I'm working on the design of a manufacturing dashboard to track the status of various "jobs" as they make their way through various manufacturing processes. I'm trying to develop a creative way of showing the jobs in the context of a schedule or timeline.

One view that I've already created contains a grid with each job in its own row and each column representing a different process that that job must go through (i.e. machining, polishing, paint coating, etc...). This view is all well and good - but it lacks the timeline aspect and additionally, I don't believe that it is the most meaningful to the operators who will be using this dashboard.

A more meaningful view would allow operators to look at a specific process (instead of all processes like in the spreadsheet style grid above) and be able to see various metrics, cases that are coming through the pipeline (i.e. in the previous process), in backlog, in production, and recently processed. Something like this:

enter image description here

And to add further value to that - I would like to show that in the context of a timeline.

Ways that this could be done that I've thought of:

  1. Actually showing a timeline above or below the views described above, with time in the horizontal axis - to demonstrate where various jobs are in their schedule.
  2. Using some type of color gradation to indicate the amount of time a case has been in a process or at a certain stage (fresh cases are green and become more red as they sit and wait)
  3. Show an actual time value next to each job in a list, indicating the time it's been sitting around or in a particular process ... or maybe the time it's in that process and the time it's been in production overall)
  4. Some combo of the above or something else entirely.

My question here is, in your opinion, what is the best way to achieve the desired "time" representation I'm describing? I know this is a very specific situation - but if anyone has had experience with dashboard design for business or manufacturing, your input would be of value.

  • An idea - perhaps Trello (Example - see the Trello Development Board ) could be a source of inspiration? Trello Board = Manufacturing process stream; Trello card = Case; Trello List = Queue/Stage/Process including backlog; Trello Label = time related indicator + status; Trello Activity = Recently finished & Recent changes...etc etc Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 15:20
  • Interestingly enough, Trello has actually been very much on my radar as I approach this project. The drag / drop UI that they use is more or less how I want interaction to occur on the dashboard. Good suggestion! (also, thanks for the edit to put my image in -- I don't have that privilege yet)
    – mbeasley
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 0:24

2 Answers 2


What you're describing is a Kanban board. The concept started at Toyota and has been co-opted by the software industry. But the roots in manufacturing makes it a perfect metaphor for a dashboard for manufacturing processes.

It starts with value stream mapping: identifying the activities that add value to your manufacturing process. They get represented as swimlanes within the Kanban board. As products move through the process you move them into the appropriate swimlanes.

Leveraging this system you can derive all kinds of at a glance metrics such as lead times, bottlenecks (which phase of the process contributes the most to the total time to delivery) and other KPIs that would be useful in a dashboard. Agile Zen provides an example of a Kanban board targeted for software development, but technically, you can apply it to any multi-stage process.

This article on wikipedia discusses how electronic kanban systems have been used to integrate with larger ERP systems

  • 1
    Wonderful insight. This inspiration for this project has come from the manual, white-board style kanban board that part of our manufacturing division is currently using. I'll continue to research kanban and hopefully I can arrive at something like a virtual kanban board that is meaningful and tailored to our needs. Thanks!
    – mbeasley
    Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 0:27

In a flash what my idea was to use dials to indicate time and completion of activity, so a larger dial will encompass the complete time for that whole activity, with individual dials for each process. So you could also showcase color gradations in another set of dials that will bring about stage of the items and you could also use a counter-window that showcases the numbers ( I mean something where you will have in a airport - arrival/departure board - where the way numbers flip through is interesting to watch).

Dials give a wholesome feel since it closely resembles your clock and can address complexity in simple manner.

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