The Smart Forecaster
Pursuing best practices in demand planning,
forecasting and inventory optimization
The unique challenges of inventory planning for spare parts, large capital goods and other infrequently or irregularly moving items drives the importance of finding smarter methods to forecast this kind of intermittent demand. Robert Bowman, Editor of Supply Chain Brain Magazine, and I discussed this topic at the October APICS conference in Denver, and video of our conversation is available at Supply Chain Brain‘s website.
Why plan for intermittent demand? Well, why plan for any demand? If you can understand what the likely range of demand will be until you can get more, you will know how much stock to keep in reserve, so you have just enough. This is the heart of demand forecasting and inventory optimization. Intermittent demand is exceptionally difficult to forecast, but this same principle holds true.
Unlike other demand patterns, where historical data suggests regular trends, ebbs and flows, seasonality or other discernible patterns, intermittent demand appears to be random. There are many periods of zero demand interspersed with irregular, non-zero demand. This occurs frequently with service parts, where parts are replaced when they break, and you just don’t know when that will occur. Most service parts inventories (70% or more!) can experience intermittent demand. Demand for specialized or configured products is also likely to be intermittent.
Supply Chain Brain has made the more in-depth discussion of this topic Bowman and I shared available here. For new visitors to Supply Chain Brain, a quick account sign-up is required to access the video.
Jeff Scott serves as Vice President, Marketing & Alliances for Smart Software.
In the supply chain planning world, the most fundamental decision is how to balance item availability against the cost of maintaining that availability (service levels and fill rates). At one extreme, you can grossly overstock and never run out until you go broke and have to close up shop from sinking all your cash into inventory that doesn’t sell.
Many companies adopt a “customer first, better to have the inventory and not need it” approach to inventory planning. While well intentioned, this approach often ignores the role that diminishing returns and opportunity costs play in inventory management impacting the organizations ability to quickly respond to demand.
In our travels around the industrial scene, we notice that many companies pay more attention to inventory Turns than they should. We would like to deflect some of this attention to more consequential performance metrics.