Demand planning has evolved to be an integral function of business over the past decade. It addresses the major concerning issue of matching the demand while avoiding wastage. In this article, we will try to cover everything important related to demand planning and why has become so important for business. Before we delve into the details of demand planning, let us understand the concept of demand planning vividly.
Demand Planning: Definition and Concept
As the name suggests, demand planning refers to planning the stock against the forecasted consumer demand. It is a cross-functional process that enables businesses to always have the necessary stock of products while minimizing excess inventory and avoiding supply chain disruptions. It is a continuous process that forms an important function of a business. The constant improvement in technology has made this business function possible. However, its accuracy is still not dependable.
Demand Planning Vs. Demand Forecasting
Often the two are used interchangeably but they differ in their scope and function. Demand forecasting is only a part of the supply chain demand planning process. Demand forecasts are usually done for a specific period of time that varies for different organizations. The demand forecasting process lays the groundwork for the crucial process of demand planning.
Demand Planning: Process
Demand planning is done through close observation of sales, seasonality data, historical sales, and consumer trends. This assessment enables the business to meet customer demand in an efficient manner. In order to achieve accurate results, businesses use statistical forecasting. In statistical forecasting, statisticians use historical data to generate supply chain forecasts using various advanced statistical algorithms. Data-backed forecasts in demand planning help to avoid stock-outs or overstocks while ensuring customer satisfaction.
Each business has different demands and hence demand different algorithm. In order to select the best algorithm for a business, the statisticians have to try different algorithms to see which forecast is more accurate by reviewing each model’s accuracy and bias measures. With the help of statistical forecasting, demand planners can easily identify outliers and exclusions that are based upon user-defined parameters that include standard deviation or the interquartile range.
Demand Planning: Significance
The most important function of demand planning is to strike the right balance between customer demand and stock inventory. This is imperative for delivering customer satisfaction and thereby filling the sales funnel of the business. Although the function of demand planning is very crucial, it is very difficult to achieve accurate results. The complexity associated with demand planning is due to the fact that it requires coordination across the entire organization.
Excess inventory not only blocks the working capital of the business but also adds inventory carrying costs that could otherwise be utilized towards buying fresh stocks or developing the technologies used in the business. On the other hand, a shortage of stock supply can lead to backorders, hasty buying of costly raw materials, and most importantly a bad image of the organization. Shortage of stock is one of the most prominent causes of customer dissatisfaction that can adversely affect the goodwill of the organization.
Demand Planning: Procedure and Best Practices
Demand planning is as complex as it is important for the business. It is a multi-level process that involves speculation and good analytical skills. To make you understand things better, we have broken down the entire process into simple steps.
1. Defining and Collecting Relevant Data
The first and most important step is understanding the data that would be relevant in forecasting the demand. The data is subjective to the nature of business and the scope of its operations. For this, the planners discuss the data with the internal sales and marketing team about the timing of price changes, marketing campaigns, and promotions that could affect demand.
2. Utilizing External Data
Now that your internal database is ready, the next step is to collect the relevant external data. The external data could include metrics regarding the recent performance and delivery timelines of suppliers and distributors and the latest purchasing habits of your key customers. Other factors include the economic conditions that can have a bearing on the demand and sales of your product.
3. Analyze Demand Forecast
After collecting and analysing the internal and external data, professionals decide upon the most appropriate forecasting model that is relevant to your business. After a model is decided, the next step is to determine how much inventory is needed to fulfill the forecasted demand.
4. Measure Results
The final step is to measure the results against the forecasted demand. This step is very important to ensure that you are able to plan the future forecast accurately. For measuring the results, demand planning professionals identify the Key Performance Indicators(KPI) that help you determine the efficiency of your planning.
Now that you know the importance and other nuances of demand planning, it is just about time that you invest in a good team that can ensure a smooth flow of supply.