High Availability is a crucial component of a healthy supply chain and therefore a metric that anyone involved in setting a Channel Strategy needs to monitor and act on.
To monitor and act, you need to be able to see and interpret the relevant data in a way that highlights problems and allows you to dig for further detail.
We’ve created a dashboard that does exactly that.
What is Availability and why is it important?
Quite simply, if a product sku is in stock and ‘available’ for purchase then it is classed as Available. Availability in this dashboard takes the percentage of product skus that are classed as Available in a variety of groups.
Why is Availability such an important metric to track? Low Availability leads to stock-outs, meaning that customers aren’t able to complete intended purchases. Not only do stock-outs really annoy customers and cause a loss of trust. Often, it means losing them permanently to your competitors.
How can a dashboard help to solve Availability?
Here’s an interactive version of our Availability dashboard based on dummy data (go ahead and explore by clicking on the lines and bars and selecting options from the dropdown menus).
The view monitors a vendor’s Availability across its distributors. Let’s break the dashboard down into its component parts.
View Selection – You can toggle between an Availability view – which is our focus here – or switch to a ‘Dollars of Inventory’ lens, the subject for another blog post.
Selected Week – By default, this is set at the current week (in our dashboard, that’s week 10).
This controls the right hand side of the view, which is a bar chart in which each Distributor is represented by its own bar. Each bar shows the availability percentage for the Selected Week by distributor. The bars are coloured green if Availability has increased from the previous week, red if it has gone down.
This quickly draws the eye to any immediate concerns. To add further detail, the previous week’s level of Availability is represented with a short black line to serve as a quick comparison.
The left hand side of the view is a line graph across the whole time range of the weeks included in the data. Each line represents a Sku Group. A Sku Group is a combination of product skus based on their importance to the business.
Assigning product skus to a group is both an art and a science and deserves a blog post of its own. Simply put, the most important skus in this example are combined in the Top 120 Sku Group, the next most important in Top 240 and so on. Some skus are put into more specialised groups such as Top SB 60 which break out products that more relevant to small businesses.
You can drill further into the data by clicking on any of the lines or bars to filter the other side of the view. In plain English, that means that clicking on any of the Sku Group lines in the graph will filter the the bar chart on the right to show Availability by distributor for the selected week filtered for the selected Sku Group.
Alternatively, clicking on any of the distributor bars on the right hand side of the view will filter the left hand side of the view to show only data related to the the selected distributor. This ability to drill down opens up some really powerful options to gain insight into specific problems.
Let’s take a specific example. We’re particularly interested in the Availability of our Top 120 Sku Group. We can see from the Top 120 line that, across all distributors, Availability has been quite stable at between 63% and 72% in the last ten weeks, recovering from a blip in the second and third weeks. But 70% Availability is not ideal and we should find out if any distributors are distorting the average.
To do this we click on the Top 120 line to filter the distributor bars on the right hand side. We immediately notice that half of the distributors are at 90% Availability or above. That’s much better. But worryingly, four distributors are below 70% Availability.
We pick on Mid Table Disti, whose Availability has decreased since the previous week (signified by the red colour of the bar) and whose Availability for the current week lies at 65%. We click on the Mid Table Disti bar to filter the line graph on the left hand side to show only data for Mid Table Disti.
We learn that, following the general trend identified before, Mid Table Disti’s Top 120 Availability was even worse in weeks two and three before recovering.
We also notice that Mid Table Disti’s Top SB 60 products have been performing at above 90% availability during the last ten weeks.
This raises two action items to take up with Mid Table Disti:
- Find out why Top SB 60 products have such higher Availability at Mid Table Disti than Top 120 products. Is it simply down to lower sales leading to lower churn of stock?
- Work with Mid Table Disti to update replenishment frequency and volume to ensure that more Top 120 products are available for purchase.
This process can be applied to other distributors in several ways. For example, Established Disti have the highest average Availability over the last 10 weeks, but when we click on the Established Disti bar to filter the line graph, we see a sudden drop in Availability for Top 240 and Top 360 products in week nine.
Even though these aren’t our highest priority products, it represents a worrying trend and we should work with Established Disti to understand what happened to cause the sudden drop, understand whether our Top 120 products are also at risk and what can be done to fix the issue or prevent them from happening again in future.
Who is this dashboard for and when should they use it?
We designed this dashboard primarily to help people responsible for ensuring an optimally functioning supply chain. A weekly overview of the Availability for key Sku groups enables fast responses to potential issues before they turn into long-standing problems.
As well as analysing the data to make decisions, we also built this dashboard to facilitate communicating important insights with others, from senior management to contacts within specific distributors. The ability to back up decisions and requests with data in a visual format is powerful weapon.
What data are we using to build this dashboard?
This dashboard is based on basic Point of Sales (POS) and On Hand Inventory data to which we’ve applied some data manipulation to summarise and then build calculations deriving Availability as a percentage. For the purposes of this blog post we randomised the data.
Both data sources are standard reports, typically generated on a weekly basis by teams responsible for data management within an organisation. In this example based on Vendor data, the data was originally provided in raw format by individual distributors and then processed and enriched by the vendor’s data teams into a standard format to be used for creating reports.
We hope this has been a helpful guide and we would love to hear your feedback on what else you would like to see in an Availability dashboard and the principal challenges you face. If you would like help with your analytics, get in touch!