Forecasting in Excel and other Forecasting Software
In our opinion there is no one 'best practice' for demand forecasting that is suitable for all businesses. For example, the needs of a FMCG company that sells mainly into multiple grocers and foodservice are very different to those of an engineering company that sells thousands of products into a highly fragmented customer base.
In terms of forecasting software the requirement can vary from purely demand forecasting to detailed inventory and supply chain optimisation.
Forecast Solutions can create simple software for forecasting or stock replenisment using Excel, or we will advise on a specialist solution if thought to be beneficial. We can suggest one or two specific alternatives for consideration or can help with a broader forecasting software selection process.
Forecasting Software using Excel
The advantage of forecasting in Excel is that there is total flexibility in designing a system to meet the precise needs of the business, including the ability to combine the results of a causal analysis with time series projection.
Forecast Solutions can work to improve an existing process based on Excel or we can develop a completely new solution. A solution in standard Excel may be sufficient, but we can partner with VBA specialists to provide a more user-friendly interface if such is needed.
The potential drawback of Excel is that high numbers of products / customers and increased complexity can make forecasting systems in Excel time-consuming to create in the first place and troublesome to maintain.
Factors that may tilt the balance in favour of specialist demand forecasting software rather than Excel include large numbers of items to forecast, a need for multi-level forecasting, flexible reporting across product and customer hierachies and multiple units of measurements.
So there is a point at which increased complexity and the need for a more sophisticated approach triggers the need for specialist forecasting software.
For a discussion about forecasting software or a demonstration, please contact us by email or call 01844 291942.
Recommended Specialist Software
Solution A: Forecasting, Reporting and Budgeting
This forecasting software that we recommend is a highly cost-effective offering from a UK developer. It is configured to best meet the company's particular needs and can be implemented to integrate with existing IT systems. It is highly versatile, providing flexible reporting across hierarchies of products and customers and can be used for budgeting as well as forecasting:
Easy to use
The software is suitable for all types of user, having a similar look and feel similar to Excel. It is particularly easy to use for non-technical staff including members of the sales team.
Flexible reporting system
This demand forecasting software is very flexible reporting with the ability to cut and slice across different levels of product and customer. New reports can easily be defined and all reports support work on the forecast.
Powerful statistical forecasting
Statistical methods include the extensive range of forecasting techniques contained in the world-renowned R statistics package. Exponential smoothing and arima methods are available, together with specialist options such as TBATS.
Supports various processes
Whether or not the forecasting process includes statistical forecasting, manual overrides can easily be made to the forecast at any level of detail from a combined graph / report view. Forecasts are not routinely overwritten when the sales history is updated.
Dealing with promotions is of paramount importance in many consumer goods businesses. Frequent and variable promotional activity can be accommodated in the software, with historical data cleansing carried out automatically or through manual overrides. There is an optional promotions management system.
True multi user access
The system gives true concurrent multi-user access with full security based on products and customers. Access to a particular measure, such as the statistical forecast, can be limited to particular users if needed.
Integrates with other systems
The software can integrate with SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, NetSuite etc. through SQL feeds or delimited text files. Scheduled data feeds are installed from / to other company systems.
Multiple units of measurement can be incorporated including a full range of financial measures to support budgeting and sales planning, including multiple currencies if required. Any number of forecast or budget versions can be developed and maintained.
Solution B: Inventory and Supply Chain Planning
This alternative is a somewhat broader offering from a leading inventory optimisation specialist. It is an integral solution for forecasting, demand planning and inventory optimisation and has many successful implementations around the world. Data is usually managed in the software at a fully detailed transaction level, then processed and viewed at those levels of aggregation that are most helpful.
Forecasting and Demand Planning
The software automatically calculates the impact of different demand profiles, emerging trends, seasonality and volatility of demand in order to build a robust forecast for every item in every location. There are options for automatic out-of-stock compensation and outlier (abnormal historical data) adjustment.
Supply chain teams need to strike the right balance between availability and capital invested in inventory. Through providing businesses with the right insights the inventory management solution ensures supply chain teams order the right stock, at the right time, into the right location.
Supply Chain Tactics
Even seemingly small inventory management decisions can have a deep and far-reaching impact. The tactical supply chain capabilities provide the level of visibility and control needed to ensure that inventory management processes are executed effectively and to the benefit of the wider organisation.
Supply Chain Collaboration
The software herlps provide businesses with with one true vision of the inventory postion. As a result, customers become better positioned to harness effective sales and operations planning processes and establish better collaborative relationships with suppliers, customers and colleagues.
For a discussion about forecasting or inventory planning software, or a demonstration, please contact Forecast Solutions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01844 291942.