Demand planning drives efficiencies within the pre-planning phase before actual manufacturing begins. The process of Demand Planning forms a critical part of Supply Chain Management (SCM) which when applied stringently and accurately offers precise production controls, which lower costs and improve profitability and customer satisfaction through on-time delivery.
With demand planning recognised internationally as an integral facet of today’s manufacturing function amongst trendsetters, Astrapak has aligned itself comparatively to global competitors when they introduced demand-planning practices.
Astrapak has taken the time to invest in the art of effective demand planning. Most vital to succeeding in this mission remains the appointment of a champion to co-ordinate and direct this sometimes complex and challenging business process.
Astrapak’s Sharyn Mowat is the lead on this task across the Group. Mowat took the challenge head on after joining Astrapak in September 2014. She has been instrumental in setting up the demand planning structures from scratch, building the process from the bottom up. Her solid grounding within sales during the early part of her career provided her with her first exposure to demand planning and Mowat believed that she had found her calling. She has been working in this field for the last 10 years and is convinced that sustainable long-term growth can be achieved through effective planning.
According to Mowat, key measurements remain forecast accuracy/inaccuracy, bias and alignment to product and market trending. None of these measurements dictate in isolation but the combined understanding and application of their total impact is what delivers results in demand planning.
A critical success factor in effective demand management is an in-depth understanding of the key customers. Astrapak’s focused sales team delivers this knowledge to the business through a structured Key Account Management programme, ensuring that the latest customer information is available.
The identification of future demand is based on a number of inputs received and a set of assumptions of what the future looks like. We then test these assumptions against reality and determine what changes are necessary. “It is critical to stay abreast with what is happening in the macro environment and in our customer base to gain a clear understanding of how correct our information is,” said Mowat. “Based on all inputs we develop a view at a fairly detailed level of what our off take into the future will be.”
The demand planning process benefits the business by aligning to the strategic planning process and provides a clear view of how the business tracks to the plan.
“We have a strategic plan of where the business wants to be,” continued Mowat. “Now we have a view of how we are tracking to that plan. We can visualise the gap and identify and expedite opportunities in the pipeline to close the gap. From a sales perspective, that is our key benefit.”
The benefits of demand planning are not just to favour the company but are also important to our customers. Customers ultimately benefit from the demand planning process through efficiencies realised through the supply chain. Visibility of long-term demand enables more efficient raw material procurement, smoother factory loading and more efficient use of all resources (including labour, working capital, warehousing, etc.). All these drive efficiencies in the supply chain, which ultimately benefit the customer through improved service and reduced cost.
The use of the demand plan means Astrapak can plan their supply chain in advance for the norm and manage the exceptions. This eliminates constant fire fighting and sets the company apart from their competitors.
Astrapak is steadfast in its target to ensure good demand planning not only to ultimately manage working capital better and provide value to their shareholders, but value to customers through efficiencies by striving for and upholding their world-class manufacturing edge.