SUPPLY CHAIN EFFICIENCY
We have partnered up with Amanda Kalogroulis, a Supply Chain consultant, to provide you with solutions that can help you run the operational side of your business more effectively.
Spreadsheet solutions can help businesses of all shapes and sizes. We now live in a data rich world but often struggle to convert this into useful information and insights which can be used to make informed decisions and focused improvements that can drive a business forward. Excel is perfect for manipulating batches of data and presenting it in summary form, highlighting issues that require focus, and allowing you to drill down into the detail that underpins it. It can do this in a very visual way which makes it easy to engage others in the conversation, in order to make the right decisions for your business. It can also provide useful tools that can help you manage the operation more efficiently.
This is probably best illustrated with some examples.
Analysing and adapting your supply chain for maximum efficiency
How accurate is your forecast?
Is your forecast biased?
Which products would benefit from the most attention.
Improving your forecast will improve your customer service.
Improve your forecast to keep stock levels down.
Most businesses selling from stock will have some kind of forecasting process. It would be unrealistic to expect this to exactly foretell how much you will sell of each product. However, the more accurate you can make it, the better it will be for your business. It underpins your ability to get the right product to your customers at the right time and the right price. Improving your forecast will improve your customer service, whilst at the same time, allowing you to reduce your stocks. This in turn increases your turnover and reduces your costs (warehouse costs, stock write-offs, money tied up in stock). So how effective is your forecast and what do you need to do to improve it? This is where an spreadsheet solution can help. By simply uploading your forecast and sales data by product it can answer some of the questions at the press of a button.
Read more about Forecasting
By looking at how the forecast evolves you can see how the forecast is changing over time. Is it becoming more accurate or is it sending a confused and highly variable signal to the rest of the supply chain, adding cost and no value?
A visual representation of a forecast can be a great way to sanity check it at a glance, and provoke the necessary discussions and decisions that need to be made in the business. By comparing previous year’s sales to this year and subsequent years’ forecast, does it look right? Does the shape reflect seasonality? If there is a sudden increase in the future is this justified – are there plans to promote this item or increase the distribution? Are there valid assumptions that underpin this forecast or is it wishful thinking? Are all your assumptions reflected – for example if you have a price increase coming up, have you considered the potential dampening effect this will have? Do you know of a new competitor in your market or are you launching a new product which may cannibalise some of your existing sales for this product? If you are clear on your assumptions then you can see at a glance whether these assumptions are reflected in your forecast.
If you are working to sales targets for the year, it is important to show this target on the graph as well. If your forecast is falling below your target, then this is a great signal to the business that they must put in place measures to bridge this gap. The sooner this gap is identified the better, as it gives the business more time to react and the solutions are likely to cost less. If your forecast is exceeding your target then are you geared up as a business to deliver this higher volume?
How much should I produce of each product?
Have I got the materials I need to produce this?
What is the optimum production sequence?
Do I have the capacity to make the future requirements?
When do I need to start stock building for my peak season?
For those of you producing a product, there may be several questions you are faced with, where a spreadsheet may be a useful addition to your tool kit. Many businesses will have system solutions to answer some of these questions. For smaller businesses that cannot yet justify such an investment, it is possible to create a spreadsheet solution which will help you convert a forecast into a production plan that will show you your machine utilisation and labour requirements. You can also use a spreadsheet to create a detailed line scheduling tool, to sequence your production.
Read more about Production
You can also use a spreadsheet to measure your production conformance to plan. By assigning reasons to any failures, you have access to a wealth of information to understand the root cause behind these failures, in order to focus your attention on the areas which can drive the biggest improvements. Is a particular supplier often letting you down with late material deliveries? Would introducing a regular maintenance regime reduce downtime? Would holding more stock of certain items reduce the last minute changeovers to avoid customer service failures? Spreadsheets can be tailor-made to what you require. Not everyone’s supply chain is exactly the same, so we see what your requirements are, and we tailor our services to your business.
What is my service level by product, customer, region, or category?
What is the financial value of the failed deliveries?
What are the main causes behind the failures?
Am I improving my customer service?
What are the areas that need more improvement?
Excellent customer service is one of the cornerstones of business success. By recording your service on every order along with the reason behind any failure you have a wealth of information at your fingertips to drive improvements and reduce future lost sales and increase customer satisfaction. In an instant you can get answers to these points and more. When it comes to understanding data, in order to make the right decisions for change, then a well made spreadsheet can be your best friend.
Highlight potential service issues.
Flag up stock that may run out of life before it is sold.
Predict the warehouse capacity that you need.
Having the right stock in the right place at the right time is key to customer service. But too much stock can be just as costly as too little as it ties up cash, takes up warehousing space that you have to pay for and often results in higher write-offs as stock becomes out of date. A good spreadsheet using statistical analysis can help you determine the correct level of stock to hold to cover the normal variations in sales versus forecast. Spreadsheets can also help you analysis the stock that you are currently holding in terms of week’s cover, financial value and pallet spaces. If you link it to your production plans you can also create a stock projection in order determine the above points. All of this can help you save money by reducing your lost sales and your stock write-off whilst at the same time minimising your storage costs and the cash you have tied up in stock.
KPI & Supply Chain Dashboard
Do you know how your supply chain is performing?
Do you know what areas require focus?
Do you have a birds eye view of your whole supply chain process?
When you are running a company it can be difficult to be in touch with everything going on at a detailed level and your time is precious. By having key performance indicators you can see at a glance where things are working well and where your attention is needed. You can therefore use your limited time in areas that will have the maximum impact, leaving more time for generating new business.
Dashboards can give you a snapshot of the performance of the company across all areas, not just the supply chain.
Sales & Operations Planning and Integrated Business Processes
Sales & Operations Planning and Integrated Business Processes are both tools that allow you to take an integrated approach to running your business, that allows you to make the right long term decisions in a timely manner. It helps to ask and answer questions that keep your business on track, and take the appropriate action to course correct if necessary, whilst there is still time to do so and the problem isn’t upon you. It helps businesses to move out of fire fighting mode and take a more proactive stand. It can help to ensure that sales, finance and supply chain all have a common understanding and goal. The sorts of questions it helps to answer are the ones above. Visual presentation of data is a powerful tool to identify the opportunities and issues, have cross-functional discussions and make the right business wide decisions.
Smaller businesses may still need to forecast their sales, plan their production, identify their material requirements and manage their stocks but cannot afford or justify software solutions to support this. Simplified versions of these software packages can be provided using spreadsheets, saving a lot of time and providing more control.
Is any of this of interest to you?
If any of this seems useful to you or you have any other supply chain challenges that you would like some help with, please contact us. We are happy to have an initial conversation to see if we can be of service and give you an idea of what is possible. Amanda has a passion for all things supply chain and Richard loves creating a spreadsheet solution to any problem so please do get in touch!
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