How to Apply the Concept of Leading Indicators to Define Your KPI’s

By Clinton Jones on October 5, 2016

I have discussed the advantage of using leading indicators over historical indicators in previous posts – some focusing on supply chain and plant maintenance, and how certain indicators can help you address future operational and performance challenges. The word fresh written using fruits and vegetablesThis lead me to thinking about how a vertically integrated business that has a combination of sales activities, plant and maintenance tasks and route management might influence how you think about KPI’s.

Fresh produce producers and leading indicators

For example, take a leading supplier of fresh food products. It is essential for this company’s supply chain to be tightly synchronized in its analysis of trends in relation to seasonality and promotions to ensure the appropriate mix of products are available. This company tracks stock outs, sales volumes, procurement efficiency and other historical data, but also tracks several leading indicators to meet the demands of the market. Some KPI’s are tracked by production unit and have their maintenance plans adjusted to meet performance goals, while others analyze areas of the business beyond plant, equipment and inventory.

The supplier’s operations scorecard contains many complementary measures. Some are reported daily, others in weekly or monthly roll-up reporting.

  • Warehouse loading bay turnaround time on refrigerated vehicles – this suggests the product may not be ready, but it can also suggest that fork truck, loading equipment or personnel are missing or unavailable. In some instances this can indicate orders have not been prepared in time for the manifest.
  • Merchandising line back-order/stock out percentages – when a merchandiser arrives at a store to find that some lines are exhausted, they may draw the conclusion that line is popular or was previously under-provisioned. If they cannot replace inventory, this suggests that the manifest and plan for merchandising was not met by inventory fulfillment.
  • Unsold/Un-merchandised inventory returned percentages – products have a limited shelf life, and expired or about to expire inventory are removed. Recurring unsold inventory suggests incorrect merchandising plans, possibly in response to changing market tastes.
  • Inventory turnover by stock-keeping unit (SKU) – low turnover suggests overstocking, high turnover suggests under-stocking.
  • Vehicle average speed – suggests that too few or too many fleet vehicles are in service, but can also suggest meeting the schedule or itinerary for merchandising is difficult. It could also suggest route planning needs to be revised.
  • On-road vehicle overload penalties – suggests that inventory planning on logistics is not considering the gross weights and some vehicles are being overloaded or under-loaded.
  • Expedited parts shipping costs – suggests inventory may be under-planned and equipment failures could be tied into needing expedited parts shipped to reinstate operations.

This supplier’s leading KPI’s and measures ensure smoother operations in the supply chain and allow them to meet the market demand. Historical measures are an indispensable part of your company’s performance, but high-performing enterprises balance them with effective leading indicators and drivers to make business operations more effective.

Doing more with less

World-class organizations do more with less, and there is statistical data to support this. According to new research from The Hackett Group, top performers spend 42% less and have about half the staff of their lower-performing peers. Businesses who are both lean and effective tend to be far more responsive to market needs and forward thinking. Costs for specific tasks are much lower when compared with peers. These savings allow organizations to devote more time and spending to planning for the future.

Effective organizations excel at harnessing data, gaining insight from it, and making intelligent forecasts using leading indicators and KPI’s. Depositphotos_110603168_original smallThe problem with the traditional finance function is they’re relying on financial indicators, which by definition are lagging indicators … finance professionals should be in tune with a company’s value drivers so they can predict value more accurately,” says Bob Paladino, author and founder of Bob Paladino and Associates LLC. Read more on this from a financial perspective in CGMA Magazine.

Winshuttle customers improve efficiency in their daily operations when working with SAP by not investing in more people or exponentially more technology like custom programs. Instead they rely on the Winshuttle platform to extend the capabilities of ordinary users. This is done through a combination of tools that not only enhance the SAP user experience, but also elevate operational efficiency by helping users avoid error prone transcription activities and cumbersome manual data entry.

orzenUsing the existing SAP authorization model that binds all SAP users to what they can do with SAP, Winshuttle extends automation and integration from Excel to those same users without having to develop or write custom programs. Using Winshuttle instead of custom development elevates data quality, improves efficiency and meets the rigors of audit and control; especially when using the Winshuttle governance and compliance component in Winshuttle Foundation.

Learn more about how your business can use lean principles for SAP application data management by reviewing the Winshuttle white paper Applying the Principles of Lean IT to Data Management – Lean IT, Quality Data, and Extracting Value from SAP by Michael Orzen.

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About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.

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