Drive Operational Efficiency and Boost Operational Excellence

Smart Software is pleased to introduce our new series of educational webinars, offered exclusively for Epicor Users. Greg Hartunian, CEO at Smart Software, will lead 45-minute webinar focusing on specific approaches to demand forecasting and inventory planning that will enable you to increase profitability, improve service levels, and reduce inventory holding costs. The presentation will outline the challenges associated with traditional inventory planning and demand forecasting processes and how new probabilistic forecasting and optimization methods will make a big difference to your bottom line. Finally, the presentation will conclude by showing how to increase profitability with software-enhanced inventory planning processes in a Live Demo.

WEBINAR REGISTRATION FORM

 

Please register to attend the webinar. If you are interested but not cannot attend, please register anyway – we will record our session and will send you a link to the replay.

We hope you will be able to join us!

 

SmartForecasts and Smart IP&O are registered trademarks of Smart Software, Inc.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


For more information, please contact Smart Software,Inc., Four Hill Road, Belmont, MA 02478.
Phone: 1-800-SMART-99 (800-762-7899); E-mail: info@smartcorp.com

 

January 2022: Maximize service levels and minimize inventory costs

Smart Software specializes in helping spares carrying operations companies optimize their inventory. For example, a leading Electric Utility customer implemented Smart IP&O in just 90 days and reduced inventory by $9,000,000 while maintaining service levels.

Our Smart IP&O platform includes a patented probabilistic forecasting core engineered specifically for intermittently demanded spare parts. Please join our webinar featuring Greg Hartunian, CEO of Smart Software, who will show how to plan optimal inventory levels and purchase quantities for thousands of items when demand is intermittent, constantly changing, or affected by unexpected events. This webinar is an excellent opportunity to learn how to reduce stock-outs and inventory costs by leveraging data-driven decisions that identify the financial trade-offs associated with changes in demand, lead times, service level targets, and costs.

WEBINAR REGISTRATION FORM

 

Please register to attend the webinar. If you are interested but not cannot attend, please register anyway – we will record our session and will send you a link to the replay.

We hope you will be able to join us!

 

SmartForecasts and Smart IP&O are registered trademarks of Smart Software, Inc.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


For more information, please contact Smart Software,Inc., Four Hill Road, Belmont, MA 02478.
Phone: 1-800-SMART-99 (800-762-7899); E-mail: info@smartcorp.com

 

Increasing Revenue by Increasing Spare Part Availability

The Smart Forecaster

 Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

forecasting and inventory optimization

Let’s start by recognizing that increased revenue is a good thing for you, and that increasing the availability of the spare parts you provide is a good thing for your customers.

But let’s also recognize that increasing item availability will not necessarily lead to increased revenue. If you plan incorrectly and end up carrying excess inventory, the net effect may be good for your customers but will definitely be bad for you. There must be some right way to make this a win-win, if only it can be recognized.

To make the right decision here, you have to think systematically about the problem. That requires that you use probabilistic models of the inventory control process.

 

A Scenario

Let’s consider a specific, realistic scenario. Quite a number of factors have an influence on the results:

  • The item: A specific low-volume spare part.
  • Demand mean: Averaging 0.1 units per day (so, highly “intermittent”)
  • Demand standard deviation: 0.35 units per day (so, highly variable or “overdispersed”).
  • Supplier average lead time: 5 days.
  • Unit cost: $100.
  • Holding cost per year as % of unit cost: 10%.
  • Ordering cost per PO cut: $25.
  • Stockout consequences: Lost sales (so, a competitive market, no backorders).
  • Shortage cost per lost sale: $100.
  • Service level target: 85% (so, 15% chance of a stockout in any replenishment cycle).
  • Inventory control policy: Periodic-review/Order-up-to (also called at (T,S) policy)

 

Inventory Control Policy

A word about the inventory control policy. The (T,S) policy is one of several that are common in practice. Though there are other more efficient policies (e.g., they don’t wait for T days to go by before making adjustment to stock), (T,S) is one of the simplest and so it is quite popular. It works this way: Every T days, you check how many units you have in stock, say X units. Then you order S-X units, which appear after the supplier lead time (in this case, 5 days). The T in (T,S) is the “order interval”, the number of days between orders; the S is the “order-up-to level”, the number of units you want to have on hand at the start of each replenishment cycle.

To get the most out of this policy, you must wisely pick values of T and S. Picking wisely means you cannot win by guessing or using simple rule-of-thumb guides like “Keep an average of 3 x average demand on hand.”  Poor choices of T and S hurt both your customers and your bottom line. And sticking too long with choices that were once good can result in poor performance should any of the factors above change significantly, so the values of T and S should be recalculated now and then.

The smart way to pick the right values of T and S is to use probabilistic models encoded in advanced software. Using software is essential when you have to scale up and pick values of T and S that are right for not one item but hundreds or thousands.

 

Analysis of Scenario

Let’s think about how to make money in this scenario. What’s the upside? If there were no expenses, this item could generate an average of $3,650 per year: 0.1 units/day x 365 days x $100/unit. Subtracted from that will be operating costs, comprised of holding, ordering and shortage costs. Each of those will depend on your choices of T and S.

The software provides specific numbers: Setting T = 321 days and S = 40 units will result in average annual operating costs of $604, giving an expected margin of $3,650 – $604 = $3,046. See Table 1, left column. This use of software is called “predictive analytics” because it translates system design inputs into estimates of a key performance indicator, margin.

Now think about whether you can do better. The service level target in this scenario is 85%, which is a somewhat relaxed standard that is not going to turn any heads. What if you could offer your customers a 99% service level? That sounds like a distinct competitive advantage, but would it reduce your margin? Not if you properly adjust the values of T and S.

Setting T = 216 days and S = 35 units will reduce average annual operating costs to $551 and increase expected margin to $3,650 – $551 = $3,099. See Table 1, right column. Here is the win-win we wanted: higher customer satisfaction and roughly 2% more revenue. This use of the software is called “sensitivity analysis” because it shows how sensitive the margin is to the choice of service level target.

Software can also help you visualize the complex, random dynamics of inventory movements. A by-product of the analysis that populated Table 1 are graphs showing the random paths taken by stock as it decreases over a replenishment cycle. Figure 1 shows a selection of 100 random scenarios for the scenario in which the service level target is 99%. In the figure, only 1 of the 100 scenarios resulted in a stockout, confirming the accuracy of the choice of order-up-to-level.

 

Summary

Management of spare parts inventories is often done haphazardly using gut instinct, habit, or obsolete rule-of-thumb. Winging it this way is not a reliable and reproducible path to higher margin or higher customer satisfaction. Probability theory, distilled into probability models then encoded in advanced software, is the basis for coherent, efficient guidance about how to manage spare parts based on facts: demand characteristics, lead times, service level targets, costs and the other factors. The scenarios analyzed here illustrate that it is possible to achieve both higher service levels and higher margin. A multitude of scenarios not shown here offer ways to achieve higher service levels but lose margin. Use the software.

Scenarios with different service level targets

Stock on hand during one replenishment cycle

 

 

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        February 2021: Learn about the Top 3 Inventory Control Policies
        Smart Software is pleased to introduce our new series of educational webinars, offered exclusively for Epicor Users. In this webinar Dr Thomas R. Willemain, Ph.D., SVP Research and Professor Emeritus at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, defines and compares the three most used inventory control policies. These policies are divided into two groups, periodic review and continuous review. With a better understanding of these policies, you will able to wield your inventory assets more effectively. Tom will explain each policy, how they are used in practice and the pros and cons of each approach. ON-DEMAND VIDEO REGISTRATION FORM  
        Please register to attend the webinar. If you are interested but not cannot attend, please register anyway – we will record our session and will send you a link to the replay.
        Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, having previously held faculty positions at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is co-founder and Senior Vice President/Research at Smart Software, Inc. He also served as an Expert Statistical Consultant to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Ft. Meade, MD and as a member of the Adjunct Research Staff at an affiliated think-tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses Center for Computing Sciences (IDA/CCS). Willemain received the BSE degree (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Princeton University and the MS and PhD degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  
        We hope you will be able to join us!  
        SmartForecasts and Smart IP&O are registered trademarks of Smart Software, Inc.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
        For more information, please contact Smart Software,Inc., Four Hill Road, Belmont, MA 02478. Phone: 1-800-SMART-99 (800-762-7899); E-mail: info@smartcorp.com  
        Want to Optimize Inventory? Follow These 4 Steps

        The Smart Forecaster

         Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

        forecasting and inventory optimization

        Service Level Driven Planning (SLDP) is an approach to inventory planning. It prescribes optimal service level targets continually identifies and communicates trade-offs between service and cost that are at the root of all wise inventory decisions. When an organization understands this relationship, they can communicate where they are at risk, where they are not, and effectively wield their inventory assets.  SLDP helps expose inventory imbalances and enables informed decisions on how best to correct them.  To implement SLDP, you’ll need to look beyond traditional planning approaches such as arbitrary service level targeting (all of my A items should get 99% service level, B items 95%, C items 80%, etc.) and demand forecasting that unrealistically attempts to predict exactly what will happen and when. SLDP unfolds in 4 steps: Benchmark, Collaborate, Plan, and Track.

         

        Step 1. Benchmark Performance

         

        All participants in the inventory planning and investment process must hold a common understanding of how current policy is performing across an agreed upon set of inventory metrics. Metrics should include historically achieved service levels and fill rates, delivery time to customers, supplier lead time performance, inventory turns, and inventory investment. Once these metrics have been benchmarked and can be reported on daily, the organization will have the information it needs to begin prioritize planning efforts. For example, if inventory has increased but service levels have not, this would indicate that the inventory is not being properly allocated across SKUs.  Reports should be generated within mouse-clicks enabling planners to focus on analysis instead of time intensive report generation.   Past performance isn’t a guarantee of future performance since demand variability, costs, priorities, and lead times are always changing. So SLDP enables predictive benchmarking that estimates what performance is likely to be in the future. Inventory optimization software utilizing probability forecasting can be used to estimate a realistic range of potential demands and replenishment cycles stress testing your planning parameters helping uncover how often and which items to expect stockouts and excess.

         

        Step 2. “What if” Planning & Collaboration

         

        “What if” inventory modeling and collaboration is at the heart of SLDP. The historical and predictive benchmarks should first be shared with all relevant stakeholders including sales, finance, and operations. Efforts should be placed on answering the following questions:

        – Are both the current performance and investment acceptable?
        – If not, how should they be improved?
        – Which SKUs are likely to be demanded next and in what quantities?
        – Where are we willing to take more stock out risk?
        – Where must stock-out risk be minimized?
        – What are the specific stock out costs?
        – What business rules and constraints must we adhere to (customer service level agreements, inventory thresholds, etc.)

        Once the above questions are answered, new inventory planning policies can be developed.  Inventory Optimization software can reconcile all costs associated with managing inventory including stockout costs to generate the right set of planning parameters (min/max, safety stock, reorder points, etc.) and prescribed service levels.  The optimal policy can be compared to the current policy and modified based on constraints and business rules. For example, certain items might be targeted at a target service level in order to conform to a customer service level agreement.   Various “what if” inventory planning scenarios can be developed and shared with key stakeholders. For example, you might model how shorter lead times impacts inventory costs. Once consensus has been achieved and the risks and costs are clearly communicated,  the modified policies can be uploaded to the ERP system to drive inventory replenishment.

         

        Step 3. Continually Plan and Manage by Exception

        SLDP continually reforecasts optimized planning parameters based on changing demands, lead times, costs, and other factors. This means that service levels and inventory value have the potential to change.  For example, the prescribed service level target of 95% might increase to 99% the next planning period if the stock-out costs on that item increased suddenly. This is also true if opting to arbitrarily target a given service level or fix planning parameters to a specific unit quantity. For example, a target service level of 95% might require $1,000 in inventory today but $2,000 next month if lead times spiked.  Similarly, a reorder point of 10 units might get 95% service today and only 85% service next month in response to increased demand variability. Inventory Optimization software will identify which items are forecasted to have significant changes in service level and/or inventory value and which items aren’t being ordered according to the consensus plan. Exception lists are automatically produced making it easy for you to review these items and decide how to manage them moving forward. Prescriptive Analytics can help identify whether the root cause of the change is a demand anomaly, change in overall demand variability, change in lead time, or change in cost helping you fine tune the policy accordingly.

         

        Step 4. Track Ongoing Performance

         

        SLDP processes regularly measure historical and current operational performance.   Results must be monitored to ensure that service levels are improving and inventory levels are decreasing when compared to the historical benchmarks determined in Step 1.  Track metrics such as turns, aggregate and item specific service levels, fill rates, out-of-stocks, and supplier lead time performance.  Share results across the organization and identify root causes to operational inefficiencies.  SLDP processes makes performance tracking easy by providing tools that automatically generate the necessary reports rather than placing this burden on planners to manage in Excel. Doing so enables the organization to uncover operational issues impacting performance and provide feedback on what is working and what should be improved.

        Conclusion

        The SLDP framework is a way to rationalize the inventory planning process and generate a significant economic return. Its organizing principle is that customer service levels and inventory costs associated with the chosen policy should be understood, tracked, and continually refined. Utilizing inventory optimization software helps ensure that you are able to identify the least-cost service level.  This creates a coherent, company-wide effort that combines visibility into current operations with scientific assessments of future risks and conditions. It is realized by a combination of executive vision, staff subject matter expertise, and the power of modern inventory planning and optimization software.

        See how Smart Inventory Optimization Supports Service Level Driven Planning and download the product sheet here: https://smartcorp.com/inventory-optimization/

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