In getting ready for a trip I went into the drug store to buy travel sized toothpaste and contact lens solution. Looking at the packaging, I started to wonder how accurate a forecast needs to be. (You know you’re consumed with everything supply chain when that’s what you think about while shopping!)
I’m sure no one was predicting the need for these products in 100ml sizes a couple of years ago. And what if the airlines lifted the size requirement on liquids or reduced it to 50ml? What chaos would that cause the demand planners of the world? Walking to the front of the store I noticed some Olympic wear.
As you know, Vancouver just finished hosting very successful Olympic and Paralympic games. I could only imagine the heroics and horrors that were experienced to make these games the success they were. Everything from scheduling materials for the new venues to the clothing, flags, food and everything else required for the games. Will the promotions to sell off Olympic paraphernalia make up for the excess inventories now on the shelves and in the warehouses?
In a discussion thread on the supply chain expert community, Joshua Gao asked what your “Vision of the Supply Chain” is? Well, if we look to the past many things are different from our grandparents' supply chain. Two of the biggest stand out. First, customers are more demanding. I mean that in a positive sense, in that customers can quickly research products, understand trends in technologies and purchase what they want with a few clicks of a mouse. The second is that supply has become more fragile. Outsourcing, margin pressures and even catastrophic events can cause supply challenges. So this gets us back to the vision of the future and the question, how accurate does the forecast need to be.
In the past, good enough may have worked because there were fewer demand and supply pressures. But today and in the future, is it better to have an accurate forecast or should the focus be on handling the deviation? If the focus is to manage the deviation and leverage your supply chain as a competitive advantage, then how much effort should go into developing the forecast if you know it is going to be wrong anyway?
This is where it would be helpful to get your feedback since the answer may vary based on industry etc. Does the forecast need to be more accurate given the supply chain challenges of today or do you just need some number to start with since you will have to handle change regardless what the forecast states? How close does the forecast need to be, 40%, 60%, 80%?
Just one final request for feedback: if you were involved in any Olympic related supply chain stories, it would be great to hear them. Maybe your story will make the podium and win gold, silver or bronze!