDashboards
Through award winning engineering, and patented technology,
iDashboards is making it easier to understand your data.
iDashboards offers easy-to-build, dynamic dashboards that create
context for any user – in any organization – so they can draw real
meaning from raw data.
8. Applications of iDashboards
Given the visual power of iDashboards to take raw data and
convert it into user insight and knowledge, the applications are
as diverse as an organization’s needs. The following are some
sample application areas:
• Cost of Materials Analysis • Average Time to Ship
• Fill Rate • Downtime Costs Per Plant
• Units Per Distribution Center • Production Per Shift
iDashboards can easily communicate and extract data from any
standard data storage, including relational databases, flat data
files, Microsoft Excel, XML, legacy data systems, etc. This provides
iDashboards the ability to serve as the common user interface on a
layer of diverse and disparate data sources.
9. Empowering Employees
With a clear definition of KPIs, manufacturers are empowering
employees to optimize across various organizational objectives.
The visibility of performance through dashboards allows
everything to be out in the open, with employees working toward
the same goals as management.
10. Key Features of iDashboards
iDashboards supports a rich collection of data-viewing capabilities
using patented Visual Intelligence technology. Users may
customize their views with its library of chart types, including
tables, 3-D views, geographic maps, metric tickers, animated
speedometers, thermometers, presentation charts and customized
Microsoft Excel Integration
iDashboards supports the import and export of data to and from
Microsoft Excel. A user can import an Excel spreadsheet into
any data window within iDashboards and display that data using
any of the different data visual formats. The imported data and
its associated display preferences can then be saved within
iDashboards for future reference and for sharing with other
100% Browser Based
The iDashboards client application functions completely in a
web browser. It is developed using Adobe’s Flex technology
and the dashboard interface is presented through the Flash
player. Over 98% of installed web browsers already have the
Flash plug-in, and it is a free download.
Role-Based Security and Privileges
iDashboards requires user-authentication before allowing
application access. It supports multiple levels of user roles:
• Viewer: Ability to view and interact with dashboards in
categories they have permissions to open. They have no
chart customization privileges.
• Business User: All the abilities of the Viewer, plus the ability
to customize chart characteristics for themselves.
• Analyst: All the abilities of the Business User, plus the ability
to create new charts/dashboards that point to live data
• Admin: All the abilities of the Analyst, plus the ability to
create and manage users, assign privileges and control user
iDashboards supports data drilldown through tables, charts
and maps. Any data point displayed in a report or chart within
the dashboard can be connected to a different chart or report.
Similar to a hyperlink, when a user hovers his or her mouse
over the linked data point, the cursor changes to indicate that
further information can be viewed by clicking (drilling down)
on the data point. There is no limit on the levels of drilldowns
(such as drilling down through data based on year, quarter,
month, day, etc.). The retrace path is intuitively presented to
the user through each step of the drilldown.
View versus Save Privilege
Categories are like folders, with several dashboards contained
within a category. Administrators can assign a user to have
view or save privileges to a category.
View implies that the user can simply view the dashboards
and associated charts within that category.
Save implies that the user can create new dashboards and
charts, or modify existing dashboards and charts within that
Ease of Use
iDashboards is extremely intuitive and user-friendly for all
levels of users. It can be deployed to a large user base with
very little formal training.
iDashboards can be deployed on a small scale for ten users,
or on a large scale serving thousands of users with a single
iDashboards deployment. The plug-in-based Flash Engine is
designed to provide a fast response with an interactive user
experience. The visual displays and graphics are generated
in real-time within users’ web browsers by the iDashboards
Flash Engine. The communication between the iDashboards
Flash Engine and the iDashboards Server is through XML.
Data Pivoting and Filtering
iDashboards provides the capability to create a pivot within the
displayed charts and reports, which is effectively a data filter that
is presented to users. By selecting any value displayed within
a pivot drop-down, the chart or report is instantly refreshed
with data applicable to the selected value. For example, the
drop-down could display years and the chart could display
percentages or performance metrics. This feature could also be
used to represent dynamic cross tabulations.
Example of a
can drilldown by
month. In this case,
the second image
shows a drilldown
into the month of
July to show units,
pick and cases/hour.
Dashboards can provide a new level of activity monitoring
that has historically been beyond the reach of business users.
With real-time alerts, dashboard users are able to configure
alerts based on desired thresholds for the KPIs. Such alerts
monitor the data at specific points in time and send an email
or SMS text message when those thresholds are reached.
Whether a user is logged into the dashboard or not, they will
be notified instantly when a problem arises. This introduces a
whole new level of information leverage that end users may
achieve from iDashboards.
Real-time analytics provide the user with the ability to perform
dynamic calculations on real-time data. Conditional logic
may be applied to real-time data to derive new indicators
(for example, pass or fail). Analytical results are delivered with
intuitive visual displays.
iDashboards allows the user to get a reporting view of the
dashboard data. Drilldown from a dashboard to a report can
be viewed in HTML and PDF. The user may schedule a PDF
report to automatically email designated recipients using a
custom schedule. The user may also perform basic summary
statistics (mean, median, count, etc.) within a report.
11. Software Requirements
There are 3 requirements to deploy iDashboards:
1. On the Client side: any web browser with the Adobe Flash
player 10.0 or higher.
2. On the server side: a relational database, such as
Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and MySQL.
3. On the server side: a J2EE web application server such as
IBM Websphere, BEA Weblogic, Sun ONE, Apache
Tomcat, etc. The Apache Tomcat application server is
bundled with iDashboards.
iDashboards Server can be deployed in a Windows, Unix or
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provide the ability
to perform dynamic
This example is
designed for a
facility and allows
for cost analysis on