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.
Companies launch initiatives to upgrade or improve their sales & operations planning and demand planning processes all the time. Many of these initiatives fail to deliver the results they should. Has your forecasting function fallen short of expectations? Do you struggle with “best practices” that seem incapable of producing accurate results?
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.
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.