Scores of companies, colleges, and manufacturers around the world are now using or developing what are commonly known as “sustainability dashboards.”
Industry observers may have considered these tools a fad several years ago; however, the fact that so many organizations are now involved in this rapidly developing technology indicates that dashboards have found their niche and proven their benefits. Among these benefits, they are helping organizations protect the environment, conserve natural resources, create a culture of sustainability, and reduce operating costs.
And because of this, astute jansan distributors are advised to learn more about these systems that will likely become a key part of their customer’s facility operations.
As one might guess, this technology originally took its name from the automobile industry. Early versions of these tools were known as “business dashboards” or “executive dashboards.” Introduced during the late 1960s, they provided up-to-the-minute information about sales, business financials, and the like for top-level business executives.
While early dashboard systems presented information in a spreadsheet format, the newer and more advanced sustainability dashboards available today present information graphically. They take advantage of visual perception and cognition to present information and statistics in a way that is far easier for people to analyze and understand. This is likely one reason for their growing popularity.
KPIs, Goals, and Creating a Culture of Sustainability
Henry Ford was one of the first industrialists to explore the use of KPIs. Using such tools, he was able to speed up and streamline his company’s automobile production, cutting the time, and thus cost, of manufacturing each car. Ford passed on this savings to the customer. Although the first Model T was sold for $850, the price eventually dropped to under $300.
To begin the KPI process, Ford first determined how long it took to build a car—including how long it took to convert iron ore into a car. This information served as his benchmark. He then set new targets and charged his managers and employees with finding even more ways to make their processes faster.
A KPI is, very simply, a metric tied to a target. For example, in Ford’s case, the metric was the speed with which his company was able to build cars, and the target gradually changed as new ways were developed to manufacture cars more rapidly.
Today, businesses often use KPIs (although they are not necessarily called that) to set sales targets. For instance, jansan distributors may set a target of selling so many floor machines per quarter, and then monitor how sales are going and how far the company is from reaching its goal. One of the subtle but significant benefits of KPIs is that they often cause people to change the way they think; do their job; approach their day; even consider new purchases, products, and entire operating procedures. KPI targets help set priorities for entire organizations.
When used to promote sustainability, KPIs can help create what is known as a culture of sustainability. This is when all operations, purchases, and procedures in an organization including cleaning products are considered in light of their impact on “the big picture”— the environment, natural resources, workers and staff, and the local community—in addition to profits.
Future Directions for Sustainability Dashboards
In the past, many organizations gave little thought to sustainability and if they did think about it, it was often in connection with concerns about legal ramifications of some business operations. However, recent studies conducted by Siemens and McGraw-Hill Construction indicate that this is changing. More organizations are putting a higher emphasis on being sustainable, and legal issues are becoming less important. At the same time, the benefits of sustainability—such as reductions in operating costs and related savings—are increasingly taking center stage.
Because jansan distributors are becoming much more involved in helping their customers become Greener and more sustainable, they can advise them about these dashboards as a way to help them benchmark, measure, monitor, and report their progress. Those jansan distributors who which to remain at the forefront of the industry realize that more organizations will adopt corporate KPIs, work to become more sustainable, and likely turn to distributors to be their guide.
Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report, and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies.