Why Days of Supply Targets Don’t Work when Computing Safety Stocks

Why Days of Supply Targets Don’t Work when Computing Safety Stocks

CFOs tell us they need to spend less on inventory without impacting sales.  One way to do that is to move away from using targeted day of supply to determine reorder points and safety stock buffers.   Here is how a days of supply model works:

  1. Compute average demand per day and multiply the demand per day by supplier lead time in days to get lead time demand
  2. Pick a days of supply buffer (i.e., 15, 30, 45 days, etc.). Use larger buffers being used for more important items and smaller buffers for less important items.
  3. Add the desired days of supply buffer to demand over the lead time to get the reorder point. Order more when on hand inventory falls below the reorder point

Here is what is wrong with this approach:

  1. The average doesn’t account for seasonality and trend – you’ll miss obvious patterns unless you spend lots of time manually adjusting for it.
  2. The average doesn’t consider how predictable an item is – you’ll overstock predictable items and understock less predictable ones. This is because the same days of supply for different items yields a very different stock out risk.
  3. The average doesn’t tell a planner how stock out risk is impacted by the level of inventory – you’ll have no idea whether you are understocked, overstocked, or have just enough. You are essentially planning with blinders on.

There are many other “rule of thumb” approaches that are equally problematic.  You can learn more about them in this post

A better way to plan the right amount of safety stock is to leverage probability models that identify exactly how much stock is needed given the risk of stock-out you are willing to accept.   Below is a screenshot of Smart Inventory Optimization that does exactly that.  First, it details the predicted service levels (probability of not stocking out) associated with the current days of supply logic.  The planner can now see the parts where predicted service level is too low or too costly.  They can then make immediate corrections by targeting the desired service levels and level of inventory investment. Without this information, a planner isn’t going to know whether the targeted days of safety stock is too much, too little, or just right resulting in overstocks and shortages that cost market share and revenue. 

Computing Safety Stocks 2

 

Service Parts Planning: Planning for consumable parts vs. Repairable Parts

When deciding on the right stocking parameters for spare parts and service parts, it is important to distinguish between consumable and repairable service parts.  These differences are often overlooked by service parts planning software and can result in incorrect estimates of what to stock.  Different approaches are required when planning for consumables vs. repairable spare parts.

First, let’s define these two types of spare parts.

  • Consumable parts are spares contained within the equipment which are replaced rather than repaired when they fail. Examples of consumable parts include batteries, oil filters, screws, and brake pads.  Consumable spare parts tend to be lower-cost parts for which replacement is cheaper than repair or repair may not be possible.
  • Repairable parts are parts that are capable of being repaired and returned to service after failing due to causes like wear and tear, damage, or corrosion. Repairable service parts tend to be more expensive than consumable parts, so repair is usually preferable to replacement. Examples of repairable parts include traction motors in rail cars, jet engines, and copy machines.

Traditional spare parts planning software fail to do the job

Traditional parts planning software is not well-adapted to deal with the randomness in both the demand side and the supply side of MRO operations.

Demand-Side Randomness
Planning for consumable spare parts requires calculation of inventory control parameters (such as reorder points and order quantities, min and max levels, and safety stocks). Planning to manage repairable service parts requires calculation of the right number of spares. In both cases, the analysis must be based on probability models of the random usage of consumables or the random breakdown of repairable parts.  For over 90% of these parts, this random demand is “intermittent” (sometimes called “lumpy” or “anything but normally distributed”). Traditional spare parts forecasting methods were not developed to deal with intermittent demand. Relying on traditional methods leads to costly planning mistakes. For consumables, this means avoidable stockouts, excess carrying costs, and increased inventory obsolescence. For repairable parts, this means excessive equipment downtime and the attendant costs from unreliable performance and disruption of operations.

Supply-Side Randomness
Planning for consumable spare parts must take account of randomness in replenishment lead times from suppliers. Planning for repairable parts must account for randomness in repair and return processes, whether provided internally or contracted out. Planners managing these items often ignore exploitable company data. Instead, they may cross their fingers and hope everything works out, or they may call on gut instinct to “call audibles” and then hope everything works out.  Hoping and guessing cannot beat proper probability modeling. It wastes millions annually in unneeded capital investments and avoidable equipment downtime.

Spare Parts Planning Software solutions

Smart IP&O’s service parts forecasting software uses a unique empirical probabilistic forecasting approach that is engineered for intermittent demand. For consumable spare parts, our patented and APICS award winning method rapidly generates tens of thousands of demand scenarios without relying on the assumptions about the nature of demand distributions implicit in traditional forecasting methods. The result is highly accurate estimates of safety stock, reorder points, and service levels, which leads to higher service levels and lower inventory costs. For repairable spare parts, Smart’s Repair and Return Module accurately simulates the processes of part breakdown and repair. It predicts downtime, service levels, and inventory costs associated with the current rotating spare parts pool. Planners will know how many spares to stock to achieve short- and long-term service level requirements and, in operational settings, whether to wait for repairs to be completed and returned to service or to purchase additional service spares from suppliers, avoiding unnecessary buying and equipment downtime.

Contact us to learn more how this functionality has helped our customers in the MRO, Field Service, Utility, Mining, and Public Transportation sectors to optimize their inventory. You can also download the Whitepaper here.

 

 

White Paper: What you Need to know about Forecasting and Planning Service Parts

 

This paper describes Smart Software’s patented methodology for forecasting demand, safety stocks, and reorder points on items such as service parts and components with intermittent demand, and provides several examples of customer success.

 

    Four Common Mistakes when Planning Replenishment Targets

    Whether you are using ‘Min/Max’ or ‘reorder point’ and ‘order quantity’ to determine when and how much to restock, your approach might deliver or deny huge efficiencies. Key mistakes to avoid:

     

    1. Not recalibrating regularly
    2. Only reviewing Min/Max when there is a problem
    3. Using Forecasting methods not up to the task
    4. Assuming data is too slow moving or unpredictable for it to matter

     

    We have over 150,000 SKU x Location combinations. Our demand is intermittent. Since it’s slow moving, we don’t need to recalculate our reorder points often. We do so maybe once annually but review the reorder points whenever there is a problem.” – Materials Manager.

     

    This reactive approach will lead to millions in excess stock, stock outs, and lots of wasted time reviewing data when “something goes wrong.” Yet, I’ve heard this same refrain from so many inventory professionals over the years. Clearly, we need to do more to share why this thinking is so problematic.

    It is true that for many parts, a recalculation of the reorder points with up-to-date historical data and lead times might not change much, especially if patterns such as trend or seasonality aren’t present. However, many parts will benefit from a recalculation, especially if lead times or recent demand has changed. Plus, the likelihood of significant change that necessitates a recalculation increases the longer you wait. Finally, those months with zero demands also influence the probabilities and shouldn’t be ignored outright. The key point though is that it is impossible to know what will change or won’t change in your forecast, so it’s better to recalibrate regularly.

     

      Planning Replenishment Targets Software calculate

    This standout case from real world data illustrates a scenario where regular and automated recalibration shines—the benefits from quick responses to changing demand patterns like these add up quickly. In the above example, the X axis represents days, and the Y axis represents demand. If you were to wait several months between recalibrating your reorder points, you’d undoubtedly order far too soon. By recalibrating your reorder point far more often, you’ll catch the change in demand enabling much more accurate orders.

     

    Rather than wait until you have a problem, recalibrate all parts every planning cycle at least once monthly. Doing so takes advantage of the latest data and proactively adjusts the stocking policy, thus avoiding problems that would cause manual reviews and inventory shortages or excess.

    The nature of your (potentially varied) data also needs to be matched with the right forecasting tools. If records for some parts show trend or seasonal patterns, using targeting forecasting methods to accommodate these patterns can make a big difference. Similarly, if the data show frequent zero values (intermittent demand), forecasting methods not built around this special case can easily deliver unreliable results.

    Automate, recalibrate and review exceptions. Purpose built software will do this automatically. Think of it another way: is it better to dump a bunch of money into your 401K once per year or “dollar cost average” by depositing smaller, equally sized amounts throughout the year. Recalibrating policies regularly will yield maximized returns over time, just as dollar cost averaging will do for your investment portfolio.

    How often do you recalibrate your stocking policies? Why?

     

     

    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. Now your old policies (reorder points, safety stocks, Min/Max levels, etc.)  have been obsoleted – just when you think you’d got them right.   Leveraging advanced planning and inventory optimization software gives you the ability to proactively address ever-changing outside influences on your inventory and demand.  To do so, you’ll need to regularly recalibrate stocking parameters based on ever-changing demand and lead times.

    Recently, some potential customers have expressed concern that by regularly modifying inventory control parameters they are introducing “noise” and adding complication to their operations. A visitor to our booth at last week’s Microsoft Dynamics User Group Conference commented:

    “We don’t want to jerk around the operations by changing the policies too often and introducing noise into the system. That noise makes the system nervous and causes confusion among the buying team.”

    This view is grounded in yesterday’s paradigms.  While you should generally not change an immediate production run, ignoring near-term changes to the policies that drive future production planning and order replenishment will wreak havoc on your operations.   Like it or not, the noise is already there in the form of extreme demand and supply chain variability.  Fixing replenishment parameters, updating them infrequently, or only reviewing at the time of order means that your Supply Chain Operations will only be able to react to problems rather than proactively identify them and take corrective action.

    Modifying the policies with near-term recalibrations is adapting to a fluid situation rather than being captive to it.  We can look to this past weekend’s NFL games for a simple analogy. Imagine the quarterback of your favorite team consistently refusing to call an audible (change the play just before the ball is snapped) after seeing the defensive formation.  This would result in lots of missed opportunities, inefficiency, and stalled drives that could cost the team a victory.  What would you want your quarterback to do?

    Demand, lead times, costs, and business priorities often change, and as these last 18 months have proved they often change considerably.  As a Supply Chain leader, you have a choice:  keep parameters fixed resulting in lots of knee-jerk expedites and order cancellations, or proactively modify inventory control parameters.  Calling the audible by recalibrating your policies as demand and supply signals change is the right move.

    Here is an example. Suppose you are managing a critical item by controlling its reorder point (ROP) at 25 units and its order quantity (OQ) at 48. You may feel like a rock of stability by holding on to those two numbers, but by doing so you may be letting other numbers fluctuate dramatically.  Specifically, your future service levels, fill rates, and operating costs could all be resetting out of sight while you fixate on holding onto yesterday’s ROP and OQ.  When the policy was originally determined, demand was stable and lead times were predictable, yielding service levels of 99% on an important item.   But now demand is increasing and lead times are longer.  Are you really going to expect the same outcome (99% service level) using the same sets of inputs now that demand and lead times are so different?  Of course not.  Suppose you knew that given the recent changes in demand and lead time, in order to achieve the same service level target of 99%, you had to increase the ROP to 35 units.  If you were to keep the ROP at 25 units your service level would fall to 92%.  Is it better to know this in advance or to be forced to react when you are facing stockouts?

    What inventory optimization and planning software does is make visible the connections between performance metrics like service rate and control parameters like ROP and ROQ. The invisible becomes visible, allowing you to make reasoned adjustments that keep your metrics where you need them to be by adjusting the control levers available for your use.  Using probabilistic forecasting methods will enable you to generate Key Performance Predictions (KPPs) of performance and costs while identifying near-term corrective actions such as targeted stock movements that help avoid problems and take advantage of opportunities. Not doing so puts your supply chain planning in a straightjacket, much like the quarterback who refuses to audible.

    Admittedly, a constantly-changing business environment requires constant vigilance and occasional reaction. But the right inventory optimization and demand forecasting software can recompute your control parameters at scale with a few mouse clicks and clue your ERP system how to keep everything on course despite the constant turbulence.  The noise is already in your system in the form of demand and supply variability.  Will you proactively audible or stick to an older plan and cross your fingers that things will work out fine?

     

     

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