Visualizing the Army’s Global Supply Chain with Tableau

By Diane Camber 11 Sep, 2013
In recent history the Army has relied on Powerpoint presentations for management of staff and equipment throughout the military’s global supply chain. Now that the Army is winding down the decade-long war in Afghanistan this effort involves moving an enormous quantity of vehicles, weapons, and other hardware and supplies back to United States Army bases. The Army has turned to Tableau Software visualizations to aid in the management of the military supply chain according to Chuck Driessnack, vice president at SAIC, a principle Department of Defense contractor in this effort. “You have to deliver value rapidly, and you have to be able to change constantly and Tableau lets you do that,” he said.

Before Tableau, the Army generals were dealing with reports that were painstakingly prepared by hand and reflected “stale data” and a “hierarchical and vertical perspective that was not integrated,” Driessnack said. Analysis and collaboration were difficult if not impossible under those conditions.

“Information used to be power,” he said. “There were these brokers of information and you had to be real nice to them to get your information.”

“The way it would work in the Pentagon, you would brief it up to the Chief of Staff of the Army and that was a month-long process to get through all the gate-keepers to get up there. Then the Chief would ask a question. How long would it take the Chief to get an answer? Forever,” he said.

Now these questions are being answered with a click of a mouse. Driessnack often hears the comment from analysts about the speed of visualizing data with Tableau. “You just showed me my entire analysis and created the view that would have taken me an entire week to do with Powerpoint,” he said.

"I'm talking about from the four-star general all the way down to the analyst and they're seeing it all at the same time," he said. “Transparency: that is a beautiful thing.”

Tableau’s interactive nature has also been a game changer for the Army. “When you have data that is integrated and you can interact with it, then that is a completely different way of thinking about a problem,” Driessnack said. “Now you have all the information you can use to collaborate. So, you have this discussion and it goes beyond the current situation to what’s going to happen and what are the alternatives. Those things just happen naturally as you are looking at the data,” he said.

Watch a video from the Army Materiel Command featuring Tableau dashboards.
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