Tag Archive: data

Is there an ROI on a Forecasting System?

September 12th, 2019

A Client Question
Since forecasting can deliver significant benefits with increased levels of service, inventory turnover and margin improvement, the question that inevitably arises is whether it makes sense to purchase a forecasting or demand planning system. Of course, the answer is: “It depends”.

In one client situation, goods were manufactured in Mexico and purchased from Asia. Key customers were large retail outlets. Demand seemed to change daily.  Yet, lead times were in the months if the ‘right’ stock wasn’t in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time. Of course, they could cover some small changes by adding freight costs but that isn’t a recipe for profit. Improving the forecast would improve their success. So, the question turned to whether a system would have a ROI.

The Answer
In their case, they could achieve a rapid return on investment by using a forecasting system. However, let me say upfront that more often than not, I do not recommend a system. It completely depends on whether it will drive the appropriate level of improvement and associated results or not. In this case, we could easily drive dramatic forecast accuracy improvement since we started out at such a low level of accuracy due to the business environment, industry and key customers. The people understood the importance of the providing forecast feedback and although the key customers didn’t have “good” forecasts to provide, they could provide data we could analyze. In these types of situations, we are able to reduce inventory by a minimum of 20%.  It should be noted, though, that results can be far greater.

Food For Thought
Although forecasting systems can be a great idea to drive service, inventory and margin improvement, they do not always provide a return. Take a step back to understand your industry from a forecasting point-of-view:

  • Is demand constantly changing?
  • Are you supporting small numbers of customer/location points with less than 25 items or is it 100 fold?
  • Are you able to gain key customer input and/or point-of-sale data?
  • Do you have anyone familiar with demand planning and forecasting to be able to make sense of what a system is telling you?
  • And, last but definitely not least, have you found the appropriate scale for your forecasting system?

Trying to kill a fly with an assault rifle is overkill. If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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ERP Selection: Why It Has Become a Strategic Priority

April 18th, 2019

In today’s Amazonian environment, customers expect rapid delivery, over and beyond from cradle to grave, collaborative service, 24/7 accessibility and last-minute changes. Executives are realizing they must upgrade their technology infrastructure to meet and exceed these customer expectations while driving bottom line improvement.

Your ERP decision will be one of the most significant investments your company will undertake, and these projects are wrought with risk. 80% fail to achieve the expected results yet waiting “too long” can put you out of business.

Selecting an ERP System is a Strategic Priority
Because of the significant customer and bottom-line benefit and steep, unintended consequences associated with these projects, the most successful clients realize they must be a strategic priority. By no means should the decision by relegated to a technical expert or project manager. Involve your best and brightest on the team and ensure your executive team is on top of preparation, progress and the inevitable pitfalls – beginning with preparation:

  • Understand business processes: Start by understanding what occurs on a day-to-day basis. One of the top failure points is to assume that people can make the leap from current processes to what every ERP provider claims to be “best practices” on day 1 with no roadmap.
  • Gain strategic and cross-functional input – Since all systems will perform the basics well, success will boil down to what drives your strategy and supports your cross-functional and cross-organization collaboration.
  • Identify critical requirements – Countless hours wasted on typical business requirements (which all systems generally cover); instead, focus 80% of your attention on the requirements unique to your business, industry, and company. Think customer differentiation & profit drivers.
  • Prepare data and be realistic evaluating your process disciplines – No matter how well you prepare, your system will only be as good as your data and process disciplines.
  •  Dedicate appropriate resources – Be an exception. Supplement your resources, bring on appropriate expertise early on and be willing to invest in what will ensure success and mitigate your risk.

5 Critical Factors in Selecting ERP Software

As complicated as most companies seem to make it, the critical factors in software selection boil down to a select few:

  1. Your business objectives – Don’t worry about everything required in every module to run your business. Instead, take a step back and focus on what you need to meet your grow and profit plans.
  2. Cloud or not?  It depends. Dig into the details. Develop your own spreadsheets with paybacks. Consider your technical resources, adeptness with topics like cyber security and the latest technology, and your ability to navigate disruption and risk.
  3. Understand your culture – What are your cultural norms when it comes to change? Do your employees have an entrepreneurial spirit or do they require strict procedures? These answers will be integral to aligning culture and technology.
  4. Think about design upfront – Not thinking through down-the-line implications will derail the best of projects. Incorporate design and a holistic systems-view upfront.
  5. Ballpark estimates and ranges – Get a ballpark upfront, and never accept the first estimate. It’s typically too low! Worse yet, two suppliers that should be within 10% of one another can be 100% different. Ensure you are comparing apples to apples, and remember implementation, not software, is the 80-pound gorilla of ERP success.

ERP is a tough topic! Clients worry they are “too small” or it will be “too expensive”, and in the interim, the competition passes them by since having the technology that supports a superior customer experience without breaking the bank is a “must”, no matter your size or industry. With that said, we have seen clients ready to “throw out” a perfectly suitable ERP system as they think it is the system, not the process or people that is the issue when it isn’t.

If you’d like an expert to assess your situation to partner with you to achieve these types of results, contact us. 

      

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Supply Chain Management is Evolving: How Will It Affect Your Enterprise?

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Last Mile Has Become Last Minute & the GE Port Optimizer

December 10th, 2018

 

There is no doubt – last mile has become last minute, meaning every customer changes his/her mind.  Whether it is due to consumer preference or supporting an industry that seems rather known (For example, it is clear what will be purchased to build a 737 airplane.  You don’t change that end item at the last minute.), when looking down the supply chain, no matter how clear, it all gets jumbled and becomes “last minute”.  

Thus, the key is to understand where your product is within the extended supply chain, when it will be available and where you sit in terms of the priority customers. There are many strategies to support creating this resilient supply chain including the GE Port Optimizer which is one of the most innovative and expansive technology projects taken on by the ports.  Check out the video on this project:

                             

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

The GE Port Optimizer project is an excellent example of the importance of collaboration, the strategic use of data and the impact of the customer experience on creating a resilient supply chain.  Have you thought about how to collaborate with your extended supply chain and related partners for a win-win-win? If you aren’t, your competitor will. Stranger and perhaps smarter yet, have you thought about collaborating with your competitor for a win-win?  

Creating collaborative partnerships of data, visibility and efficiency is a great example of creating a resilient supply chain to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance. Check out our new video and article series as well as our soon-to-be offered Rapid Resilient Supply Chain Assessment service:

 

 

 



Are You Able to be Resilient in Your Decision Making?

November 12th, 2018

 

As we kick off our new series “The Resilient Supply Chain”, we are thinking about all the aspects of resiliency.  It is overwhelming as to the volatility of almost every aspect of the end-to-end supply chain. Just in the last month, there have been many events/ factors that have created disruption:

  • U.S. and Mexico reaching a trade agreement
  • U.S. and Canada still at an impasse with respect to trade negotiations
  • U.S. and China still imposing tariffs on each other
    • Ford cancelled plans to produce a small car in China based on these tariffs.
  • Fires have and are plaguing California – the worst in history
  • The Big Island in Hawaii is just starting to pick up the pieces after the volcano
    • We’ve heard about severe impacts on the businesses and customers in that areAnd earlier this week, although not serious (thank goodness), there was an earthquake in the next town over from our office

The Resilient Supply Chain
Instead of panicking as each of these events or disruptors occur, creating a resilient supply chain can provide a proactive approach to this current state market condition.  One of critical aspects of taking a proactive approach instead of a reactive one is to think about whether you are able to be resilient in your decision making.

Here are some considerations:
1.  People – Good decisions stem from good people.  Thus, it always makes sense to start there.  Do you have people in leadership positions and other key roles that you would want to make decisions in your absence?  (Just this past week, a potential client was killed by a drunk driver while he was on a motorcycle. We would certainly rather be prepared for winning the lottery but the question remains:  Are your people ready to make decisions?)

2.  Data – Although good people can make up for a lot, you also need the “right” information and relevant background to make key decisions.  Do your systems allow you to retrieve meaningful data for decision making? Every single ERP selection client prioritizes business intelligence/dashboard reporting tools as high on their list of priorities for good reason!

3.  Input – Although this can be considered part of people and data, it’s worth calling out on its own.  Do you gain input from trusted sources (colleagues, customers, suppliers, trade association colleagues, industry groups and more)?  Recently, our APICS-IE instructors had an issue arise with updated learning materials – in essence, they were not set up for learning to occur.  Clearly a BIG issue for an education and value-focused organization! Fortunately, after 3 or 4 calls, we had several ideas on how to dramatically improve the process and overcome the obstacle.  In another example that occurred recently for a client project, we had a significant challenge in explaining a complex concept that was critical to success. If we didn’t get past that barrier, results would NOT follow.  It took 5 or 6 calls with excellent input from all as well as testing out ideas before we came up with the ideal way to convey the concept, and it “worked”!

4.  Speed – Slow decision making is worse than no decision making.  In today’s Amazonian marketplace, your customers will be LONG gone if you are slow to make decisions.  I’ve noticed that I am a LOT less tolerant of slow responsiveness even in my own business (and for things I would have been fine with a year ago).  I have to be to remain viable, and so do you! Thus, as it relates to having the ‘right’ people with the ‘right’ data and ‘right’ input, you must also have them at the ‘right’ time.

Have you put thought into your decision-making process before decisions must occur?  Ponder these critical elements, put them in place and you’ll be prepared to successfully navigate the volatility of today’s business decisions.    

 



Warehousing Strategies for Success

July 12th, 2018

The Amazon Effect is creating elevated levels of stress in the warehousing and distribution world. The key question is how to provide immediate deliveries, customized service, easy returns, and more for a reduced cost – a very good question indeed!

A few considerations to ponder:

  •  Storage capacity -What is your storage capacity?  How does that compare with your requirements?  And how can you maximize what you can store in your warehouse?
  • Flow – Are you running in circles around your warehouse to support your customers?  Similar to a manufacturing environment, flow can be an essential ingredient to warehousing success – or not.
  • Productivity – Have you automated what makes sense and will increase your speed/ throughput? If it doesn’t improve speed (and accuracy) to your customers, is it really more productive?  Similarly, is outsourcing truly more productive?
  • Equipment – What equipment is built into your warehousing strategy?  Would an upgrade provide a return on investment?
  • Data – Are you using predictive analytics and data analysis to make informed decisions to stay ahead of your competition?
  • WMS tools – Whether “poor man’s” or sophisticated, do you have a way to pick, put away and sort efficiently?
  • Inventory – Don’t ever forget inventory.  Without having the right product in the right place at the right time at the lowest system-wide inventory (and potentially end-to-end supply chain network inventory), what else will matter?

We have yet to come across a warehousing or distribution client that didn’t have at least a 20% improvement opportunity.  Have you looked into your opportunities lately?  Most likely your competition is!

If you need help thinking through your warehousing and distribution strategy, contact us.