Configuring Planvisages Demand Forecasting Solutions
Planvisage Demand Forecasting Solution/Software incorporates inventory forecasting, replenishment, and distribution planning. One of many strengths of this application is the database must be configured to suit and support every company, and where applicable each division within the company. Planvisage’s solution supports retail, wholesale, distribution, and manufacturing enterprises. This document focuses on manufacturing client needs.
There may be many ways to skin a cat. With my experience and personality, I share a process that works successfully for me. The deliverable is a document provided to client management to facilitate further discussions ensuring all business functions think through solution ramifications identified and recommendations or suggestions made. Inevitably I present my findings to the management team to allow constructive collaboration and address questions or concerns. In general I am less interested in the current business processes. Through implementation of Planvisage’s solution, how would management see an improved business process operate to:
- support higher levels of on time delivery to customers,
- lower investment in inventory,
- achieve greater profitability?
In working through this fact gathering process I require the support of a seasoned client manager with an in depth knowledge of their business to help guide and direct my research efforts. Preparing a cost-benefit analysis provides executive management with the motivation to keep the project on track to reap the rewards. After final revision of the document, we hand it to application developers to configure the database, prepare to upload data from the enterprise system, and begin project management, management education, and user training activities. Prior to kickoff we still have a critical task—that of mapping where the input data will come from to feed Planvisage, and what data needs to be returned to the host system. Warning: if you suffer from toxic data, this is the biggest cause of implementation delay.
It is important to understand that if we are dealing with two divisions in the same company making identical product to a similar customer base that we might have different configurations to accommodate management’s organizational techniques and style plus criteria requested of the executive team. We do not follow a cookie-cutter approach.
Below you will find a list of questions. These are not definitive. If they were I could sit in the comfort of my office and email the questions to the various managers and assemble their responses to have all the answers I need. In working with a client company, as you cross over the various silos making up the organizational chart, I take into account the personalities of the managers. Who is dominant, who is unyielding, uncompromising, and resistant to change? The reality is we work with people in an organization and need to pay attention to their likes, dislikes, and fear of change. Some of the questions below may be asked, others not. There may be additional questions to further investigate issues that arise from the interaction with the management team. We must remain flexible.
Cast in Stone
Once the information has been collected, assessed, and the solution configured, will the client be forced to live with the result forever? Never. Business is ever changing. Change is constant. With a well-trained user administrator he or she will be able to make necessary adjustments to the data structures over time. Unless there is a major change in the business such as a merger or acquisition, there may be very little need to call in consulting help to review and revise the database configuration.
Where to begin? Before my on site visit I review the company website. This provides clues about families of product and sometimes how many facilities produce those products, and their location. On site I start with a factory tour beginning with raw material receiving and follow the flows to finished goods inventory. The tour provides an appreciation of the number of production lines and families of product.
Information gathering begins in the conference room. I work in conjunction with a company representative interviewing each functional department including Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Engineering, Purchasing, Production Planning, Inventory Planning, Logistics, Information Technology, Finance and Accounting, and the General Manager. Please note that questions below are not sequenced in any particular order, but rather serves as a cheat sheet that I can peruse to make sure I did not forget to discuss relevant issues.
Pull the Plug
If we are unable to address critical business issues with our solution, or generate a favorable Return on Investment (ROI), or if our solution is not a fit for addressing desired challenges, then that is a valid reason to pull the plug on the project, and for us to move on to our next assignment.
The questions and fact gathering process continues.
I require a basic understanding if products are:
- Make-to-Stock (MTS),
- Make-to-Order (MTO),
- Assemble-to-Order (ATO),
- Engineer-to-Order (ETO), etc., or a combination of production strategies?
- Is the company or division organized as local, regional, national, or an international operation?
- Do you have a few key measures to determine daily/weekly/monthly if your business plan is on track?
- Where is your business hurting?
- If we are able to address your pain points, what are they?
- What do you believe will help increase profitability in your organization?
- How many production and distribution facilities are in place?
- How frequently are your demand plans reviewed and revised?
- How frequently are your supply plans reviewed and revised?
- Are your current planning processors using a push inventory technique into storage, or do you actively use a pull methodology from customers or DC to determine demand?
- Do you employ a statistician?
- Are Excel spreadsheets in widespread use within your organization?
- How does Excel support your business process?
- Are you using Business Intelligence (BI) cubes with drill down capability? If yes are they of benefit, and how do they support decision making?
- What is your total head count?
- Do you have any regulatory compliance constraints in your line of business (e.g. FDA, SOX, Environmental, Healthcare, etc.)?
- If you go ahead with this project, will you have personnel to dedicate to this project?
- If this project becomes a reality, will we be able to count on your leadership to address people issues, especially senior management challenges?
- Who are your key competitors?
- What percent market share does your company own?
- What percent market share did your company own 5 years ago?
- Do you have a goal for market share percentage over the next 5-years, and if so, how much?
- What steps are you taking to achieve this goal?
- Is the company a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) organization?
- How many market segments to you manage? Please list them
- How does the company market products; trade shows, trade publications, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, internet, social media?
- What was your sales percentage increase over the past 2-years?
- Where did this increase come from—new markets, new customers, new products, acquisitions?
- Describe your current planning process, how do you determine demand?
- How many days/weeks/months/quarters/years is your current planning horizon?
- What are your impediments to increasing sales and delivering a higher level of customer service?
- If you MTS what percent of the time do you have the required inventory available to ship?
- With any of the other production strategies, what is your cumulative lead time to ship product?
- How does your cumulative lead time compare to your competitors?
- Which competitor is the most responsive?
- What role, if any, does promotional activity have on your business?
- If a supplier to retail, is there a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) program in place?
- If a supplier to retail or automotive, are daily EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) transactions received?
- How many sales offices?
- How many sales channels of distribution?
- Are sales personnel employees, or are sales via representative organizations, or a combination of these sales strategies?
- How many sales personnel are employed?
- What is the organization structure of the sales team?
- Are metrics in place to measure customer satisfaction, and if yes what are the current results?
- Have you set higher goal for those metrics?
- Are sales personnel held accountable for accuracy of sales forecasting?
- How are sales personnel incentivized?
- Are sales input by customers via the internet?
- How many active customers?
- What is your on-time delivery performance to customers within tolerance?
- How wide is that tolerance factor?
- How do you group customers into categories?
- What is the typical life cycle of a product?
- How many products are phased out and new products introduced each year?
- How many products undergo minor engineering or cosmetic changes including new packaging?
- Is your business seasonal, and if yes when is the seasonal high and low?
- What tools are you currently using for forecasting?
- What forecasting techniques are employed?
- How do you currently drive forecast demand to production and purchasing?
- Do you measure forecast accuracy?
- At what level of detail do you measure forecast accuracy?
- Is forecast accuracy measured in units, or monetary terms?
- How far out in days do you measure forecast accuracy? Is this period tied to cumulative lead time?
- Do you use an ATP—Available-to-Promise process where you guarantee a delivery date to your customers and stick to it?
- Can you specify at what level of aggregation you wish to make forecast adjustments?
- Would your preference be to adjust forecast in units, equivalent units, or monetary values—cost, selling or margin?
- How many different product hierarchies would meet your company needs?
- Do you allocate customers to a specific sales person?
- What if a national or international customer, do you allocate customers to a salesperson by region or account?
- Do you divide the country into regions for sales management purposes?
- Do you divide the sales personnel by type of product?
- How many different product groups could each product be associated with?
- Do you supply end caps to retailers?
- Do you have any other form of kitting?
- Do you use the concept of Attach Rates (for example) to forecast mobile phones and plan for the matching percentage demand of head phones?
- How many regions would you plan if given a choice?
- Do you have a supersession or item revision process in place to link discontinued product to its replacement product in order to forecast the new product using the history of the old?
- Do you require life cycle planning with phase in and out?
- How does Customer Service typically interface with customers?
- What methods do you use to take customer orders?
- Are you called on when taking a customer order to promise a firm delivery date?
- Do you have key customers where they provide a call-off against a blanket order to ship product?
- How are customer complaints addressed?
- Does this division source product from another division within the group?
- How many supplies do you source from?
- What percent is domestic versus international?
- What are typical lead times?
- How do you classify your vendors?
- Do vendors require you to purchase in minimum quantities?
- Do vendors offer steeper discounts for bulk buys?
- How frequently do you negotiate supplier pricing, and for what period does that cover?
- Do you operate with blanket orders and regular call offs?
- Do you measure vendor on-time delivery performance?
- Do you measure vendor performance in delivering the correct quantity and quality of product?
- Do you have critical raw materials that might not be available year-round, or may be very costly in the off season, products like recycled soda bottles more freely obtainable in the summer?
- Do you operate with suppliers to establish a preferred vendor relationship program?
- Do you have sufficient production and storage capacity to build ahead of a season?
- Do you have Time Fence policies in place? What is the duration for each of Firm, Mix, and Future?
- Do you have preferred lots sizes for purchase or production orders?
- Do you need to keep track of manufactured batch lots to be used later in the event of a recall?
- What lot size replenishment methods does your company employ; lot-for-lot, order minimums, order multiples, period order quantity, order maximum, order time?
- Do you currently use Safety Stock as a buffer against supply and demand variations?
- How is safety stock calculated? How frequently is it reviewed and updated?
- Do you use the concept of safety time, a variable safety stock?
- Do you need to employ production sequencing techniques such as light to dark colors, wide to narrow material sizes to minimize changeovers?
- Do you run campaigns for low demand product over an established number of weeks looking forward?
- Do you need to keep track of batch lots for regulatory or recall reasons?
- Does your business call for planning and inventory accuracy to several decimal places?
- Does your production environment follow LEAN, FLOW, and/or Just-in-Time (JIT) methodologies?
- How many production shift operations do you run?
- Do you make frequent use of overtime?
- Are you constrained by highly skilled worker shortage?
- Do you get frequent late night or weekend calls because you need to replan the plant schedule because of machine breakdowns or material quality issues?
- Under what circumstances are you called on to expedite orders and how frequently does this occur?
- What technique do you employ to replenish inventory, reorder point or time phased planning?
- Would you prefer to plan in daily/weekly/monthly planning periods?
- How would you define a replenishment hierarchy?
- Do you work with Bill of Materials?
- Do you work with Planning Bill of Materials?
- Do you work with kitting?
- Do you plan for truck or container loads by weight or cube?
- Do you plan pallet loads by level with mixed product per level?
- Do you use an ABC Pareto 80/20 stratification? If so, what are the parameters?
- Is your ABC based on history, forecast or both?
- Do you use an XYZ frequency of sale stratification? If so, what are the parameters?
- What is you inventory record accuracy?
- Do you work with locked stock rooms?
- At what point do you record inventory transactions?
- Do you use back flushing techniques?
- What is your Bill of Material accuracy?
- Do you cycle count, and if yes how frequently, and what triggers a cycle count?
- Are you able to shut the factory for special holidays like Independence Day and Christmas?
- Do you have maintenance periods where you have plant shut downs?
- Do you have a formal machine maintenance program?
- How would re-planning multiple times per day to keep schedules valid benefit your organization?
- How would scheduling high value, high volumes orders in small lot sizes frequently benefit the business?
- Do you require to work with different units of measure, and if so which UOMs?
- Do you plan for diminishing potency with your products?
- Do you plan for limited shelf life with your products?
- When you ship to a distribution center or customer, do you plan container or truck loads?
- Do you use weight or cube, or both in planning containers, trucks, rail cars, etc.?
- Do you have a defined schedule when you ship product?
- What do you do if the truck or container is over full?
- What do you do if the truck or container is under loaded?
- Do you have situations where the DC cannot accommodate more inventory?
- Do you use cross-docking techniques?
- How frequently do you ship product from DC to DC to rebalance inventory?
- Do you have a formal ECN—Engineering Change Notice process?
- How many product changes are introduced annually?
- If an ETO operation, what is the engineering design process?
- What is the typical ETO lead time to get new product to production?
- How much historical data is available?
- At what level of detail is this data stored (item by customer, by location, by date)?
- What enterprise system do you use?
- How many sales orders do you process by month?
- How many line items on average are there per sales order?
- How many purchase orders do you process by month?
- How many line items per purchase order on average?
- Do you share future purchase demand by supplier via the internet?
- Can this data be modified by the supplier?
- Do you share potential customer demand projections with customers via the internet?
- Are customers able to modify this data?
- What is your hardware/software products of choice?
- Do you have a non-negotiable corporate standard defining hardware and software technology to be employed?
- Would mobile access be beneficial to uses?
- How many products in your database?
- How many of those products are active?
- How many suppliers in your database?
- How many suppliers are active?
- How many customers in your database?
- How many customers are active?
Finance and Accounting
- What is the start date of your financial year?
- Do you use a 13-week quarterly calendar for planning purposes?
- Do all your customers operate on a regular work week, or do some plan with a Monday (or some other day of the week) start day?
- How do you create budget information?
- How frequently do you review budgets?
- How frequently do you measure budget accuracy?
- At what level of detail do you budget?
- What is the value of inventory at any point in time?
- What are your inventory turns?
- What would you like your inventory turns to be?
- Do you require working with multiple currencies, and if so which currencies?
- How many Data Measures do you see your company requiring (Original History, Adjusted History, Forecast, Adjusted Forecast, Customer Forecast, Sales Forecast, Budget, etc.)?
At the end of the day we need management to buy into the Planvisage Demand Planning solution because they know and understand it will be of significant benefit to their business, customers, suppliers, and team members. Planvisage is a stress reliever.
Every client company looks for different reporting over and above those reports available within Planvisage, or reports that can be generated by the user community? Are their specific reports that must be supplied with the solution?
Planvisage is totally flexible in allowing client companies to use their own terminology, generally that used within their industry. For example, if you use recipe in place of bill of material, it would be helpful to know. Are you aware of specific terms that should replace industry generic terms in the software? User Administrators are equipped to make these changes without consulting or developer help. Planvisage accommodates foreign languages.
The process described above is aimed at getting buy in from the management team. If approved the real work begins and at project launch we dive into gathering significantly more detail. The knowledge gleaned from this questionnaire process together with detail used to create a report for management is a great way to begin with an education session for the executive and line management to explain how Planvisage will benefit the organization.
These many questions serve multiple purposes. Initially it helps us determine data availability and requirements. This exercise will not support mapping data from the enterprise system to Planvisage. The mapping will only be undertaken once a final decision is made to move forward with the Planvisage Demand Forecasting investment. However, we can now begin the structures of the hierarchies and parallel hierarchies to support the way that management chooses to manage their business. This information in diagrammatic form will provide all team members with a greater understanding of how the application will support greater productivity for all knowledge workers. Don’t forget the ultimate goal is to expand the planning horizon, increase on-time delivery to customers, increase sales, reduce inventory investment by improving inventory turns, and ultimately enjoy greater productivity, profitability, and less stress.
How do i achieve growth?
The solution does not lie
in traditional transactional
ERP systems, which are
reactive in nature. You
need a decision-making
system like Planvisage