Forecast Solutions

Demand Planning and Forecasting:   Training, Causal Analysis, Software

UK based Forecast Solutions provides specialist training and consulting services for improved methods and process in demand planning and sales forecasting. Clients come from a broad range of industry sectors including food and drink, other consumer products, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and construction.

Forecast Solutions offers expert training on demand planning and forecasting.  Our well established training courses are independent of any particular software solution except in the sense that Excel is used as a common language in worked examples.

As well as the traditional time series methods for demand forecasting we are also skilled in data analysis to quantify the effect on demand of causal factors such as pricing, weather and economic indices.  This very important activity of  price sensitivity analysis and other causal modelling can often form a key part of the forecasting process. 

One very neglected area is the evaluation of the impact of weather patterns on demand.  Quantification of the effect of weather can be invaluable in demand forecasting, even when a reliable weather forecast is difficult to find.

Software is an integral component of the forecasting process, whether it be in terms of making the best use of Excel, or taking on a more sophisticated forecasting software.  We can recommend a particular software package or can help conduct a software selection process.

Some businesses are subject to high levels of seasonality and/or promotional effects and these factors are often of great concern in FMCG forecasting.  We can be of particular help with some unique methods for analysing seasonality and dealing with promotions.

A somewhat different approach is often needed for short term forecasting as opposed to the medium term forecasting that may be needed to drive a sales and operations planning process.  Forecast Solutions is well versed on the requirements for short term forecasting and forecasting for S&OP.

For further information on our range of activities please contact us by telephone or email or visit our services page first.

Tel:  01844 291942

Email:  info@forecastsolutions.co.uk

 

businessman working on forecast at computer

Demand Planning Training

Demand planning and sales forecasting training is a major part of the Forecast Solutions offering. The aim is to provide courses and workshops that are practical and non-academic, but sufficiently detailed to impart a good understanding of the most important methods.

Different approaches to sales forecasting are explored, including subjective methods, causal analysis and time series forecasting. Effective methods for dealing with the crucial matters of seasonality, promotions and new products are discussed.

Click here to read more about forecasting courses.

The most popular demand planning training course is the two day Demand Planning and Forecasting Workshop. As well as the basics of forecasting this also covers forecast accuracy measurement, the use of EPOS data and stock policy including the calculation of safety stock for fast moving and slow moving items. Demand planning training courses are geared to be useful regardless of any particular forecasting software that is used in the company and Excel is used as a common language for worked examples. However, if forecasting in Excel is a requirement, there is a course option specifically for that.

Causal Analysis including Pricing Models

Demand is often affected by causal factors such as price relationships, unseasonal weather or economic indicators such as GDP.  It can be highly beneficial to carry out analysis to validate the importance of suspected factors and to quantify their effects. Such causal analysis can be an important element in the overall forecasting solution and can help define pricing and other business strategy.

Forecast Solutions is skilled in the use of statistical software to examine vital areas like price sensitivity and the effects of economic leading indicators such as disposable income and gross domestic product.  Unseasonal weather can drive significant changes in demand, so a study to quantify the effect of weather on sales can be very helpful for sales forecasting.

Forecasting Software

In terms of forecasting software, if the number of items to forecast is small and the requirements are simple, we may be able to provide a forecasting system in Excel or help develop the company's own system in Excel.  Alternatively, we recommend a cost-effective packaged solution.  Details are given on our forecasting software page and a discussion or no-obligation demonstration can be arranged.  If the needs are complex and the direction to take is not clear, we can help draw up a software requirement and facilitate a software selection process to assist in choosing the most appropriate forecasting solution.

Time Series Forecasting

Many sales forecasting systems rely on the simple forecasting methods of time series projection, thus analysing sales trends and seasonality in the history and projecting into the future. Both curve fitting and the commonly used exponential smoothing methods fall into this category.

In medium term forecasting, such as for sales and operations planning, it is important to reflect product life cycles and expected changes in the competitive and technological environment.  On the other hand short term demand forecasting and planning is more to do with detailed tracking and management of short term demand in order to minimise inventory and maximise customer service.

FMCG Forecasting and Promotions

The presence of past promotional activity in the historical data that is to be used as the basis for demand forecasting can cause problems in FMCG forecasting.  It affects seasonal analysis, choice of forecasting model and setting the correct level of forecast demand.  Therefore the sales history often needs to be cleansed of promotions before it is submitted to statistical forecasting.

Then there is the question of how to approach promotional forecasting going forward.  If promotions have occurred frequently in the past, a good option is to try to build promotional profiles through analysis of previous promotions.  Otherwise a more manual approach may be needed.  Sometimes it is helpful to keep the promotional forecast separate from the baseline.

Seasonality in Forecasting

Finding the best way of dealing with seasonality in forecasting is an essential element in sales forecasting for many businesses and can sometimes dominate the forecasting task. Seasonal analysis becomes harder as the data becomes more detailed, so it is often useful to use a GSI (group seasonal indices) approach.

Smaller time buckets also make the calculation of seasonal indices more difficult and the task is a lot more difficult with weekly as opposed to monthly forecasting. This sometimes contradicts an intention to improve forecast accuracy by forecasting in smaller time buckets.

Forecast Accuracy

Improved forecast accuracy is vital in short term sales forecasting in order to lower stock levels, reduced operational costs and provide better customer service. For medium term forecasting, such as that needed for sales and operations planning, an accurate forecast is essential for best business and financial planning.

Forecast Solutions can carry out a forecast accuracy health check by measuring the accuracy achieved in the past and comparing it with what can be achieved using improved statistical forecasting methods

Click here for information on how to measure forecast accuracy.

Forecasting Process Improvement

In a program for forecasting process improvement the first step is usually to understand current methods and assess how successful they are in meeting business objectives. Measurement of current forecast accuracy will play a part , together with exploration of potential gains in accuracy that might be achieved from forecasting process improvements. 

The aim then is to identify improvements that can be made involving the forecasting infrastructure, methods and processes, with a view to improved forecast accuracy going forward. If there is significant benefit to be achieved by consideration of new or improved forecasting software, Forecast Solutions is well placed to help.

Remote Forecasting Services

Forecasts can be created to provide an expert interpretation of difficult data, particularly if the calculation of seasonal patterns is problematical - we have a unique way of dealing with that.  Alternatively, we can step in to provide a regular forecasting service if internal resource is over-stretched or not available. 

In a fully outsourced service, specialist software is brought to bear to provide a baseline statistical forecast that can then be reviewed and modified by those in the business who can improve on the statistical forecast with their detailed commercial knowledge.