Planning with large retail partners improves availability, reduces costs
Accurate forecasts are central to ImpressArt’s business model, the linchpin in its supply chain that ensures product availability through its strategic channel partners. Jeff Wolter, CEO of ImpressArt, explains why forecasting is so important, how he came to select Smart Inventory Planning and Optimization as Impress Art’s forecasting and demand planning system, and how better forecasts are helping their business.
ImpressArt found its market and grew exponentially in its first decade. “At ImpressArt we eat, sleep, and breathe jewelry making and hand stamping,” says Wolter. We help creative people of all skill levels make beautiful jewelry and become creative entrepreneurs.” These crafters and artisans purchase through three major retail chains and directly through ImpressArt’s fulfillment center. Availability is everything. If it’s there, they buy, if not they will go elsewhere.
As the company grew its supply chain became more complex, its product lines more diverse, with replenishment lead times from China-based factories stretching out 13 weeks or more. Then the Covid pandemic hit – it seemed that everyone was at home, eager to make things, and demand really spiked. Warehouse management took on a new level of urgency as the company experienced increasing inventory misalignment, stocking out in some areas, with excesses in others.
Requirements and Software Selection
The company needed a robust, adaptive forecasting and demand planning process to guide ordering and stocking of thousands of products. ImpressArt wanted a vendor that reflected best industry practices. Key requirements included:
- Setting optimal stocking policies and accurate forecasting. Stocking out means lost sales – buyers will go elsewhere – while overstocking consumes cash, crucial to surviving the pandemic.
- Collaborative planning with key channel partners. Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Jo-Anne Stores drive a large share of ImpressArt’s business. Getting a window into their requirements is crucial.
- Dealing with long and variable replenishment lead times, routinely 13 weeks but fluctuating with Covid-related supply chain delays.
- Ability to methodically forecast and secure the supply of thousands of items, automatically discovering and addressing shifts in demand patterns.
- Integrations with ERP systems of choice: forecasting is so critical that ImpressArt needed to address this first with the knowledge that it will integrate with its chosen ERP down the road.
ImpressArt wanted a vendor that reflected best industry practices.
ImpressArt Selects Smart Inventory Planning & Optimization
ImpressArt narrowed its search down to 8 vendors and concluded that Smart alone excelled across all of the best practices. “I studied all the best practices from numerous sources and found that Smart’s approach was addressing everything,” said Wolter, “specifically better ways to develop the right policies and develop a forecast.” He points to a few areas in particular:
- Collaborative forecasting with key customers, large retail chains: Smart made it easy to plan all items for key named accounts and enter into a dialog with each. Getting this direct input, down to the point of sale, has proven to be enormously valuable.
- Highly visual, friendly user interface: “Data visualization matters,” said Wolter, “it impacts analysis, sets the tone.”
- More than ‘auto pilot’ planning: forecasts are easy to interpret, drill into, and adjust.
- Wolter appreciated the rich analytics – “I found the math to be a cut above. The numbers are right and enable us to generate orders accurately. Rarely do I see something that needs modifying.”
Wolter summed it up: “Smart is helping me save time and automate the inventory planning process, which ultimately is helping me scale our business. We now have a great inventory planning and forecasting process generating measurable value that can be plugged into whatever ERP we choose.”
Learn more about Smart Software at www.smartcorp.com.
Learn more about ImpressArt at www.impressart.com.