As sales and operations planning (S&OP) spreads from traditional demand forecasting heavy industries like consumer packaged goods, an increasing number of firms are undertaking S&OP transformations due to a heightened understanding of its value and an enhanced capability of new forecasting technologies such as machine learning and demand sensing.
However, companies that focus on technology at the expense of implementing a robust overall process still fail to realize the value they seek.
The processes contained within S&OP contain some of the most important transformation topics that companies are currently considering. Supply and demand planning are proven concepts, but many organizations are recognizing that an integrated, mature S&OP process is critical to unlocking value from both – driving efficiency and nimbleness across the supply chain.
Navigating Toward Maturity
All organizations with any supply chain management capability are doing some level of planning. Companies implementing S&OP are striving to move from a fractured, immature supply chain planning model to a mature, integrated model.
A fractured planning model may have planners working in Excel, narrowly focused on specific districts or regions. Different planners may be forecasting in near-term vs. long-term horizons without coordination. Supply decisions are not completely made with full consideration of the demand forecast. Most importantly, a fractured model does not allow supply or demand planning to iterate in a manner that aligns supply and demand most effectively, with consideration of long-term profitability.
A company with mature S&OP capabilities has supply and demand planners working across the entire scope of operations and product lines. Planners are sharing the same view of supply and demand and iterating plans in order to maximize margin, service levels and overall profitability.
Aligning Technology and Process Strategies
Technology is a critical piece to building a mature S&OP capability. It provides required visibility to necessary data, improves analytical models that planners utilize, and aids in collaboration with multiple functional areas. It can automate routine tasks, freeing up valuable planner time, as well as efficiently deploy the plan for execution.
While technology is critical, process ownership across the organization is also vital for enabling a mature S&OP capability. Process alignment is necessary to provide integrated and accepted data about the supply chain, including sales forecasts and supply constraints.
Another crucial process challenge is aligning timelines and ownership between the near-term and the strategic-term. Additionally, process and ownership challenges can occur when an unplanned event (e.g., supply shortage) requires alignment on an integrated plan that does not meet all customer needs.
Because process alignment and ownership are critical to the success of an S&OP implementation, companies are better served to lead with a proof-of-concept pilot to align processes across the organization. By proving out the process in a pilot, the organization can generate buy-in while saving time and money during the technology implementation.
In addition, process definition needs to be done with consideration of future technology in order to minimize costly customization.
Companies striving for S&OP maturity are, in general, recognizing that they need to pair technology with a robust process. Software providers are bringing new tools to the table that enable better demand planning capabilities, such as demand sensing, and firms will need to continue to balance process and technology in order to realize that value.
Associate Partner, Infosys Consulting
Andy is a supply chain executive with over 15 years of diversified management and consulting experience in the retail and apparel, consumer products, industrial products and communications industries. He has deep expertise in operational transformation, business strategy, cost reduction, and supply chain transformation, execution and development. Andy has also spent 3 years leading the distribution, inventory planning and logistics operations for an apparel manufacturer. Andy earned his MBA from Emory University and has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Villanova University.
Jack joined Infosys Consulting in 2017 and is based out of our Atlanta hub. Jack is a supply chain expert with more than 7 years of industry experience. He previously worked at Ford Motor Company, Calsonic Kansei Corporation and AT&T. Jack holds an MBA in finance and strategy from Vanderbilt University and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University.