Here are eight things that every demand planner should put on their wish list this holiday season.

Let’s face it, forecasting the future is harder than ever, and especially when it comes to supply chains. But any fortune teller with a crystal ball or genie with a lamp will even admit that sometimes it’s all just a big guessing game. Of course, this doesn’t play out very well in the business arena, where effective demand planning positively impacts everything from production to inventory, distribution to marketing—and all steps in between.

The good news is that this is a great time to assess where you are and make some changes for the year ahead. With the holidays right around the corner, any demand planners that don’t have a Secret Santa or genie in a bottle should add some or all of these “must haves” to their wish lists for the year ahead:

  1. Automated forecast integration from external suppliers.

    Planning that only happens within the four walls of your facility doesn’t work anymore (and, may not have ever really worked in the first place). Excel spreadsheets also create massive headaches, but as planning platforms move into the cloud, they eliminate the barriers to external collaboration. When external suppliers are linked to your forecasting systems, you can reduce manual lift and formatting hassles while leveraging a seamless user interface (UI) that supports good supplier participation. Automated forecast integration can be extended to suppliers and distributors, with the enhanced collaboration driving improved demand visibility and a more responsive supply chain overall.

  2. Automation that empowers strategic thinking.

    The more routine tasks and time-wasting activities you can automate, the more you can focus on strategic planning decisions or edge-case planning that addresses anomalies. Automation also helps you prioritize and sort tasks from most to least important based on risk, financial impact and other factors. Overburdened demand planners can strategize and focus their time on what matters most and let routine tasks fade into the background.

  3. Better insights into the leading indicators that sense and shape demand.

    Customer behaviors, economic trends, web traffic and even search engine trends can all help demand planners better anticipate and manage demand fluctuations. Using enhanced tools and methodologies, planners can make more informed decisions about inventory, production and pricing—all of which support improved operational efficiency and profitability. For example, Arkieva has over 3 million leading indicators available to help answer questions like, “What is the future price of cotton?” and “How much rain will there be in a certain country in March?” Having visibility into these and other data points can help you determine future demand and act accordingly. Resilient demand planning also contributes to higher customer satisfaction levels through consistency and reliability and helps organizations mitigate against unexpected disruptions.

  4. Real-time data integration.

    If this one wasn’t already on your wish list, it definitely should be. The collection and processing of data from different sources as soon as that information becomes available, real-time data integration lets demand planners replace weekly updates with up-to-the-minute (or, second) information, both internal and external. You can collaborate with key distributors or manufacturers; create accurate forecasts based on customer demand; and make quicker and more informed decisions on the fly. And, the closer that planners get to having real-time data at their fingertips, the better they can respond to sales opportunities – like giving the sales rep the greenlight to close that deal because instant access to the information shows that yes, we can fulfill 80,000 units three weeks from now.

  5. More sustainable and eco-friendly practices across the supply chain.

    All eyes are on sustainability and environment, social and governance (ESG) standards right now, and that should put this point pretty high on your wish list for the year ahead. Consumers also care: 80% of Americans aged 18-34 say they seek out—and are willing to pay more for— sustainable products. Some areas of focus for planners can include sustainable sourcing, packaging and distribution methods, all of which can positively impact the end-to-end supply chain.

  6. A chatbot that understands me, and training that helps me better understand my chatbot.

    Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and chatbots are all helping us automate tasks, enhance customer engagement and generally do more with less. But if you don’t have the time to learn how to use that new tool, what good is it going to do? This is a conundrum that busy planners face as they adopt new technologies and implement new tools, eagerly keeping watch for practical advances that can make their day-to-day operations easier and more informed.

  7. Industry-wide forecast accuracy metrics.

    Having clear and concise industry-standardized forecast metrics would help planners benchmark against other organizations, tweak their own strategies and improve their decision-making. This, in turn, could lead to more effective strategies for refining forecasting models. Some common industry-wide metrics include mean absolute error percentage

  8. A marketing team that wants to collaborate.

    When the information silos between demand planners and their marketing teams collaborate, the magic really Both teams can regularly share data and insights; develop plans and joint forecasts; and align marketing campaigns with inventory levels and production schedules. Unfortunately, the lines of communication between demand planning and marketing are often constrained, or only open up under duress—when it’s too late to do any proactive planning together. This is an area that both sides of the equation can work on, knowing that when they’re on the same page they can optimize inventory levels, develop pricing strategies and create marketing campaigns that drive improved business outcomes.

Ready to tackle this list or unwrap more points to add to your own holiday wish list? You don’t have to have a direct line to the North Pole, just get in touch with a specialist by contacting Arkieva.

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