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Data visualization helped Madras Cements turn big data into big ideas

Varsha Chidambaram | Nov. 1, 2013
Information can be presented in many ways. But complex information such as a salesperson performance or cement outlet performance benchmarking or location mapping of the company's wagon movements are best understood not through numbers but through color coding and representation on a map.

A little investigation revealed that a particular customer was located on a hilly terrain, because of which it was taking more time for delivery when a truck used was less powerful or old. When the problem was identified, logistics took up the matter with transporters and advised them to use better trucks for that particular location. From the next dispatch, the deliveries were on time.

The tool has an Exception Module which alerts management immediately when any performance parameter downgrades in color (say a green moves to an orange, indicating that performance is dipping) and prompt them to take corrective action before it's too late. This module also helps to analyze and focus only exceptional items for a particular KPI, say Dark Reds, instead of viewing all data. Another aspect of this tool is that no data is entered for this purpose. The data is captured as physical process is done (like invoicing, Accounts receivable etc) and KPI is built on this vast volume of data. This ensures transparency and objectivity. There is an inbuilt Issue Tracker which can be used to raise queries to concerned salesperson (through mail/sms) based on the depicted data and to track responses/action taken.

Madras Cements' sales and marketing divisions also benefited from this system of BI based on Google Maps. The field sales team now has the capability to easily view information on their mobile devices -- information ranging from competitor distribution networks in their area, to the best and worst performing dealers and salespersons. This not only enabled them to make better sales strategies on-the-go, it also helped management improve their market penetration strategy based on competitiveness in a particular market. They can now locate their cement warehouses and outlets and key customers on Google Maps vis-à-vis critical operation information, empowering them to devise effective supply chain strategies and enhance customer service. Google Maps based BI helped to visualize data at various levels of detail, for example, which regions were experiencing strong growth, which dealers were performing best, or had the most potential for growth. Google Maps also made it easier to identify and analyze performing markets with the potential for growth.

The results have been stupendous. Madras Cements reduce penalties, losses and damages arising during the wagon clearance process by up to 70 percent, and improved consignment clearance time by up to 40 percent. Since implementing Google Maps, the company has successfully captured 20-30 percent market share in these specific markets. "We've also noticed a 10-12 percent increase in sales. But that's just quantitative data. The customer satisfaction that has improved is immeasurable!", says Varadarajan.

Big data can only lead you to bid ideas is if you ask the right questions. But technology can take you a little further, if you have the right tools.

 

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