+1 617 489 2743
Select Page

# forecasting and inventory optimization

Demand planning takes time and effort. It’s worth the effort to the extent that it actually helps you make what you need when you need it.

But the job can be done well or poorly. We see many manufacturers stopping at the first level when they could easily go to the second level. And with a little more effort, they could go all the way to the third level, utilizing probabilistic modeling to convert demand planning results into an inventory optimization process.

## The First Level

The first level is making a demand forecast using statistical methods. Figure 1 shows a first level effort: an item’s demand history (red line) and its expected 12-month forecast (green line).

The forecast is bare bones. It only projects expected demand ignoring that demand is volatile and will inevitably create forecast error. (This is another example of an important maxim: “The Average is Not the Answer”). The forecast is as likely to be too high as it is to be too low, and there is no indication of forecast uncertainty accompanying the forecast. This means the planner has no estimate of the risk associated with committing to the forecast. Still, this forecast does provide a rational basis for production planning, personal scheduling, and raw materials purchase. So, it’s much better than guessing.

## The Second Level

The second level takes explicit account of forecast uncertainty. Figure 2 shows a second level effort, known as a “percentile forecast”.

Now we see an explicit indication of forecast uncertainty. The cyan line above the green forecast line represents the projected 90th percentile of monthly demand. That is, the demand in each future month has a 90% chance of falling at or below the cyan line. Put another way, there is a 10% chance of demand exceeding the cyan line in each month.

This analysis is much more useful because it supports risk management. If it is important to assure sufficient supply of this item, then it makes sense to produce to the 90th percentile instead of to the expected forecast. After all, it’s a coin flip as to whether the expected forecast will result in enough production to meet monthly demand. This second level forecast is, in effect, a rough substitute for a careful inventory management process.

Figure 2. A percentile forecast, where the cyan line estimates the 90th percentiles of monthly demand.

## Going All the Way to the Third Level

Best practice is the Third Level, which uses demand planning as a foundation for completing a second task: explicit inventory optimization. Figure 3 shows the fundamental plot for the efficient management of our finished good, assuming it has a 1 month production lead time.

Figure 3 shows the utilization of probabilistic forecasting and how much draw-down in finished good inventory might take place over a one month production lead time. The uncertainty in demand is apparent in the spread of the possible demand, from a low of 0 to a high of 35, with 15 units being the most likely value. The vertical red line at 22 indicates the “reorder point“ (or “min” or “trigger value”) corresponding to keeping the chance of stocking out while waiting for replenishment to a low 5%. When inventory drops to 22 or below, it is time to order more. The Third Level uses probabilistic demand forecasting with full exposure of forecast uncertainty to efficiently manage the stock of the finished product.

## To Sum Up

Forecasting the most likely demand for an item is a useful first step. It gets you halfway to where you want to be. But it provides an incomplete guide to planning because it ignores demand volatility and the forecast uncertainty that it creates. Adding a cushion to the demand forecast gets you further along, because it lessen the risk that a jump in demand will leave you short of product. This cushion can be calculated by probabilistic forecasting approaches that forecasts a high percentile of the distribution of future demand. And if you want to take one step further, you can feed forecasts of the demand distribution over a lead time to calculate reorder points (mins) to ensure that you have an acceptably low level of stock-out risk.

Given what modern forecasting technology can do for you, why would you want to stop halfway to your goal?

Related Posts

## Daily Demand Scenarios

In this Videoblog, we will explain how time series forecasting has emerged as a pivotal tool, particularly at the daily level, which Smart Software has been pioneering since its inception over forty years ago. The evolution of business practices from annual to more refined temporal increments like monthly and now daily data analysis illustrates a significant shift in operational strategies.

## Constructive Play with Digital Twins

Those of you who track hot topics will be familiar with the term “digital twin.” Those who have been too busy with work may want to read on and catch up. While there are several definitions of digital twin, here’s one that works well: A digital twin is a dynamic virtual copy of a physical asset, process, system, or environment that looks like and behaves identically to its real-world counterpart. A digital twin ingests data and replicates processes so you can predict possible performance outcomes and issues that the real-world product might undergo.

## Direct to the Brain of the Boss – Inventory Analytics and Reporting

In this blog, the spotlight is cast on the software that creates reports for management, the silent hero that translates the beauty of furious calculations into actionable reports. Watch as the calculations, intricately guided by planners utilizing our software, seamlessly converge into Smart Operational Analytics (SOA) reports, dividing five key areas: inventory analysis, inventory performance, inventory trending, supplier performance, and demand anomalies.

#### Recent Posts

• The Importance of Clear Service Level Definitions in Inventory Management
Inventory optimization software that supports what-if analysis will expose the tradeoff of stockouts vs. excess costs of varying service level targets. But first it is important to identify how “service levels” is interpreted, measured, and reported. This will avoid miscommunication and the false sense of security that can develop when less stringent definitions are used. Clearly defining how service level is calculated puts all stakeholders on the same page. This facilitates better decision-making. […]
• Future-Proofing Utilities: Advanced Analytics for Supply Chain Optimization
Utilities in the electrical, natural gas, urban water, and telecommunications fields are all asset-intensive and reliant on physical infrastructure that must be properly maintained, updated, and upgraded over time. Maximizing asset uptime and the reliability of physical infrastructure demands effective inventory management, spare parts forecasting, and supplier management. A utility that executes these processes effectively will outperform its peers, provide better returns for its investors and higher service levels for its customers, while reducing its environmental impact. […]
• The Cost of Spreadsheet Planning
Companies that depend on spreadsheets for demand planning, forecasting, and inventory management are often constrained by the spreadsheet’s inherent limitations. This post examines the drawbacks of traditional inventory management approaches caused by spreadsheets and their associated costs, contrasting these with the significant benefits gained from embracing state-of-the-art planning technologies. […]
• Simple is Good, Except When It Isn’t
In this blog, we are steering the conversation towards the transformative potential of technology in inventory management. The discussion centers around the limitations of simple thinking in managing inventory control processes and the necessity of adopting systematic software solutions. […]
• Leveraging Epicor Kinetic Planning BOMs with Smart IP&O to Forecast Accurately
In this blog, we explore how leveraging Epicor Kinetic Planning BOMs with Smart IP&O can transform your approach to forecasting in a highly configurable manufacturing environment. Discover how Smart, a cutting-edge AI-driven demand planning and inventory optimization solution, can simplify the complexities of predicting finished goods demand, especially when dealing with interchangeable components. Learn how Planning BOMs and advanced forecasting techniques enable businesses to anticipate customer needs more accurately, ensuring operational efficiency and staying ahead in a competitive market. […]

#### Inventory Optimization for Manufacturers, Distributors, and MRO

• Future-Proofing Utilities: Advanced Analytics for Supply Chain Optimization
Utilities in the electrical, natural gas, urban water, and telecommunications fields are all asset-intensive and reliant on physical infrastructure that must be properly maintained, updated, and upgraded over time. Maximizing asset uptime and the reliability of physical infrastructure demands effective inventory management, spare parts forecasting, and supplier management. A utility that executes these processes effectively will outperform its peers, provide better returns for its investors and higher service levels for its customers, while reducing its environmental impact. […]
• Centering Act: Spare Parts Timing, Pricing, and Reliability
In this article, we'll walk you through the process of crafting a spare parts inventory plan that prioritizes availability metrics such as service levels and fill rates while ensuring cost efficiency. We'll focus on an approach to inventory planning called Service Level-Driven Inventory Optimization. Next, we'll discuss how to determine what parts you should include in your inventory and those that might not be necessary. Lastly, we'll explore ways to enhance your service-level-driven inventory plan consistently. […]
• Why MRO Businesses Need Add-on Service Parts Planning & Inventory Software
MRO organizations exist in a wide range of industries, including public transit, electrical utilities, wastewater, hydro power, aviation, and mining. To get their work done, MRO professionals use Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. These systems are designed to do a lot of jobs. Given their features, cost, and extensive implementation requirements, there is an assumption that EAM and ERP systems can do it all. In this post, we summarize the need for add-on software that addresses specialized analytics for inventory optimization, forecasting, and service parts planning. […]
• The Forecast Matters, but Maybe Not the Way You Think
True or false: The forecast doesn't matter to spare parts inventory management. At first glance, this statement seems obviously false. After all, forecasts are crucial for planning stock levels, right? It depends on what you mean by a “forecast”. If you mean an old-school single-number forecast (“demand for item CX218b will be 3 units next week and 6 units the week after”), then no. If you broaden the meaning of forecast to include a probability distribution taking account of uncertainties in both demand and supply, then yes. […]

English
English
Spanish
Dutch