Spot the real invisible man

By Hugh Williams

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Planning

The villains broke into the flat. They moved cautiously. Suddenly, as if by magic, a chair flew across the room in their direction. They quickly aimed their pistols towards the corner where the chair once stood but there was no one to aim at. To their amazement, more furniture, vases and plates were hurled towards them. But there was still no one to be seen.

The Invisible Man was great TV. As kids, we knew that it was all down to tricks, sometimes even spotting the strings attached to the moving objects. Yet it did not stop us from imagining what we would do if we were invisible.

Nowadays, some businesses make me wonder if the invisible man exists after all. Demand planning is such a strong focus that companies easily get seduced by forecasting software. I see nothing wrong with that as long as it is intended to support a robust demand planning process, operated by a trained demand planner. Yet both are often overlooked, with the tool expected to be used by logistics, customer service or sales people.

The potential of forecasting software is immense when used by a skilled person who can improve forecast quality continuously. And there's more to demand planning than the baseline forecast generated by the tool. Who will liaise with sales staff to seek and manage market intelligence? Who will cleanse the monthly sales data to turn it into usable historical information? Who will focus on the right products depending on their life cycle stages?

Demand planners are as vital as production schedulers or replenishment planners. Choosing a sales person to become the demand planner can be a smart move to get buy-in from sales in the new process. Also consider how often your demand planner meets your customers to discuss market trends.

Whatever your approach, ensure you invest in this role. Forecasting software will be powerful for your business, but not if you rely on the invisible man to use it.

Hugh Williams is founder of supply chain planning specialist consultancy Hughenden.

Related topics Supply Chain

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