Why pick arbitrary Service Level Targets?

The Smart Forecaster

Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

forecasting and inventory optimization

Why pick arbitrary Service Level Targets? Learn how to select automatically the optimal Targets @scale minimizing total costs for your business.

There are unavoidable tradeoffs between inventory cost and item availability. The Smart Inventory Optimization (SIO) app calculates all the key metrics to expose those tradeoffs. You can try “what-if” experiments such as “What happens to shortage cost if we raise the reorder point from 5 to 10?”. Better yet, you can let SIO find the optimal operating policy, e.g., the lowest cost combination of reorder point and order quantity that guarantees a 95% service level.

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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

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    • Blanket Orders Smart Software Demand and Inventory Planning HDBlanket Orders
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        Backing into Safety Stock is the Safe Play

        The Smart Forecaster

         Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

        forecasting and inventory optimization

        We frequently encounter confusion about the process of setting safety stock levels. This blog hopes to clarify the issue.

        Safety stock is a critical component in any system of inventory management. Indeed, some inventory software treats safety stock as the key decision variable in the quest to balance inventory cost against item availability. Unfortunately, that approach is not the best way to strike the balance.

        First, realize that safety stock is part of a general equation:

        Inventory Target = Average Lead Time Demand + Safety Stock.

        Average Lead Time Demand is defined as the average units demanded multiplied by the average replenishment lead time. Example: If daily demand averages 2 units and the average lead time is 7 days, then the average lead time demand is 2 x 7= 14 units. Keeping 14 units on hand suffices to handle typical demand.

        But we all know that demand is random, so keeping enough stock on hand to cover the average lead time demand invites stockouts. As we like to say, “The average is not the answer.” The smart answer is to add in some safety stock to accommodate any random spikes in demand. But how much?

        There’s the problem. If you try to guesstimate a number for the safety stock, you are on thin ice. How do you know what the “right” number is?  You may think that you don’t have to worry about that because you have a good-enough answer now, but that answer has a sell-by date. Lead times change. So do demand patterns. So do company priorities. That means today’s good answer may become tomorrow’s blunder.

        Some companies try to wing it using a crude rule of thumb approach. For instance, they may say something like “Set safety stock at an additional two weeks of average demand.” This approach is seductive: It only needs simple math, and it is clear.  But for the reasons listed in the previous paragraph, it’s foolish. Better to get a good answer than a convenient answer.

        You need a principled, objective way to answer the question that takes account of the mathematics of randomness.  More than that, you need an answer that is linked to the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of the system: inventory cost and item availability.

        Simple logic gives you some sense of the answer, but it doesn’t provide the number you need. You know that more safety stock increases both cost and availability, while less safety stock decreases both. But without knowing how much those metrics will change if you change the safety stock, you have no way to align the safety stock decision with management’s intent for striking the balance between cost and availability.

        Rather than flying blind, you can back into the choice of safety stock by first finding the right choice for inventory target. Once you’ve done that, the safety stock pops out by a simple subtraction:

         Safety Stock = Inventory Target – Average Lead Time Demand.

        Manager In Warehouse With ClipboardOften times, companies will state that they don’t carry safety stock because the safety stock field in their ERP system is blank. Nearly always, safety stock is built into the targeted inventory level they have established.  So, using the above formula to “back out” how much safety stock you are building into the plan is quite helpful.  The key is not just to know how much safety stock you are carrying but the link between your inventory target, safety stocks, and its corresponding KPI’s.

        For instance, suppose you can tolerate only a 5% chance of stocking out while waiting for replenishment (inventory texts call this interval the “period of risk.”). Software can examine the demand history of each item and work out the odds of stockout based on the thousands of different demand scenarios that can occur during the lead time. Then the right answer for the inventory target is the choice that leads to no more than a 5% stockout risk. Given that target and knowing the average lead time demand, the appropriate safety stock value falls right out by subtraction. You also get to know the average holding, ordering and shortage costs.

        That’s what we mean by “backing into the safety stock.” Start with company objectives, determine the appropriate inventory target, then derive the safety stock as the last step. Don’t start with a guess about safety stock and hope for the best.

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              Gaming Out Your Logistical Response to the Corona Virus

              The Smart Forecaster

               Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

              forecasting and inventory optimization

              ​As the world holds its breathe to see how the new corona virus (2019-nCOV) will play out, we cross our fingers for all those currently in quarantine or under treatment and pray that health authorities around the world will soon get the upper hand.

              This short note is about one way your business can develop a plan to adjust to one of the likely fallouts from the virus: sudden increases in the time it takes to get inventory replenishment from suppliers. Supply chains around the world are being disrupted. If this happens to you, how can you react in a systematic way?

              Reacting to Longer Lead Times

              This is a problem that can be solved using advanced supply chain analytics. Presumably, you may have already used this technology to make good choices for the control parameters used in managing all your inventory items, e.g., values for Min and Max or Reorder Point and Order Quantity. The specific technical question addressed here is how to convert an increase in replenishment lead time to changes in those control parameters.

              In general, longer lead times require fatter inventories if you want to maintain a high level of customer service. This general rule translates into larger values of Min and/or Max. How much larger depends critically on what new, longer lead time values will appear and their probabilities of occurring.

              While many planning software systems assume a fixed lead time, the reality is that almost all lead times have some degree of randomness. Typically, ignoring that randomness increases stockout risk, so having a good estimate of the probability distribution of lead times is important. In normal times, your transactional data can be used to estimate that relationship. But sudden disruptions like 2019-nCOV create unprecedented situations in which you have to make educated guesses about what new delays you will see and how likely they are. We will assume here that you can imagine some such scenarios and want to figure out how to best respond to them.

              An Example using Advanced Software

              To illustrate this type of prospective planning, consider a hypothetical example. One item, a spare part, has an established pattern of replenishment lead times, with delays of 5, 10 and 15 days occurring with 15%, 70% and 15% probabilities, respectively. Given this distribution and a random demand averaging one unit every 5 days, values of Min = 5 and Max = 10 do a good job. Figure 1 shows a simulation of 10 years of daily operation under this scenario. Fill rate and service level are high, and stockouts are infrequent.

              Now suppose that disruptions in the supply chain create a less favorable distribution of lead time, with a 50:50 mix of 15 and 30 days. Figure 2 shows how badly the current values of Min and Max perform in this new scenario. Fill rate and service level plummet due to frequent stockouts. Operating costs more than triple due to penalties for backorders. Only inventory investment (the average dollar value of stock on the shelf) seems to get better, but this happens only because so often there are backorders with nothing left on the shelf. The shift to longer lead times clearly requires new higher values of Min and Max.

              Figure 3 shows how the system performs when the Min is increased from 5 to 10 and the Max from 10 to 15. This change compensates for the longer lead times, restoring the previous high levels of fill rate and service level. Inventory investment is necessarily greater, but operating costs are actually lower than before.

              Summary

              Changes in normal operating conditions require adjustments in the way inventory items are managed. One such change looming large on this date is the potential impact of the 2019-nCOV Corona virus on supply chains, with anticipated increases in replenishment lead times.

              Changes in lead times require changes in inventory control parameters such as Min’s and Max’s. These changes are difficult to make with any confidence using pure guesswork. But with some estimate of the increase in lead times, you can use advanced software to learn how to make these adjustments with some confidence.

              This note illustrates this point using simulations of the daily operation of an inventory control system.

              Figure 1 Simulation of normal operations using current replenishment lead times, Min and Max

              Figure 2 Simulation of abnormal operations using longer lead times and current Min and Max

              Figure 3 Simulation of abnormal operations using longer lead times and revised Min and Max

              Leave a Comment

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                  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.” […]
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                    There is a way your business can develop a plan to adjust increasing Demand. Cloud computing companies with unique server and hardware parts, e-commerce, online retailers, home and office supply companies, onsite furniture, power utilities, intensive assets maintenance or warehousing for water supply companies have increased their activity during the pandemic.Delivery service companies, cleaning services, liquor stores and canned or jarred goods warehouses, home improvement stores, gardening suppliers, yard care companies, hardware, kitchen and baking supplies stores, home furniture suppliers with high demand are facing stockouts, long lead times, inventory shortage costs, higher operating costs and ordering costs. Garages selling car parts and truck parts, pharmaceuticals, healthcare or medical supply manufacturers and safety product suppliers are dealing with increasing demand.

                    Clean, accessible and actionable data under one roof

                    The Smart Forecaster

                    Pursuing best practices in demand planning,

                    forecasting and inventory optimization

                    Is your data isolated in Excel Silos? Do you have data in many disparate systems? Smart IP&O Solution brings clean, accessible and actionable data under one roof.

                    Scattering all your data across multiple spreadsheets gets in your way. Pulling all the data together in the Smart Platform on the cloud lets you automatically refresh the data every day and always see the full picture. Then you can run analytics in the Smart Inventory Optimization app to see how you’re doing in terms of multiple cost and performance metrics and how those metrics would change if you changed key drivers, such as supplier lead times.

                    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.

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                    • Epicor Prophet 21 with Forecasting Inventory PlanningExtend Epicor Prophet 21 with Smart IP&O’s Forecasting & Dynamic Reorder Point Planning
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                    • 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. […]