Visualizing a company’s distribution network in Supply Chain Management is extremely powerful. Network maps can be used to show which distribution centers currently serve customers or smaller regional warehouses and whether there are inefficient flows. Alternatively, you may want to visualize a new strategy where different distribution centers flow product through the network.

Using a few steps in Tableau, you can quickly create meaningful network maps. I will walk through an example to produce a simple network map with some data from Texas.

Update: After Tableau 2019.2, new functionality was added to create lines between points. This means it is now possible to create Network Maps with little or no data manipulation.

Example Network Map

Part 1 - Prepare the Data

In this example we have six ZIP codes in Texas with Latitudes and Longitudes that is representative of customer demand, shown as blue circles in the final chart. Note as well that in column H, we have the Distribution Center (DC) that is assigned to these customer locations. There is one DC in Midland and another in Waco TX, which are represented by red circles in the final network map. I have attached the data we will be working with in this example if you want to recreate the analysis yourself. Use the below link:

Raw Data

We will go through a few steps to transform the data for Tableau. Below we will walk through each step, but what we will end up with is the below transformed data. You will see that Tableau needs a separate row for each destination(shaded in grey) and each origin (shaded in green), where the key that joins each destination and origin is the RouteID in column J.

Transformed Data


1.1 Add in Origin-Dest and RouteID

Let’s walk through how to get the data in the correct format for Tableau using MS Excel. We start off by adding a column to show whether a point is an origin or a destination in Column I. I have labelled origin ’01_Orig’ and destination as ’02_Dest’. The reason I add a number before the label is to force a layer to come up on top when there are many data points – Tableau sorts layers alphabetically. I.e. a ’01_Orig’ dot will sit on top of a ’02_Dest’  dot. Next we add a RouteID column. This column tells Tableau that if there are two rows with the same RouteID, then Tableau is to draw a line between them. To create a Route ID, I concatenated columns H and A using the syntax in Excel =”DC_”&H2&”-“&A2

Add Orig-Dest and RouteID Columns

1.2 Copy All Rows And Paste Below

Next, copy all rows and paste them below. Delete the copied columns B,E and F as we will replace this text.

1.3 Fill in Lat and Long of the Origin

Start off by copying the origin cities from column H into column B. Next look up the Latitudes and Longitudes for these origin cities and fill them into columns E and F. You can use the tab in the attached excel to look up Latitudes and Longitudes based off ZIP codes.

Now that we have the data prep out of the way, we are now ready to enter Tableau.