Demand Planning E-Meet: Experts talk about Structural Reforms and the Way Forward

Demand Planning and Forecasting During COVID-19

In an unprecedented crisis as the coronavirus pandemic, the logistics and supply chain sector has worked relentlessly in an integrated manner to serve the nation by keeping operations underway.

As such, on 5th June, Logistics Insider organized an e-meet on “Demand Planning and Forecasting during COVID-19” to discuss the way forward away from the present crisis and talk about adapting to consumer behaviour while mitigating fulfilment hurdles and demand volatility and much more.

The e-meet witnessed a participation of more than 200 delegates and provided a wonderful opportunity to demand planners and supply chain professionals to be a part of an insightful discussion from the comfort of their homes.

Click here to watch the highlights of the e-Meet

The e-meet was wonderfully moderated by Neelesh Asati, Director of Consulting, Chainalytics who started off the session by talking about the silver lining or the positive takeways that was observed in these few months while reeling under the pandemic.

Mr Asati said that “The key thing is to be grounded as a planner and not do what the data is telling you to do, but understanding the whole dynamics around you .There has been a focus on few SKUs as of now, to be able to manage or shape the demand portion of it as well as capacity utilization ,especially among food manufacturers.”

In the discussion, he further questioned the panelists if they felt that the discipline on the portfolio piece would continue in the future and about the prospect of SKU portfolio utilization becoming a habit in the future.

Also Read: Six Demand Planning & Forecasting Software Providers to help you manage your inventory

Amartyaa Kumar Guha, Associate Director-Supply Chain, Flipkart felt that the Indian market was a very optimistic market and there arose a need to multifold it.

He added, “Somewhere in the last 30-40 days, the biggest goodness that came to the entire fraternity is that the demand is again rising and we are coming back to where we were in the month of March, maybe it will take some time. Our Indian market is a very optimistic market and we have a really good future where we will grow multifold.

Within this crisis one opportunity also came, that we need to improve our own manufacturing base in the country, and need to lose the dependency on other countries. If within this theme takes faster pace, then obviously our economic growth along with the future of our youth will progress faster than that in pre-COVID times.”

Mandar Shirsavakar, GM-Analytics & Solution Development, SS Supply Chain Solutions, while talking about the key positive during these months, shared that “The new normal is a great opportunity for everyone, including companies like us, who are into data analytics,who can actually utilize the real power of data analytics to create value for the industries, especially in the demand forecasting area. The likes of AI[Artifical Intelligence], ML[Machine Learning] will be the new normal.”

Mr Shirsavakar also added that “Industries will have to reach to the consumer as much as possible. One thing that organisations will have to focus on is the information flow. Information flow is going to be critical, because traditionally, most of the Indian organisations  believe on the bottom up forecasting approach or the top down forecasting approach”.

Puneet Agarwal, CIO, CJ Darcl Logistics Ltd., believed that Agility was the need of the hour because of sudden spikes and demand. There is a more receptiveness for collaboration between the LSPs.

While talking about how there have been improvements brought about in the transportation sector and addressing the problem of drivers’ shortage, Mr Agarwal said that “The biggest drive that we have done for our customers is to improve the facilities for the drivers. The treatment that the drivers get at the loading and the unloading point is in many situations, inhumane. Most customers have very stringent health safety norms. When they implement health and safety, they tend to miss the humane aspect of things. The driver cannot stop once the vehicle gets in. There are also cases where the driver doesn’t have a washroom to go to while being on the road for 6 straight hours. But now, the dignity of this profession has improved. We are working with All India Transport Welfare Association, under the campaign Highway Heroes,. So quite a lot of work is being done and the Government of india has rendered us support. But the ground level has to be done together by the industries and the LSPs.”

Saurabh Lal, Director- Supply Chain (India & South Asia) at Kellogg’s India said, “ I have always been in favour of having a linear portfolio. Across industries that I have worked, the proliferation of SKUs particularly because of marketing plans is something supply chains have to be deal with.

For me, rationalisation is a key exercise that has to be done regularly. Secondly, in a capacity/replenishment/transport constraint, it is going to be imperative that we focus on fewer SKUs. However, that does mean that it will have an impact on SKUs in the future. There exists an opportunity of up to 20% chance of rationalization of SKUs, taking away the ones that do not sell. This is a very good opportunity to clean up the table and bring much more sense into how supply chains are operating. The more number of SKUs you have, the tougher it is to forecast.”

He added, ”For Demand Planning to change, firstly, we have to be able to change more scenarios or “what-if” analysis at a higher frequency than before. That will not happen unless the software is in place. Secondly, execution will be driven by how fast your country. Execution will be driven by two things: how fast the factories are able to respond to changeovers  and how fast it can portfolio the entire portfolio.”

The purpose of the e-meet was met with the fruitful insights and points that were raised by the distinguished guests and also saw its success in the insightful questions raised by a focused audience.

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