Demand Planning Solutions - Forecasting Software, Causal Analysis and Training
Demand forecasting software is a vital component in the forecasting process, whether it be in terms of making the best use of Excel, or taking on a more sophisticated forecasting solution. Forecast Solutions can create small-scale forecasting systems using Excel or we can help with the selection of specialist forecasting software.
We are skilled in data analysis to quantify the effect on demand of causal factors such as pricing, weather and economic indices. The results from price sensitivity analysis and other causal modelling can often form a valuable part of the forecasting process.
Forecast Solutions offers a wide range of training and consulting services, all related to demand planning and sales forecasting. Clients come from a broad range of industry sectors including FMCG, other consumer products, healthcare, construction and engineering.
An outline of our main services is given below, and for further details please visit our key services page. Or feel free to contact us by email or telephone:
Tel: 01844 291942
Demand Planning Training
Demand planning and 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 basic principles and 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. The two day course dips into supply planning, covering stock policy and some useful methods for setting safety stocks.
Click here to read more about forecasting courses.
In terms of forecasting software, we can often recommend a suitable packaged solution. Some details are are given on our forecasting software page and a discussion or no-obligation demonstration can easily be arranged. If you are interested in one of our recommended solutions we can put you in direct contact with the relevant software developer. Or if the direction to take is not clear, we can help draw up a software requirement and assist in a software selection process. We can also build small-scale solutions in Excel.
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 expert in statistical analysis 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.
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.
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.