Supply planning can be a very difficult process requiring a great deal of information in order to increase the accuracy of the plan.  Planning collaboration increases the accuracy of the plan by obtaining and including information from your partners across the supply chain. Retailers can increase their supply planning accuracy by including consumers in the planning process to help to determine demand.  Supply planning is very important to the success of an organization and especially retailers and this planning is just getting more complicated on a daily basis.  Miss planning can have a huge impact and considering the speed of business these days the difficulty with a planning failure is the ability to recover.  There is now less time to recover from a missed plan and this requires a great deal of information, and in the case of retailers on key factor to success in planning is the level of collaboration for consumers.


There is a great deal of uncertainty in the retail industry these days due to the velocity and amount of change driven by consumers.  These changes are not random and in addition, these changes are building on each other along the way as consumers experiment.  This uncertainty places a great of pressure on the retailer to incorporate the changes in their interaction and relationship with the consumer.  This level of change also places a great deal of pressure on supply planning activities to adjust to the changing environment. 


These changes and the impact of these changes to the supply planning capabilities are not insurmountable however they do require a level of planning and collaboration that has not been previously required.  Data is required to be successful in supply planning, market data, product data and sales data are all key aspects to the planning and this planning cannot simply change direction on a whim due to the time between planning and delivery in today’s extended supply chain.  This is why it is so important to include as much data as possible in the planning process. 


The retail marketplace can learn a great deal and improve the planning process by evaluating and implementing supply planning practices of the fast forward fashion retailers.  Consumer collaboration provides a method to obtain critical early information to use in guiding the supply planning process.  Then the increase in velocity that bleeds in the supply planning process can be understood and incorporated earlier in the process to support the velocity of change.  It seems to me that the key challenge to the retail marketplace and supply planning is the ability to quickly and effectively incorporate information in the planning process.  This also requires shortening the cycle of the supply chain and delivering less in a more frequent basis to allow the changes in the marketplace to be quickly implemented. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?