Having a strong supply chain is at the heart of nearly any business. But you also need to make sure your supply chain partners are synchronized in such a way that you can use them as effectively as possible. If you don’t have a good supply chain, your business may struggle, and “good” includes one that’s operating smoothly, not just one that has quality suppliers or supplies. Naturally, those things matter a lot. But so does the synchronization of everything, so you can ensure that customers get what they’re looking for.
How Planning for Customer Demand Helps
When your company uses demand planning to discover what customers want and need, you get the opportunity to find out more about them and also to see what you can really do for the people who rely on you. You’ll also be better able to focus on everything those customers are asking for, and whether what they want and need is cyclical or stays mostly steady throughout the year. If you can’t plan for the demands they have, and can’t meet those demands, your business may struggle to stay ahead of competitors.
Some things that customers want and need are year-round, and others are more seasonal. You know your business and your industry, but customers can still surprise you. If you see that becoming a problem, you could be losing business right before your very eyes. The best thing to do is catch that before it starts happening, and demand planning can help with that. The second best option is to catch the issue right away before it becomes more significant and causes potentially long-term harm to your business.
Working With Your Supply Chain Partners Matters
If you’re thinking about synchronizing your supply chain partners through demand planning, you’ll need to start by figuring out what type and level of synchronization you really need. Do you have set times you need to get things delivered? Are you more focused on quantity, instead? Are there frequent problems with later orders or other issues, that are causing you to have problems with customers? By figuring out where the problems actually lie, you can work on determining what changes really need to be made.
After you’ve located the problems and determined the needed changes, you’ll want to use demand planning to start rearranging and adjusting your supply chain. It may take some time to synchronize it, because it’s more difficult to do with some types of business than it is with others. A big company with a lot of different products may have more trouble synchronizing its supply chain than a small company with only a couple of products. But that’s to be expected, and both can get their chain synchronized.
Reaching out to your supply chain partners is the next step. They have to be on board with what you’re trying to do, or you aren’t going to have the success you’re hoping for. They may not be able to make the kinds of adjustments you really need, and you’ll have to work together to find solutions to those problems. Some suppliers will have more opportunities to change things around than others, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask them what options you have, so you can choose what’s going to be effective.
Forecasting is a Big Part of Success
Part of demand planning involves forecasting, and when you do that you’ll likely have higher levels of success. As you forecast your customers’ demand, you can adjust what you need from your supply chain partners and synchronize them so that your supply goes up right before demand goes up. That’s an excellent way to always make sure you have what customers need, without having to store a lot of unneeded products or components at other times of the year. A forecast can make all the difference.
But the value of forecasting is only as good as the tools you’re using, or the people you’re trusting to help you. Choose quality in those areas, and make sure you understand how forecasting works when it comes to planning for demand. Also understand what your supply chain partners can and can’t do, and how much notice they need when making scheduling adjustments. Then you’ll be able to anticipate the issues you’ll face, so you can get out ahead of them and keep them from causing problems for customers.
There are all kinds of companies that have supply chain partners. Even companies that are service-based often need supplies, and they have people who provide those supplies for them on an ongoing basis. When your company focuses on planning for customer demand and working with the partners in its supply chain, it’s able to help its customers much more easily, as well as more effectively, for the long term.