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Are Demand Planners stressed out these days?

Well, this blog of mine is focused very specifically to ‘demand planning’ role in a supply chain organization. Most of us would appreciate the difficult conflicting goals that a demand planner faces in industry, and I believe, it is becoming increasingly more stressful for them to manage these goals. Being a demand planner myself in the past, I can empathize with their pain and would like to share few operational challenges that add to their stress levels, if not attended effectively. I would urge each one of you to provide your experience, comments, and advise how demand planners can effectively work to mitigate these issues to improve business performance. Read on…

Let me take you step by step to present my view point. There are three sections of this blog:

A)    Ever increasing “operational” challenges:-

Just think about the total number of SKUs that a demand planner has to manage on an average in supply chain. I know of examples wherein the XL runs into few hundreds of rows of SKUs that a demand planner works upon in every forecasting cycle. Assuming atleast a one year forecast time horizon, you can guesstimate the humungous task that a demand planner has to go through, during every planning cycle (which is most likely a monthly rolling cycle). The situation gets worsened due to factors that are largely governed by business and competition, couple of them being:

·         faster pace of new products introduction thereby, increasing the number of SKUs in product portfolio.

·         the forecasting cycle is being revisited time and again, and pressure is always to reduce the cycle time to close the forecasting process (moving from a monthly bucket to fortnightly and then to a weekly bucket)


B)    Typical demand planning responsibilities at an operational level:-

The demand planner is usually overworked throughout the month with probably just very few days during the middle of a monthly planning cycle where he/she gets little bit of breathing time. There are several activities that keep him/her busy, though, most of them seem to be very operational in nature but are absolutely critical in achieving the desired supply chain targets. Some of these activities are:

·         managing demand data (ensuring data quality is maintained)

·         review past performance (how the KPI numbers look like)

·         do statistical forecasting (understand demand patterns closely)

·         ……

The important thing I would like to highlight is the effort that is involved in managing all these activities and ensuring KPI numbers improve over a period of time.


C)    How does all this impact a demand planner:-

With the changing business landscape as highlighted in section A above, I feel it is more difficult and strenuous for a demand planner to execute activities as mentioned in section B. It is a tightrope walk because it is impossible to compromise on the execution quality as it will have a direct negative impact to his/her performance. As planning time frames shrink, a demand planner needs to look for more innovative ways to accomplish all the activities else it becomes more stressful for him/her.

This is all what I wanted to share and would appreciate if you can provide your comments. Feel free to contradict in case you feel otherwise but please do share your view point.

Additionally, would you like to comment on “What are the various steps that a demand planner should take in order to accomplish his/her responsibilities?”. Using an IT tool’s capability more efficiently could be one solution. I want to hear from the group if they have thoughts on such a burning issue…

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