Oman is known for its camel racing. It’s quite fascinating to watch as there are no jockeys – just a bunch of brave and skillful people to get the camels lined up and started and then the rest is up to the camels to gallop to the finish line. Watching them, they have this easy loping stride and they don’t appear to be going fast but they cover a lot of ground quickly.
The high speed ferry boats in Oman are very similar. Sitting at the front, you do not think you are going fast but if you go to the back of the boat and see the giant wake being left by the multiple powerful engines, you quickly realize you are moving faster than most speedboats.
So I find myself on this super fast ferry on my way to the port of Sohar in the North of Oman to visit the Sohar Aluminum Plant, one of the largest in the Gulf region. We are taken on a fascinating tour of the entire manufacturing process producing tons of aluminum ingots as its end product. The plant is only about three years old and is fully automated, efficient and clean. It employs over a thousand people and boasts an impressive track record of productivity. The company puts safety first as its top priority and has not recorded a single injury in over 730 days – impressive. In addition, the company has put together a Corporate Social Responsibility program that both encourages input from the workers and gives back to the local community.
In the middle of the tour, one of the Sohar Aluminium supervisors is explaining the key metrics that their particular area is measured by and one of the other visitors makes a remark that management never really looks at that type of detail, they are just interested in the final production numbers. The supervisor immediately responds saying that is definitely not the case at Sohar Aluminium because they have a Business Intelligence dashboard that is viewed daily throughout the company by everybody which shows all their key performance indicators and how they are doing against their daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals.
Everybody in the organization is looking at the same data and they can see the metrics for other areas. This has created a remarkable culture change in the company as everyone has visibility to these metrics and realizes that their daily actions actually influence the numbers and values that they are seeing every day. The fact that the dashboard is built in Xcelsius with visually compelling dynamic visibility features and is simple and intuitive to use has also played a big part in the successful user adoption.
Displaying the metrics was only a part of the Sohar Aluminium dashboard solution. One of the biggest challenges facing the company was getting the shift supervisors and others responsible for the metrics to enter the actual values into the system in a timely fashion. They solved this problem by extending Xcelsius using InfoBurst to create a data input dashboard so the data can be entered through the dashboard itself. This dashboard not only displayed what metrics were missing but it also triggered an alert email that was sent to the supervisor if the data was not entered within 15 minutes of the end of the shift. If the data had still not being entered within 30 minutes, then a second alert in red was sent to the supervisor again and the General Manager for that area was automatically copied. This has been incredibly effective as the company has seen almost no late entries since the system was implemented earlier this year.
The dashboard is packed with many more innovative features and you can read about many of them in this PDF of the case study.
Sohar Aluminium was so happy about its KPI dashboard that they have continued to add to it and have even created an operational dashboard that takes direct feeds from temperature and wind speed gauges that are dynamically refreshed every minute. If the recommended thresholds are exceeded, which is not unusual since their plant is located in the Omani desert, then alerts flash up on the dashboard as well as sent directly to the relevant supervisor’s Blackberry phone to tell them to stop certain operations that would be unsafe.
So just like the racing camels and high speed ferry, Sohar Aluminium has covered a lot of distance in a very short period of time. Their initial dashboard solution was developed and operational in just four weeks.
When I presented this case study in a keynote at a conference this week sponsored by large Gulf Aluminium industry leaders, there was a lot of interest and I would not be surprised if, in the future, Oman will be as well known for its innovative dashboards as for its racing camels!