Top Five Tips for New Demand Planners and Forecasters

In Smart Software’s forty-plus years of providing forecasting software, we’ve met many people who find themselves, perhaps surprisingly, becoming demand forecasters. This blog is aimed primarily at those fortunate individuals who are about to start this adventure (though seasoned pros may enjoy the refresher).

Welcome to the field! Good forecasting can make a big difference to your company’s performance, whether you are forecasting to support sales, marketing, production, inventory, or finance.

There is a lot of math and statistics underlying demand forecasting methods, so your assignment suggests that you are not one of those math-phobic people who would rather be poets. Luckily, if you are feeling a bit shaky and not yet healed from your high school geometry class, a lot of the math is built into forecasting software, so your first job is to leave the math for later while you get a view of the big picture. It is indeed a big picture, but let’s isolate few of the ideas that will most help you succeed.

 

  1. Demand Forecasting is a team sport. Even in a small company, the demand planner is part of a team, with some folks bringing the data, some bringing the tech, and some bringing the business judgment. In a well-run business, your job will never be to simply feed some data into a program and send out a forecast report. Many companies have adopted a process called Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) in which your forecast will be used to kick off a meeting to make certain judgments (e.g., Should we assume this trend will continue? Will it be worse to under-forecast or over-forecast?) and to blend extra information into the final forecast (e.g., sales force input, business intelligence on competitors’ moves, promotions). The implication for you is that your skills at listening and communicating will be important to your success.

 

  1. Statistical Forecasting engines need good fuel. Historical data is the fuel used by statistical forecasting programs, so bad or missing or delayed data can degrade your work product. Your job will implicitly include a quality control aspect, and you must keep a keen eye on the data that are supplied to you. Along the way, it is a good idea to make the IT people your friends.

 

  1. Your name is on your forecasts. Like it or not, if I send forecasts up the chain of command, they get labeled as “Tom’s forecasts.” I must be prepared to own those numbers. To earn my seat at the table, I must be able to explain what data my forecasts were based on, how they were calculated, why I used Method A instead of Method B to do the calculations, and especially how firm or squishy they are. Here honesty is important. No forecast can reasonably be expected to be perfectly accurate, but not all managers can be expected to be perfectly reasonable. If you’re unlucky, your management will think that your reports of forecast uncertainty suggest either ignorance or incompetence. In truth, they indicate professionalism. I have no useful advice about how best to manage such managers, but I can warn you about them. It’s up to you to educate those who use your forecasts. The best managers will appreciate that.

 

  1. Leave your spreadsheets behind. It’s not uncommon for someone to be promoted to forecaster because they were great with Excel. Unless you are with an unusually small company, the scale of modern corporate forecasting overwhelms what you can handle with spreadsheets. The increasing speed of business compounds the problem: the sleepy tempo of annual and quarterly planning meetings is rapidly giving way to weekly or even daily re-forecasts as conditions change. So, be prepared to lean on a professional vendor of modern, scalable cloud-based demand planning and statistical forecasting software for training and support.

 

  1. Think visually. It will be very useful, both in deciding how to generate demand forecasts and in presenting them to management, so take advantage of the visualization capabilities built into forecasting software. As I noted above, in today’s high-frequency business world, the data you work with can change rapidly, so what you did last month may not be the right thing to do this month. Literally keep an eye on your data by making simple plots, like “timeplots” that show things like trend or seasonality or (especially) changes in trend or seasonality or anomalies that must be dealt with. Similarly, supplementing tables of forecasts with graphs comparing current forecasts to prior forecasts to actuals can be very helpful in an S&OP process. For example, timeplots showing past values, forecasted values, and “forecast intervals” indicating the objective uncertainty in the forecasts provide a solid basis for your team to fully appreciate the message in your forecasts.

 

That’s enough for now. As a person who’s taught in universities for half a century, I’m inclined to start into the statistical side of forecasting, but I’ll save that for another time. The five tips above should be helpful to you as you grow into a key part of your corporate planning team. Welcome to the game!

 

 

 

A Primer on Probabilistic Forecasting

The Smart Forecaster

 Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

forecasting and inventory optimization

If you keep up with the news about supply chain analytics, you are more frequently encountering the phrase “probabilistic forecasting.” If this phrase is puzzling, read on.

You probably already know what “forecasting” means. And you probably also know that there seem to be lots of different ways to do it. And you’ve probably heard pungent little phrases like “every forecast is wrong.” So you know that some kind of mathemagic might calculate that “the forecast is you will sell 100 units next month”, and then you might sell 110 units, in which case you have a 10% forecast error.

You may not know that what I just described is a particular kind of forecast called a “point forecast.” A point forecast is so named because it consists of just a single number (i.e., one point on the number line, if you recall the number line from your youth).

Point forecasts have one virtue: They are simple. They also have a flaw: They give rise to snarky statements like “every forecast is wrong.” That is, in most realistic cases, it is unlikely that the actual value will exactly equal the forecast. (Which isn’t such a big deal if the forecast is close enough.)

This gets us to “probabilistic forecasting.” This approach is a step up, because instead of producing a single-number (point) forecast, it yields a probability distribution for the forecast. And unlike traditional extrapolative models that rely purely on the historical data, probabilistic forecasts have the ability to simulate future values that aren’t anchored to the past.

“Probability distribution” is a forbidding phrase, evoking some arcane math that you may have heard of but never studied. Luckily, most adults have enough life experience to have an intuitive grasp of the concept.  When broken down, it’s quite straightforward to understand.

Imagine the simple act of flipping two coins. You might call this harmless fun, but I call it a “probabilistic experiment.” The total number of heads that turn up on the two coins will be either zero, one or two. Flipping two coins is a “random experiment.” The resulting number of heads is a “random variable.” It has a “probability distribution”, which is nothing more than a table of how likely it is that the random variable will turn out to have any of its possible values. The probability of getting two heads when the coins are fair works out to be ¼, as is the probability of no heads. The chance of one head is ½.

The same approach can describe a more interesting random variable, like the daily demand for a spare part.  Figure 2 shows such a probability distribution. It was computed by compiling three years of daily demand data on a certain part used in a scientific instrument sold to hospitals.

 

Probabilistic demand forecast 1

Figure 1: The probability distribution of daily demand for a certain spare part

 

The distribution in Figure 1 can be thought of as a probabilistic forecast of demand in a single day. For this particular part, we see that the forecast is very likely to be zero (97% chance), but sometimes will be for a handful of units, and once in three years will be twenty units. Even though the most likely forecast is zero, you would want to keep a few on hand if this part were critical (“…for want of a nail…”)

Now let’s use this information to make a more complicated probabilistic forecast. Suppose you have three units on hand. How many days will it take for you to have none? There are many possible answers, ranging from a single day (if you immediately get a demand for three or more) up to a very large number (since 97% of days see no demand).  The analysis of this question is a bit complicated because of all the many ways this situation can play out, but the final answer that is most informative will be a probability distribution. It turns out that the number of days until there are no units left in stock has the distribution shown in Figure 2.

Probabilistic demand forecast 2

Figure 2: Distribution of the number of days until all three units are gone

 

The average number of days is 74, which would be a point forecast, but there is a lot of variation around the average. From the perspective of inventory management, it is notable that there is a 25% chance that all the units will be gone after 32 days. So if you decided to order more when you were down to only three on the shelf, it would be good to have the supplier get them to you before a month has passed. If they couldn’t, you’d have a 75% chance of stocking out – not good for a critical part.

The analysis behind Figure 2 involved making some assumptions that were convenient but not necessary if they were not true. The results came from a method called “Monte Carlo simulation”, in which we start with three units, pick a random demand from the distribution in Figure 1, subtract it from the current stock, and continue until the stock is gone, recording how many days went by before you ran out. Repeating this process 100,000 times produced Figure 2.

Applications of Monte Carlo simulation extend to problems of even larger scope than the “when do we run out” example above. Especially important are Monte Carlo forecasts of future demand. While the usual forecasting result is a set of point forecasts (e.g., expected unit demand over the next twelve months), we know that there are any number of ways that the actual demand could play out. Simulation could be used to produce, say, one thousand possible sets of 365 daily demand demands.

This set of demand scenarios would more fully expose the range of possible situations with which an inventory system would have to cope. This use of simulation is called “stress testing”, because it exposes a system to a range of varied but realistic scenarios, including some nasty ones. Those scenarios are then input to mathematical models of the system to see how well it will cope, as reflected in key performance indicators (KPI’s). For instance, in those thousand simulated years of operation, how many stockouts are there in the worst year? the average year? the best year? In fact, what is the full probability distribution of the number of stockouts in a year, and what is the distribution of their size?

Figures 3 and 4 illustrate probabilistic modeling of an inventory control system that converts stockouts to backorders. The system simulated uses a Min/Max control policy with Min = 10 units and Max = 20 units.

Figure 3 shows one simulated year of daily operations in four plots. The first plot shows a particular pattern of random daily demand in which average demand increases steadily from Monday to Friday but disappears on weekends. The second plot shows the number of units on hand each day. Note that there are a dozen times during this simulated year when inventory goes negative, indicating stockouts. The third plot shows the size and timing of replenishment orders. The fourth plot shows the size and timing of backorders.  The information in these plots can be translated into estimates of inventory investment, average units on hand, holding costs, ordering costs and shortage costs.

Probabilistic demand forecast 3

Figure 3: One simulated year of inventory system operation

 

Figure 3 shows one of one thousand simulated years. Each year will have different daily demands, resulting in different values of metrics like units on hand and the various components of operating cost. Figure 4 plots the distribution of 1,000 simulated values of four KPI’s. Simulating 1,000 years of imagined operation exposes the range of possible results so that planners can account not just for average results but also see best-case and worst-case values.

Probabilistic demand forecast 4

Figure 4: Distributions of four KPI’s based on 1,000 simulations

 

Monte Carlo simulation is a low-math/high-results approach to probabilistic forecasting: very practical and easy to explain. Advanced probabilistic forecasting methods employed by Smart Software expand upon standard Monte Carlo simulation, yielding extremely accurate estimates of required inventory levels.

 

Leave a Comment

Related Posts

Call an Audible to Proactively Counter Supply Chain Noise

Call an Audible to Proactively Counter Supply Chain Noise

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.

Recent Posts

  • Epicor Prophet 21 with Forecasting Inventory PlanningExtend Epicor Prophet 21 with Smart IP&O’s Forecasting & Dynamic Reorder Point Planning
    Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (Smart IP&O) can help with inventory ordering functionality in Epicor P21, reduce inventory, minimize stockouts and restore your organization’s trust by providing robust predictive analytics, consensus-based forecasting, and what-if scenario planning. […]
  • Supply Chain Math large-scale decision-making analyticsSupply Chain Math: Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight
    Math and the supply chain go hand and hand. As supply chains grow, increasing complexity will drive companies to look for ways to manage large-scale decision-making. Math is a fact of life for anyone in inventory management and demand forecasting who is hoping to remain competitive in the modern world. Read our article to learn more. […]
  • Mature bearded mechanic in uniform examining the machine and repairing it in factoryService Parts Planning: Planning for consumable parts vs. Repairable Parts
    When deciding on the right stocking parameters for spare and replacement parts, it is important to distinguish between consumable and repairable servoce parts. These differences are often overlooked by inventory planning software and can result in incorrect estimates of what to stock. Different approaches are required when planning for consumables vs. repairable service parts. […]
  • Four Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment TargetsFour Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment Targets
    How often do you recalibrate your stocking policies? Why? Learn how to avoid key mistakes when planning replenishment targets by automating the process, recalibrating parts, using targeting forecasting methods, and reviewing exceptions. […]
  • Smart Software is pleased to introduce our series of webinars, offered exclusively for Epicor Users.Extend Epicor Kinetic’s Forecasting & Min/Max Planning with Smart IP&O
    Epicor Kinetic can manage replenishment by suggesting what to order and when via reorder point-based inventory policies. The problem is that the ERP system requires that the user either manually specify these reorder points, or use a rudimentary “rule of thumb” approach based on daily averages. In this article, we will review the inventory ordering functionality in Epicor Kinetic, explain its limitations, and summarize how to reduce inventory, and minimize stockouts by providing the robust predictive functionality that is missing in Epicor. […]

    Inventory Optimization for Manufacturers, Distributors, and MRO

    • Blanket Orders Smart Software Demand and Inventory Planning HDBlanket Orders
      Our customers are great teachers who have always helped us bridge the gap between textbook theory and practical application. A prime example happened over twenty years ago, when we were introduced to the phenomenon of intermittent demand, which is common among spare parts but rare among the finished goods managed by our original customers working in sales and marketing. This revelation soon led to our preeminent position as vendors of software for managing inventories of spare parts. Our latest bit of schooling concerns “blanket orders.” […]
    • Hand placing pieces to build an arrowProbabilistic Forecasting for Intermittent Demand
      The New Forecasting Technology derives from Probabilistic Forecasting, a statistical method that accurately forecasts both average product demand per period and customer service level inventory requirements. […]
    • Engineering to Order at Kratos Space – Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage
      The Kratos Space group within National Security technology innovator Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., produces COTS s software and component products for space communications - Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage […]
    • wooden-figures-of-people-and-a-magnet-team-management-warehouse inventoryManaging the Inventory of Promoted Items
      In a previous post, I discussed one of the thornier problems demand planners sometimes face: working with product demand data characterized by what statisticians call skewness—a situation that can necessitate costly inventory investments. This sort of problematic data is found in several different scenarios. In at least one, the combination of intermittent demand and very effective sales promotions, the problem lends itself to an effective solution. […]

        Improve Forecast Accuracy by Managing Error

        The Smart Forecaster

         Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

        forecasting and inventory optimization

        Improve Forecast Accuracy, Eliminate Excess Inventory, & Maximize Service Levels

        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. Tom concludes by reviewing the methods to improve Forecast Accuracy, the importance of measuring forecast error, and the technological opportunities to improve it.

         

        Forecast error can be consequential

        Consider one item of many

        • Product X costs $100 to make and nets $50 profit per unit.
        • Sales of Product X will turn out to be 1,000/month over the next 12 months.
        • Consider one item of many

        What is the cost of forecast error?

        • If the forecast is 10% high, end the year with $120,000 of excess inventory.
        • 100 extra/month x 12 months x $100/unit
        • If the forecast is 10% low, miss out on $60,000 of profit.
        • 100 too few/month x 12 months x $50/unit

         

        Three mistakes to avoid

        1. Ignoring error.

        • Unprofessional, dereliction of duty.
        • Wishing will not make it so.
        • Treat accuracy assessment as data science, not a blame game.

        2. Tolerating more error than necessary.

        • Statistical forecasting methods can improve accuracy at scale.
        • Improving data inputs can help.
        • Collecting and analyzing forecast error metrics can identify weak spots.

        3. Wasting time and money going too far trying to eliminate error.

        • Some product/market combinations are inherently more difficult to forecast. After a point, let them be (but be alert for new specialized forecasting methods).
        • Sometimes steps meant to reduce error can backfire (e.g., adjustment).
        Leave a Comment

        RECENT POSTS

        The Supply Chain Blame Game:  Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

        The Supply Chain Blame Game: Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

        The supply chain has become the blame game for almost any industrial or retail problem. Shortages on lead time variability, bad forecasts, and problems with bad data are facts of life, yet inventory-carrying organizations are often caught by surprise when any of these difficulties arise. So, again, who is to blame for the supply chain chaos? Keep reading this blog and we will try to show you how to prevent product shortages and overstocking.

        Recent Posts

        • Epicor Prophet 21 with Forecasting Inventory PlanningExtend Epicor Prophet 21 with Smart IP&O’s Forecasting & Dynamic Reorder Point Planning
          Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (Smart IP&O) can help with inventory ordering functionality in Epicor P21, reduce inventory, minimize stockouts and restore your organization’s trust by providing robust predictive analytics, consensus-based forecasting, and what-if scenario planning. […]
        • Supply Chain Math large-scale decision-making analyticsSupply Chain Math: Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight
          Math and the supply chain go hand and hand. As supply chains grow, increasing complexity will drive companies to look for ways to manage large-scale decision-making. Math is a fact of life for anyone in inventory management and demand forecasting who is hoping to remain competitive in the modern world. Read our article to learn more. […]
        • Mature bearded mechanic in uniform examining the machine and repairing it in factoryService Parts Planning: Planning for consumable parts vs. Repairable Parts
          When deciding on the right stocking parameters for spare and replacement parts, it is important to distinguish between consumable and repairable servoce parts. These differences are often overlooked by inventory planning software and can result in incorrect estimates of what to stock. Different approaches are required when planning for consumables vs. repairable service parts. […]
        • Four Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment TargetsFour Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment Targets
          How often do you recalibrate your stocking policies? Why? Learn how to avoid key mistakes when planning replenishment targets by automating the process, recalibrating parts, using targeting forecasting methods, and reviewing exceptions. […]
        • Smart Software is pleased to introduce our series of webinars, offered exclusively for Epicor Users.Extend Epicor Kinetic’s Forecasting & Min/Max Planning with Smart IP&O
          Epicor Kinetic can manage replenishment by suggesting what to order and when via reorder point-based inventory policies. The problem is that the ERP system requires that the user either manually specify these reorder points, or use a rudimentary “rule of thumb” approach based on daily averages. In this article, we will review the inventory ordering functionality in Epicor Kinetic, explain its limitations, and summarize how to reduce inventory, and minimize stockouts by providing the robust predictive functionality that is missing in Epicor. […]

          Inventory Optimization for Manufacturers, Distributors, and MRO

          • Blanket Orders Smart Software Demand and Inventory Planning HDBlanket Orders
            Our customers are great teachers who have always helped us bridge the gap between textbook theory and practical application. A prime example happened over twenty years ago, when we were introduced to the phenomenon of intermittent demand, which is common among spare parts but rare among the finished goods managed by our original customers working in sales and marketing. This revelation soon led to our preeminent position as vendors of software for managing inventories of spare parts. Our latest bit of schooling concerns “blanket orders.” […]
          • Hand placing pieces to build an arrowProbabilistic Forecasting for Intermittent Demand
            The New Forecasting Technology derives from Probabilistic Forecasting, a statistical method that accurately forecasts both average product demand per period and customer service level inventory requirements. […]
          • Engineering to Order at Kratos Space – Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage
            The Kratos Space group within National Security technology innovator Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., produces COTS s software and component products for space communications - Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage […]
          • wooden-figures-of-people-and-a-magnet-team-management-warehouse inventoryManaging the Inventory of Promoted Items
            In a previous post, I discussed one of the thornier problems demand planners sometimes face: working with product demand data characterized by what statisticians call skewness—a situation that can necessitate costly inventory investments. This sort of problematic data is found in several different scenarios. In at least one, the combination of intermittent demand and very effective sales promotions, the problem lends itself to an effective solution. […]

              Probabilistic vs. Deterministic Order Planning

              The Smart Forecaster

              Man with a computer in a warehouse best practices in demand planning, forecasting and inventory optimization

              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.

              Deterministic Model of Replenishment

              The simplest way to get a decent answer to this question is to assume the world is, well, simple. In this case, simple means “not random” or, in geek speak, “deterministic.” In particular, you pretend that the random size and timing of demand is really a continuous drip-drip-drip of a fixed size coming at a fixed interval, e.g., 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2… If this seems unrealistic, it is. Real demand might look more like this: 0, 1, 10, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0 with lots of zeros, occasional but random spikes.

              But simplicity has its virtues. If you pretend that the average demand occurs every day like clockwork, it is easy to work out when you will need to place your next order, and how many units you will need.  For instance, suppose your inventory policy is of the (Q,R) type, where Q is a fixed order quantity and R is a fixed reorder point. When stock drops to or below the reorder point R, you order Q units more. To round out the fantasy, assume that the replenishment lead time is also fixed: after L days, those Q new units will be on the shelf ready to satisfy demand.

              All you need now to answer your questions is the average demand per day D for the item. The logic goes like this:

              1. You start each replenishment cycle with Q units on hand.
              2. You deplete that stock by D units per day.
              3. So, you hit the reorder point R after (Q-R)/D days.
              4. So, you order every (Q-R)/D days.
              5. Each replenishment cycle lasts (Q-R)/D + L days, so you make a total of 365D/(Q-R+LD) orders per year.
              6. As long as lead time L < R/D, you will never stock out and your inventory will be as small as possible.

              Figure 1 shows the plot of on-hand inventory vs time for the deterministic model. Around Smart Software, we refer to this plot as the “Deterministic Sawtooth.” The stock starts at the level of the last order quantity Q. After steadily decreasing over the drop time (Q-R)/D, the level hits the reorder point R and triggers an order for another Q units. Over the lead time L, the stock drops to exactly zero, then the reorder magically arrives and the next cycle begins.

              Figure 1 Deterministic model of on-hand inventory

              Figure 1: Deterministic model of on-hand inventory

               

              This model has two things going for it. It requires no more than high school algebra, and it combines (almost) all the relevant factors to answer the two related questions: When will we have to place the next order? How many orders will we place in a year?

              Probabilistic Model of Replenishment

              Not surprisingly, if we strip away some of the fantasy from the deterministic model, we get more useful information. The probabilistic model incorporates all the messy randomness in the real-world problem: the uncertainty in both the timing and size of demand, the variation in replenishment lead time, and the consequences of those two factors: the chance of stock on hand undershooting the reorder point, the chance that there will be a stockout, the variability in the time until the next order, and the variable number of orders executed in a year.

              The probabilistic model works by simulating the consequences of uncertain demand and variable lead time. By analyzing the item’s historical demand patterns (and excluding any observations that were recorded during a time when demand may have been fundamentally different), advanced statistical methods create an unlimited number of realistic demand scenarios. Similar analysis is applied to records of supplier lead times. Combining these supply and demand scenarios with the operational rules of any given inventory control policy produces scenarios of the number of parts on hand. From these scenarios, we can extract summaries of the varying intervals between orders.

              Figure 2 shows an example of a probabilistic scenario; demand is random, and the item is managed using reorder point R = 10 and order quantity Q=20. Gone is the Deterministic Sawtooth; in its place is something more complex and realistic (the Probabilistic Staircase). During the 90 simulated days of operation, there were 9 orders placed, and the time between orders clearly varied.

              Using the probabilistic model, the answers to the two questions (how long between orders and how many in a year) get expressed as probability distributions reflecting the relative likelihoods of various scenarios. Figure 3 shows the distribution of the number of days between orders after ten years of simulated operation. While the average is about 8 days, the actual number varies widely, from 2 to 17.

              Instead of telling your supplier that you will place X orders next year, you can now project X ± Y orders, and your supplier knows better their upside and downside risks. Better yet, you could provide the entire distribution as the richest possible answer.

              Figure 2 A probabilistic scenario of on-hand inventory

              Figure 2 A probabilistic scenario of on-hand inventory

               

              Figure 3 Distribution of days between orders

              Figure 3: Distribution of days between orders

               

              Climbing the Random Staircase to Greater Efficiency

              Moving beyond the deterministic model of  inventory opens up new possibilities for optimizing operations. First, the probabilistic model allows realistic assessment of stockout risk. The simple model in Figure 1 implies there is never a stockout, whereas probabilistic scenarios allow for the possibility (though in Figure 2 there was only one close call around day 70). Once the risk is known, software can optimize by searching  the “design space” (i.e., all possible values of R and Q) to find a design that meets a target level of stockout risk at minimal cost. The value of the deterministic model in this more realistic analysis is that it provides a good starting point for the search through design space.

              Summary

              Modern software provides answers to operational questions with various degrees of detail. Using the example of the time between replenishment orders, we’ve shown that the answer can be calculated approximately but quickly by a simple deterministic model. But it can also be provided in much richer detail with all the variability exposed by a probabilistic model. We think of these alternatives as complementary. The deterministic model bundles all the key variables into an easy-to-understand form. The probabilistic model provides additional realism that professionals expect and supports effective search for optimal choices of reorder point and order quantity.

               

              Leave a Comment
              Related Posts
              The Supply Chain Blame Game:  Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

              The Supply Chain Blame Game: Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

              The supply chain has become the blame game for almost any industrial or retail problem. Shortages on lead time variability, bad forecasts, and problems with bad data are facts of life, yet inventory-carrying organizations are often caught by surprise when any of these difficulties arise. So, again, who is to blame for the supply chain chaos? Keep reading this blog and we will try to show you how to prevent product shortages and overstocking.

              Four Useful Ways to Measure Forecast Error

              The Smart Forecaster

               Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

              forecasting and inventory optimization

              Improve Forecast Accuracy, Eliminate Excess Inventory, & Maximize Service Levels

              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.

               

              Four general types of error metrics 

              1. Scale-dependent error
              2. Percentage error
              3. Relative error
              4 .Scale-free error

              Remark: Scale-dependent metrics are expressed in the units of the forecasted variable. The other three are expresses as percentages.

               

              1. Scale-dependent error metrics

              • Mean Absolute Error (MAE) aka Mean Absolute Deviation (MAD)
              • Median Absolute Error (MdAE)
              • Root Mean Square Error (RMSE)
              • These metrics express the error in the original units of the data.
                • Ex: units, cases, barrels, kilograms, dollars, liters, etc.
              • Since forecasts can be too high or too low, the signs of the errors will be either positive or negative, allowing for unwanted cancellations.
                • Ex: You don’t want errors of +50 and -50 to cancel and show “no error”.
              • To deal with the cancellation problem, these metrics take away negative signs by either squaring or using absolute value.

               

              2. Percentage error metric

              • Mean Absolute Percentage Error (MAPE)
              • This metric expresses the size of the error as a percentage of the actual value of the forecasted variable.
              • The advantage of this approach is that it immediately makes clear whether the error is a big deal or not.
              • Ex: Suppose the MAE is 100 units. Is a typical error of 100 units horrible? ok? great?
              • The answer depends on the size of the variable being forecasted. If the actual value is 100, then a MAE = 100 is as big as the thing being forecasted. But if the actual value is 10,000, then a MAE = 100 shows great accuracy, since the MAPE is only 1% of the actual.

               

              3. Relative error metric

              • Median Relative Absolute Error (MdRAE)
              • Relative to what? To a benchmark forecast.
              • What benchmark? Usually, the “naïve” forecast.
              • What is the naïve forecast? Next forecast value = last actual value.
              • Why use the naïve forecast? Because if you can’t beat that, you are in tough shape.

               

              4. Scale-Free error metric

              • Median Relative Scaled Error (MdRSE)
              • This metric expresses the absolute forecast error as a percentage of the natural level of randomness (volatility) in the data.
              • The volatility is measured by the average size of the change in the forecasted variable from one time period to the next.
                • (This is the same as the error made by the naïve forecast.)
              • How does this metric differ from the MdRAE above?
                • They do both use the naïve forecast, but this metric uses errors in forecasting the demand history, while the MdRAE uses errors in forecasting future values.
                • This matters because there are usually many more history values than there are forecasts.
                • In turn, that matters because this metric would “blow up” if all the data were zero, which is less likely when using the demand history.

               

              Intermittent Demand Planning and Parts Forecasting

               

              The special problem of intermittent demand

              • “Intermittent” demand has many zero demands mixed in with random non-zero demands.
              • MAPE gets ruined when errors are divided by zero.
              • MdRAE can also get ruined.
              • MdSAE is less likely to get ruined.

               

              Recap and remarks

              • Forecast metrics are necessary aids for monitoring and improving forecast accuracy.
              • There are two major classes of metrics: absolute and relative.
              • Absolute measures (MAE, MdAE, RMSE) are natural choices when assessing forecasts of one item.
              • Relative measures (MAPE, MdRAE, MdSAE) are useful when comparing accuracy across items or between alternative forecasts of the same item or assessing accuracy relative to the natural variability of an item.
              • Intermittent demand presents divide-by-zero problems which favor MdSAE over MAPE.
              • When assessing forecasts of multiple items, it often makes sense to use weighted averages, weighting items differently by volume or revenue.
              Leave a Comment

              RECENT POSTS

              The Supply Chain Blame Game:  Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

              The Supply Chain Blame Game: Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

              The supply chain has become the blame game for almost any industrial or retail problem. Shortages on lead time variability, bad forecasts, and problems with bad data are facts of life, yet inventory-carrying organizations are often caught by surprise when any of these difficulties arise. So, again, who is to blame for the supply chain chaos? Keep reading this blog and we will try to show you how to prevent product shortages and overstocking.

              Recent Posts

              • Epicor Prophet 21 with Forecasting Inventory PlanningExtend Epicor Prophet 21 with Smart IP&O’s Forecasting & Dynamic Reorder Point Planning
                Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (Smart IP&O) can help with inventory ordering functionality in Epicor P21, reduce inventory, minimize stockouts and restore your organization’s trust by providing robust predictive analytics, consensus-based forecasting, and what-if scenario planning. […]
              • Supply Chain Math large-scale decision-making analyticsSupply Chain Math: Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight
                Math and the supply chain go hand and hand. As supply chains grow, increasing complexity will drive companies to look for ways to manage large-scale decision-making. Math is a fact of life for anyone in inventory management and demand forecasting who is hoping to remain competitive in the modern world. Read our article to learn more. […]
              • Mature bearded mechanic in uniform examining the machine and repairing it in factoryService Parts Planning: Planning for consumable parts vs. Repairable Parts
                When deciding on the right stocking parameters for spare and replacement parts, it is important to distinguish between consumable and repairable servoce parts. These differences are often overlooked by inventory planning software and can result in incorrect estimates of what to stock. Different approaches are required when planning for consumables vs. repairable service parts. […]
              • Four Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment TargetsFour Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment Targets
                How often do you recalibrate your stocking policies? Why? Learn how to avoid key mistakes when planning replenishment targets by automating the process, recalibrating parts, using targeting forecasting methods, and reviewing exceptions. […]
              • Smart Software is pleased to introduce our series of webinars, offered exclusively for Epicor Users.Extend Epicor Kinetic’s Forecasting & Min/Max Planning with Smart IP&O
                Epicor Kinetic can manage replenishment by suggesting what to order and when via reorder point-based inventory policies. The problem is that the ERP system requires that the user either manually specify these reorder points, or use a rudimentary “rule of thumb” approach based on daily averages. In this article, we will review the inventory ordering functionality in Epicor Kinetic, explain its limitations, and summarize how to reduce inventory, and minimize stockouts by providing the robust predictive functionality that is missing in Epicor. […]

                Inventory Optimization for Manufacturers, Distributors, and MRO

                • Blanket Orders Smart Software Demand and Inventory Planning HDBlanket Orders
                  Our customers are great teachers who have always helped us bridge the gap between textbook theory and practical application. A prime example happened over twenty years ago, when we were introduced to the phenomenon of intermittent demand, which is common among spare parts but rare among the finished goods managed by our original customers working in sales and marketing. This revelation soon led to our preeminent position as vendors of software for managing inventories of spare parts. Our latest bit of schooling concerns “blanket orders.” […]
                • Hand placing pieces to build an arrowProbabilistic Forecasting for Intermittent Demand
                  The New Forecasting Technology derives from Probabilistic Forecasting, a statistical method that accurately forecasts both average product demand per period and customer service level inventory requirements. […]
                • Engineering to Order at Kratos Space – Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage
                  The Kratos Space group within National Security technology innovator Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., produces COTS s software and component products for space communications - Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage […]
                • wooden-figures-of-people-and-a-magnet-team-management-warehouse inventoryManaging the Inventory of Promoted Items
                  In a previous post, I discussed one of the thornier problems demand planners sometimes face: working with product demand data characterized by what statisticians call skewness—a situation that can necessitate costly inventory investments. This sort of problematic data is found in several different scenarios. In at least one, the combination of intermittent demand and very effective sales promotions, the problem lends itself to an effective solution. […]

                    Automatic Forecasting for Time Series Demand Projections

                    The Smart Forecaster

                     Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

                    forecasting and inventory optimization

                    Improve Forecast Accuracy, Eliminate Excess Inventory, & Maximize Service Levels

                    In this video tutorial Dr. Thomas Willemain, co–Founder and SVP Research at Smart Software, presents Automatic Forecasting for Time Series Demand Projections, a specialized algorithmic tournament to determine an appropriate time series model and estimate the parameters to compute the best forecasts methods. Automatic forecasts of large numbers of time series are frequently used in business, some have trend either up or down, and some have seasonality so they are cyclic, and each of those specific patterns requires a suitable technical approach, and an appropriate statistical forecasting method.  Tom explains how the tournament computes the best forecasts methods and works through a practical example.

                    AUTOMATIC FORECASTING COMPLETE-VIDEO-2
                    Leave a Comment

                    RECENT POSTS

                    The Supply Chain Blame Game:  Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

                    The Supply Chain Blame Game: Top 3 Excuses for Inventory Shortage and Excess

                    The supply chain has become the blame game for almost any industrial or retail problem. Shortages on lead time variability, bad forecasts, and problems with bad data are facts of life, yet inventory-carrying organizations are often caught by surprise when any of these difficulties arise. So, again, who is to blame for the supply chain chaos? Keep reading this blog and we will try to show you how to prevent product shortages and overstocking.

                    Recent Posts

                    • Epicor Prophet 21 with Forecasting Inventory PlanningExtend Epicor Prophet 21 with Smart IP&O’s Forecasting & Dynamic Reorder Point Planning
                      Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization (Smart IP&O) can help with inventory ordering functionality in Epicor P21, reduce inventory, minimize stockouts and restore your organization’s trust by providing robust predictive analytics, consensus-based forecasting, and what-if scenario planning. […]
                    • Supply Chain Math large-scale decision-making analyticsSupply Chain Math: Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight
                      Math and the supply chain go hand and hand. As supply chains grow, increasing complexity will drive companies to look for ways to manage large-scale decision-making. Math is a fact of life for anyone in inventory management and demand forecasting who is hoping to remain competitive in the modern world. Read our article to learn more. […]
                    • Mature bearded mechanic in uniform examining the machine and repairing it in factoryService Parts Planning: Planning for consumable parts vs. Repairable Parts
                      When deciding on the right stocking parameters for spare and replacement parts, it is important to distinguish between consumable and repairable servoce parts. These differences are often overlooked by inventory planning software and can result in incorrect estimates of what to stock. Different approaches are required when planning for consumables vs. repairable service parts. […]
                    • Four Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment TargetsFour Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment Targets
                      How often do you recalibrate your stocking policies? Why? Learn how to avoid key mistakes when planning replenishment targets by automating the process, recalibrating parts, using targeting forecasting methods, and reviewing exceptions. […]
                    • Smart Software is pleased to introduce our series of webinars, offered exclusively for Epicor Users.Extend Epicor Kinetic’s Forecasting & Min/Max Planning with Smart IP&O
                      Epicor Kinetic can manage replenishment by suggesting what to order and when via reorder point-based inventory policies. The problem is that the ERP system requires that the user either manually specify these reorder points, or use a rudimentary “rule of thumb” approach based on daily averages. In this article, we will review the inventory ordering functionality in Epicor Kinetic, explain its limitations, and summarize how to reduce inventory, and minimize stockouts by providing the robust predictive functionality that is missing in Epicor. […]

                      Inventory Optimization for Manufacturers, Distributors, and MRO

                      • Blanket Orders Smart Software Demand and Inventory Planning HDBlanket Orders
                        Our customers are great teachers who have always helped us bridge the gap between textbook theory and practical application. A prime example happened over twenty years ago, when we were introduced to the phenomenon of intermittent demand, which is common among spare parts but rare among the finished goods managed by our original customers working in sales and marketing. This revelation soon led to our preeminent position as vendors of software for managing inventories of spare parts. Our latest bit of schooling concerns “blanket orders.” […]
                      • Hand placing pieces to build an arrowProbabilistic Forecasting for Intermittent Demand
                        The New Forecasting Technology derives from Probabilistic Forecasting, a statistical method that accurately forecasts both average product demand per period and customer service level inventory requirements. […]
                      • Engineering to Order at Kratos Space – Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage
                        The Kratos Space group within National Security technology innovator Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc., produces COTS s software and component products for space communications - Making Parts Availability a Strategic Advantage […]
                      • wooden-figures-of-people-and-a-magnet-team-management-warehouse inventoryManaging the Inventory of Promoted Items
                        In a previous post, I discussed one of the thornier problems demand planners sometimes face: working with product demand data characterized by what statisticians call skewness—a situation that can necessitate costly inventory investments. This sort of problematic data is found in several different scenarios. In at least one, the combination of intermittent demand and very effective sales promotions, the problem lends itself to an effective solution. […]