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
One of the software packages that we recommend is 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.
For a discussion about forecasting software or a demonstration, please email us or call 01844 291942.