The Smart Forecaster
Pursuing best practices in demand planning,
forecasting and inventory optimization
Many of our customers that saw demand dry up during the pandemic are now seeing demand return. Some are 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.
Surging demand usually creates two problems: inability to fill orders and inability to get replenishment due to supplier overload. This situation requires changes in the way you use your advanced planning software. Here are three tips to help you cope.
Tip #1: Narrow your temporal focus
In normal times (remember those?), more data implied better results. Nowadays, old data poison your calculations, since they represent conditions that no longer apply. You should base forecasts and other calculations on data from the current situation. Where to cut off past data may be obvious from a plot of the data, or you may decide to set a “reasonable” cutoff date based on a consensus of colleagues. Smart Software has developed machine learning algorithms that automatically identify how much historical data should be optimally fed to the forecast model. Be on the lookout for these enhancements to the software that will be rolling out soon. In the meantime, conduct accuracy tests using held-out actuals using different historical start dates. Smart’s forecast vs. actual feature will support this automatically.
Tip #2: Increase your planning tempo
When operations are stable, you can set your inventory policies and trust them to be appropriate for a long time. When times are turbulent, it is important to increase the frequency of your planning cycles to keep old policy settings from drifting too far away from optimality. More frequent recalibration of your stocking policies and forecasts means that you’ll be quicker to catch trends that will surprise your competition and always keep you steps ahead. With software capable of automatically selecting optimal values, all that work can be done in one shot by the software. You should review those changes and possibly tweak them, but it makes sense to let the software do the bulk of the work.
Tip #3: Do more What-If planning
In turbulent times, you might expect even more turbulence in the future. Using your software for what-if planning helps you prepare for changes that may be coming. For example, suppose you’ve been in touch with a key supplier who hints that they may be raising prices or may have to slip their delivery schedules. By feeding the software different inputs, you can do contingency planning. If prices go up, you can see how responding by changing order quantities would impact your inventory operating costs and inventory investment. If lead times go up, you can see what the impact would be on item availability. This foreknowledge helps you figure out what your counter-moves would be before the crisis hits.
If there ever was a time when we could cruise on automatic pilot, it’s in the rear-view mirror. Your organization, coping with explosive growth, has many challenges. Old answers are obsolete; new answers have to come from somewhere, fast. Advanced software that leverages probabilistic forecasting can help, along with changes in planning processes.
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.
Dealing with the day-to-day of inventory management can keep you busy. But you know you have to get your head up now and then to see where you’re heading. For that, your inventory software should show you metrics – and not just one, but a full set of metrics or KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators.
Are you confused about what is AI and what is machine learning? Are you unsure why knowing more will help you with your job in inventory planning? Don’t despair. You’ll be ok, and we’ll show you how some of whatever-it-is can be useful.