The Smart Forecaster
Pursuing best practices in demand planning, forecasting and inventory optimization
We’ve found that a few things help new customers exploit the power of advanced analytics for forecasting and inventory optimization. One is having a champion among management, an executive sponsor, who can vouch for the commercial importance of a successful implementation while ensuring the users are supported with continuing education.
You know the situation: You work out the best way to manage each inventory item by computing the proper reorder points and replenishment targets, then average demand increases or decreases, or demand volatility changes, or suppliers’ lead times change, or your own costs change.
If you manufacture things for sale, you need machines to make those things. If your machines are up and running, you have a fighting chance to make money. If your machines are down, you lose opportunities to make money.
Managing the inventory across multiple facilities arrayed in multiple echelons can be a huge challenge for any company. The complexity arises from the interactions among the echelons, with demands at the lower levels bubbling up and any shortages at the higher levels cascading down.
For most small-to-medium manufacturers and distributors, single-level or single-echelon inventory optimization is at the cutting edge of logistics practice. Multi-echelon inventory optimization (“MEIO”) involves playing the game at an even higher level and is therefore much less common.
You may remember the story of Goldilocks from your long-ago youth. Sometimes the porridge was too hot, sometimes it was too cold, but just once it was just right. Now that we are adults, we can translate that fairy tale into a professional principle for inventory planning: There can be too little or too much inventory, and there is some Goldilocks level that is “just right.” This blog is about finding that sweet spot.
Just-In-Time (JIT) ensures that a manufacturer produces only the necessary amount, and many companies ignore the risks inherent in reducing inventories. Combined with increased globalization and new risks of supply interruption, stock-outs have abounded. So how can you execute a real-world plan for JIT inventory amidst all this risk and uncertainty? The foundation of your response is your corporate data. Uncertainty has two sources: supply and demand. You need the facts for both.
Consider the problem of replenishing inventory. To be specific, suppose the inventory item in question is a spare part. Both you and your supplier will want some sense of how much you will be ordering and when. And your ERP system may be insisting that you let it in on the secret too.
Let’s start by recognizing that increased revenue is a good thing for you, and that increasing the availability of the spare parts you provide is a good thing for your customers. But let’s also recognize that increasing item availability will not necessarily lead to increased revenue. If you plan incorrectly and end up carrying excess inventory, the net effect may be good for your customers but will definitely be bad for you. There must be some right way to make this a win-win, if only it can be recognized.
In this video, Dr. Thomas Willemain, co-Founder and SVP Research, talks about improving Forecast Accuracy by measuring Forecast Error. We begin by overviewing the various types of Error Metrics: Scale-dependent error, Percentage error, Relative error, and Scale-free error Metrics. While some error is inevitable, there are ways to reduce it, and forecast metrics are necessary aids for monitoring and improving forecast accuracy. Then we will explain the special problem of intermittent demand and divide-by-zero problems. Tom concludes by explaining how to assess forecasts of multiple items and how it often makes sense to use weighted averages, weighting items differently by volume or revenue.
In a perfect world, Just in Time (JIT) would be the appropriate solution for inventory management. But as the saying goes “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” One enormous punch in the mouth for the global supply chain was Suez Canal Blockage that held up $9.6B in trade costing an estimated $6.7M per minute.
In this video, Dr. Thomas Willemain, co-Founder and SVP Research, talks about improving Forecast Accuracy by Managing Error. This video is the first in our series on effective methods to Improve Forecast Accuracy. We begin by looking at how forecast error causes pain and the consequential cost related to it. Then we will explain the three most common mistakes to avoid that can help us increase revenue and prevent excess inventory.
Many of our customers that saw demand dry up during the pandemic are now seeing a significant demand surge. Other customers in critical industries like plastics, biotech, semiconductors and electronics saw demand surges starting as far back as last April. For suggestions about how to cope with these situations, please read on.
If you keep up with the news about supply chain analytics, you are more frequently encountering the phrase “probabilistic forecasting.” Probabilistic forecasts have the ability to simulate future values that aren’t anchored to the past. If this phrase is puzzling, read on.
If you both make and sell things, you own two inventory problems. Companies that sell things must focus relentlessly on having enough product inventory to meet customer demand. Manufacturers and asset intensive industries such as power generation, public transportation, mining, and refining, have an additional inventory concern: having enough spare parts to keep their machines running.
This technical brief reviews the basics of two probabilistic models of machine breakdown. It also relates machine uptime to the adequacy of spare parts inventory.