Demand Planning in Times of Supply Chain Disruption

by Jackie Biallas

What is a Demand Planner to do in these times of supply chain disruption?  We’re accustomed to being able to forecast demand and inventory levels with accuracy.  We provide our companies with solid information regarding inventory, profitability and cash flow.  Our goal is to keep our customers satisfied while achieving our company objectives.  It is understandable that Demand Planners are feeling somewhat challenged right now with all the disruption to the supply chain.  However, besides demand planning, there are many things Demand Planners can do to help their companies come through these difficult times.

Know Your Customers and Suppliers

It is more important than ever to really understand your customers.  What are they thinking?  How are they planning for the future?  What can we be doing to satisfy our customers more and strengthen our relationships with them?  What can we be doing for them now, that will make us a preferred supplier to them in the future?  Talk to your customers often to stay informed about their current challenges and future plans. Be transparent, keep them apprised of your company challenges.  Maybe that means extended delivery dates, unavailable product, or possible substitutions to satisfy the customer demand.

Likewise, it is important to maintain strong communication with your own suppliers.  Understand what their challenges are in obtaining materials and with their production capacities.  Many manufacturers have closed, reopened and closed factories to protect their employees.  The supply chain has been and may increasingly be disrupted by transportation issues like trucking logistics, shipping capabilities, container shortages, port accessibility, labor retention, etc.  Anticipating issues in the supply chain and creating contingency plans will help the company.

Be an Asset to Other Departments

Planners often have more insight from data than other areas of the company.  This is the time to share that data with other departments and work together for creative ideas to increase sales.

  • Product development – Using your knowledge of your suppliers’ capacities, your inventory availability, and market information, there may be opportunity for new product development-similar product, substitutions, different package sizing, new material options, etc.
  • Production – It will be crucial to work with the production department and maintain good communication regarding production capabilities and changing priorities in scheduling production. Understand new lead times to project further into the future than you may have in the past.  The ability to share your vision with your production team helps them anticipate and plan better which strengthens the partnership relationship.
  • Marketing – work with the marketing department to develop creative campaigns and promotional plans using the data you see from the marketplace and the knowledge you have of your inventory levels.  Low on best-sellers?  What are the next best options?  Get the message out-work to align marketing efforts to what is available.
  • Finance – share the information you are seeing with the Finance Department.  This includes any opportunities and liabilities in sales and inventory positions and any transportation issues that develop.  Cash flow is a priority for every business now.  Planners have insights to the metrics that affect cash flow.

Demand Planners are Extremely Valuable in Times of Supply Chain Disruption

Demand Planners are extremely valuable to their companies in these uncertain times of supply chain disruption.  By sharing data and insights with other departments in their company, strategic decisions can be made to make the best of these unprecedented times, which may linger well into 2022.  Be prepared, share insights.

For more tips on how demand planning can help your company during these times of supply chain disruption, contact the industry experts at SAFIO Solutions, or visit our website at: