Forecasting in a Supply Chain in Practice

Collaborate in building forecasts. Collaboration with one’s supply chain partners can often create a much more accurate forecast. It takes an investment of time and effort to build the relationships with one’s partners to begin sharing information and creating collaborative forecasts. However, the supply chain benefits of collaboration are often an order of magnitude greater than the cost (collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 10). The reality today, however, is that most forecasts do not even account for all the information available across the different functions of a firm. As a result, firms should aim to put a sales and operations planning process in place (discussed in Chapter 9) that brings together the sales and operations functions when planning.

Share only the data that truly provide value. The value of data depends on where one sits in the supply chain. A retailer finds point-of-sale data to be quite valuable in measuring the performance of its stores. However, a manufacturer selling to a distributor that, in turn, sells to retailers does not need all the point-of-sale detail. The manufacturer finds aggregate demand data to be quite valuable, with marginally more value coming from detailed point-of-sale data. Keeping the data shared to what is truly required decreases investment in IT and improves the chances of successful collaboration.

Be sure to distinguish between demand and sales. Often, companies make the mistake of looking at historical sales and assuming that this is what the historical demand was. To get true demand, however, adjustments need to be made for unmet demand due to stockouts, competitor actions, pricing, and promotions. Failure to do so results in forecasts that do not rep­resent the current reality.

Source: Chopra Sunil, Meindl Peter (2014), Supply Chain Management: Strategy, Planning, and Operation, Pearson; 6th edition.

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