Supply Chain Trends

Beyond spreadsheets: Transforming supply planning

Written by
Mar 14, 2024
5:10 am
minute read

Too long didn’t read? Here’s what you need to know:

  • While spreadsheets have been a common tool for supply planning, they struggle to address the complexities and uncertainties of today's supply chain environment.
  • Spreadsheets make managing challenges such as global supply chain disruptions, consumer demand uncertainty, inventory management issues, supplier risks and escalating costs difficult.
  • By moving away from traditional spreadsheets, you can unlock a new level of operational efficiency and growth. 

Historically speaking, using historical data to guide your supply planning processes has been a good idea. But that’s no longer the case.

Over the past few years, the supply chain has seen considerable change. Your business faces a different market and operational landscape than five years ago. You've survived end-to-end supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, rising operational costs and changing customer buying behavior.  

Your business needs have changed. You might have different suppliers, and your customer demands could be in flux. Your supply planning spreadsheets simply can’t keep up.

So, what now? It’s time to inventory your supply planning needs and how new technologies can help you maximize operational efficiency.

The essential components of supply planning

Supply planning involves determining the quantity and timing of materials, products or services needed to meet customer demand. It demands seamless collaboration and coordination throughout your entire supply chain. Executing this process is far from simple.

Key components of supply planning include:

  • Demand forecasting: Predicting future demand based on historical data, market trends and customer preferences.
  • Inventory management: Balancing inventory levels to meet demand while minimizing stockouts and excess inventory.
  • Procurement: Identifying and sourcing raw materials, components, or finished goods from suppliers to fulfill production requirements

Why do your supply planning spreadsheets no longer work?

The reliance on spreadsheets has long been commonplace. However, these conventional methods tend to break as your supply chain evolves and modernizes.

You’ve used trusted spreadsheets for years to manage your supply planning tasks. Yet, as the landscape has evolved, so too have the challenges. These challenges persist, including:

  1. Frequent disruptions in the global supply chain lead to material shortages and production delays.
  2. Uncertainty in consumer demand patterns complicates accurate forecasting efforts.
  3. Striking a delicate balance between meeting customer demand and minimizing excess inventory and obsolescence.
  4. The inherent risks associated with supplier reliance encompass issues of reliability and quality.
  5. Escalating costs of raw materials, transportation, labor and energy are placing pressure on profit margins.

Case study: How Thistle transitioned from spreadsheets

How Thistle transitioned from spreadsheets

These challenges are all too familiar for vertically integrated manufacturers and value-added distributors. The pressure to optimize supply chain operations and enhance efficiency is greater than ever before. By addressing these pain points head-on, businesses can unlock new levels of growth.

One such example is Thistle, a forward-thinking manufacturer in the food industry.

Like many other food manufacturers, Thistle initially relied on spreadsheets for demand planning, procurement and vendor management. While once effective, it became apparent that these spreadsheets were no longer cutting it as Thistle’s operations expanded.

Thistle recognized the need for a more robust, streamlined solution and turned to PorterLogic for assistance. Leveraging PorterLogic's expertise in supply chain management, Thistle embarked on a journey to rethink its supply planning functionality.

Thistle's procurement and quality teams underwent a transformation. Gone were the days of manual tracking and collection of vendor-specific information. They now have a systemized process that helps the team effectively collaborate with vendors throughout procurement.

By moving away from traditional spreadsheets, Thistle unlocked a new level of operational efficiency and growth.

Adapt to change with modern supply planning functionality

Historically, relying on historical data and traditional spreadsheet-based approaches was the foundation for supply planning. However, the dynamics of the past several years have rendered these methods inadequate. Businesses can no longer afford to rely solely on outdated practices to navigate the complexities of modern supply chains.

Curious to level up your supply planning functionality? Contact us today.

Want to learn more about Thistle’s next-level supply planning capabilities? Read the case study.

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