Tag Archive: margin

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.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:
The Strategic Benefit of SIOP
Are You Ready for a Systems Transformation?
Systems Pragmatist



Are Your Ready for a Systems Transformation?

August 12th, 2018

The topic of Systems Transformation seems to be arising more frequently lately.  How do you know if it is time to consider a systems transformation?

Let’s start by defining a systems transformation.  In essence, a systems transformation is an upgrade to the way you perform business – inclusive of your people (allocation of resources, skillsets, etc.), processes, systems and information flows/ collaboration partners.  

Although there is never a bad time in terms of elevating your business performance, the investment and disruption might not be ‘worth it’.   In other words, does the return on investment make it the ‘right’ time?  

Here are questions to ponder in answering that question:

  1.  What are your growth plans? – If you are performing well and growth is slow, you are unlikely to require a systems transformation.  However, if you expect solid levels of growth, you’ll need one. There are two reasons: 1) Even if you are providing an exceptional customer experience currently, to maintain that with growth is a different ballgame.  2) As you grow, if you don’t want to add people to support each new level of growth, you’ll need to devise systems to grow in a scalable, profitable way.
  2. Will your margin levels sustain your business needs?  – Of course, no one would complain about increasing margin.  However, the key question is what has to be done to achieve the result?  Take a look at whether your profitability and margin levels are sufficient to satisfy stock price expectations, investor needs, reinvestment plans, business valuation goals etc.  We have run across “cash cow” businesses that yield enough profit for the owner’s lifestyle and objectives. There might not be a reason to invest in an upgrade. After all, there is risk and disruption with every activity of this magnitude.
  3.  What are your customers’ expectations? – No matter your growth and profitability, if your customers’ expectations are changing or increasing (as they often are in today’s Amazonian environment), the key question is whether you’ll be able to meet them with your current setup.  We see that it can go either way – depends on the industry, your customers, the marketplace etc.
  4. What are your employees expectations and capabilities?  – Will your employees stick with you if everything remains status quo.  This can completely depend on your employees. We have run across people who prefer “what works” and are quite happy not to upset the apple cart.  On the other hand, we have also seen many job seekers look for new opportunities because the executives weren’t interested in growth – the company’s or the employee’s.  It is important to think through what will happen. If you choose the status quo and your employees don’t align, it might force you into a different strategy, and you’ll be worse off for not thinking proactively.

On another note, if you don’t have employees capable of leading a systems transformation, you will need to shore up your team.  Certainly you can supplement with short-term resources to fill in gaps and consultants to advise on skills not required over the long-term but you might also need to fill in gaps within your team.  Don’t overlook this critical component but also don’t let it deter you from making the leap.

  1.  Do you have the funds?  This is the one that deters most executives.  It is quite tempting to hold off until later when it seems like it is a ‘better time’.  However, are you defining better time as one when you feel better or one as defined by the questions above?  As my consulting mentor says, there is always money. It is a matter of priority. Recently, we ran into a client that has never borrowed money.  It can be a smart and prudent strategy if it supports your business objectives. However, the CEO was questioning whether he should continue this strategy.  If it is the ‘right time’ for an upgrade and it will provide a return on investment over the long-term, he should absolutely borrow to fund the near-term investment to gain the value down-the-line.  

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should dig a hole the size of the Grand Canyon to fund your systems transformation.  We have seen many executives accidentally throw money out the window when it wasn’t the best timing or get carried away and spend ‘too much’.  In these cases, you might never recover from your upgrade! Gain advice from experts with an eye to return on investment. Keep in mind that taking prudent risk will be required!



Amazon Fears Driving Supplier Price Concessions at Costco

March 29th, 2018

Amazon continues to wreak havoc on supply chains worldwide.  A client that does not compete directly with Amazon forwarded an article on Costco’s new price pressures on suppliers in response to Amazon concerns.  She said that these types of industry moves were creating disruption and price pressure in her industry, even though unrelated to consumer products.  Thus, we better pay attention!

 

According to an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, Costco’s remarks were the first time a retailer in their coverage has explicitly admitted exacting price concessions from suppliers. That is a BIG deal!  Costco’s CFO has said the brands need to come down in price because they are losing market share. Between these savings from the brands and some Costco savings, consumers are seeing significant savings. Actually, this seems to be right on. I used to buy my Mom’s Starbucks coffee through Amazon until Costco started to carry it. They will put it on promotion once in a while at a great price vs. Amazon and other retailers. My Mom stocked up! Are you thinking about these impacts?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
The article talks about impacts on consumer giants such as P&G and Nestle.  Clearly, these suppliers will be looking for options to increase margin. They are likely to try to pass it on to their suppliers, ask for internal improvement ideas and the like. Are you in the consumer products supply chain? Are you thinking about innovations and improvements to propose?

However, even if in an unrelated industry (such as our client), you are likely to experience impacts.  How will you respond to customer requests based on perceptions created by the Amazon Effect? Have you thought about how to suggest alternatives to reducing price?  On the other hand, are you meeting with your suppliers to discuss win-win strategies to proactive address these industry trends?

No matter your industry, are you considering innovations, automation and technology to reduce costs to remain competitive?  Why not be in front of this wave so that you can be the market leader in your niche instead of racing to catch up? It always puts you in a worse position!