Planning is an art. All planners deal with the daily firefighting while also looking into the future and cautiously calculating possible steps to combat all sorts of scenarios. But how do you plan for scenarios when you are new to a company? Every business is different and while there’s always demand and supply, the devil remains in the detail. Whether you are fresh out of university or just moving on to the next company here is some advice for you to shine in your new role.

During the first few days, drink coffee. No, I am not kidding. Drink coffee and possibly drink another coffee because you need to learn about your company and how it operates. Formal documents will get you started but the real ins and outs will most likely be shared with you on an informal basis. Is there a better place for an informal conversation than right there at the coffee machine? I don’t think so.

While you ingest a gallon or two of coffee, make sure people get to know you. Introduce yourself and ask the mix of people that you meet about what they think has impacted operations recently and what might happen in the near future that you, as a planner should be aware of. You want to do this because you realize that good planning can’t happen in isolation. During a day where you plan for success, you’ll be in contact with many different people in the company and must change hats several times. You must speak the language of the finance department when discussing inventory levels but at the same time, you can talk to the warehouse manager when discussing the same topic from a different angle. Plant managers are very focused on optimizing throughput and utilization while the sales force is focused on satisfied customers with a tendency to prefer available inventory. In talking with them, you’ll start gathering some vital information to start your planning activities. At the same time, reaching out and asking for input will help building a relationship and earn you some credit to help them when they are in need.

Below you will find some questions to ask those you meet:

  • Do we have sole source suppliers?
  • Do we have single source suppliers?
  • Do we have crucial raw materials?
  • Do we have crucial intermediates?
  • Do we have high margin products?
  • Do we have low margin products that are yet crucial to attract customers that also buy high margin?
  • Do we have strategic customers who might generate little profit but assure operating cost is covered?
  • Does one of the plants show a history of strikes?
  • What about recent earthquakes in the area of plant Y or supplier X?
  • Are our customers regular buyers?
  • Is there political unrest in the area where we produce, procure or sell?
  • Are there specifics to consider regarding packing materials such as returning customers?

After many introductions and a few bathroom breaks, you’ll have a list of potential threats that are worth considering. Now is a good time to go into your office and structure the input. Remember to leave the door open, you don’t want to miss a good informal chat.

In my next post, I will provide tips on how start building the optimal model in a new company. In the meantime, please feel free to download the Life As A Planner Whitepaper for more information on the job functions of a planner.

At Arkieva we are always interested in hearing from our readers. What advice would you give a new planner? What do you wish you would have known when you started your first planning job?

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