Monday, August 11, 2014

Will Analytics help Forecasting?

One definition of Analytics is “Information resulting from the systematic analysis of data or statistics”.

In a recent conversation I had with a contact he said his inventory was 99.8% accurate and that his firm used cycle counting to ensure accuracy.  He shared information with me about the business he obviously cares very much about and has invested a good portion of his life to as we talked about his operations, inventory and growth projections.

We discussed his Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution and he is satisfied with it, in fact his company is planning on an upgrade.  I mentioned that I worked with another company and they asked if bin locations worked.  And I said, yes, if you let the system do what it is designed to do. He agreed that ERP systems can be rigid, but they do work if you let them do what they are designed to do.

I then asked him based on what he shared where his bottleneck was.  Every business has a bottleneck.  They occur at different points at different times.  If a company is growing, then bottlenecks are enviable.  What works at one level of business often does not at a higher level.

He said Forecasting was his biggest challenge at this point in time.  I asked if he meant receiving forecasts from his suppliers.  He said, no, it was sales forecasting.  This company has been growing steadily for some time and one of their product lines is really moving. 

Inventory is key and managing it is much like a dominos effect and is why companies invest in ERP solutions. 

How much raw inventory and finished goods you keep on hand is dependent on your sales projections.  Too little and you may become late, too much and you end up wasting space and paying taxes on what is left hanging around.  You need to fulfill customer orders in a timely manner and you also need to plan. 

In addition to the accuracy level, an indicator many firms use to judge their inventory level is called Inventory Turns or Turnover.  It is a measure of number of times inventory is sold or used in a given time period.  It is usually calculated as a ratio of the cost of goods sold divided by the average inventory.

Back to point.  Would a robust analytics solution that was used to analyze past and current sales to identify trends, be helpful in forecasting future sales and thus predict better inventory levels?

At its core Analytics is used to provide insight into customers and products.

Speed and efficiency are critical in businesses that operate at high volume.  These businesses have a need for real-time visibility into sales and inventories.  Their management has needs for ad-hoc as well as standardized reporting and analytics helps fill that need.

The key to Analytics and ERP in general is data integrity.  The old saying in computer technology is “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.  It means that the value of the information the system generates is only as good as the quality of the information taken in.  One of the goals of implementing these types of solutions is for people to concentrate on the results of the information analyzed and not worry about how they were achieved.

New data engines and tools speed up reporting that once took hours to produce and distribute to just minutes.  Dashboards, once built, provide management with top level overview and drill-down capability that business need to make better decisions more quickly.

Management can determine when they see customer sales dropping off if the problem is related to inventory, usage or a period of inactivity.  Increased awareness allows insight into greater margin awareness.

Greater awareness allows for more accurate forecasting and the ability to identify variances and make adjustments as demands change.  Reacting quickly to issues can make the difference in customer retention.  Knowing why a customer is purchasing less is important so that corrective action can be taken.

Forecasting not only allows users to spot global trends, but also identify specific issues that might otherwise have been missed.  Today’s systems generate and collect a large amount of information.  Tools like Analytics applications give insight.

What are your systems designed to do?  Do you use Analytics to forecast sales and inventory levels?  What successes and pitfalls have you encountered implementing your systems?  How long did it take?  How much did you budget?  Was the Analytics solution part of your ERP solution or was it a third party solution?

Dolvin Consulting works with industry experts to help your organization identify bottlenecks and streamline operations.  Contact us to learn how we can help your business.

No comments:

Post a Comment