The Need for Sales & Operations Planning

Cooperation between the Production and Sales departments is not always obvious. Perhaps you recognize it within your own organization? Sales always just demands products out of stock and Production does not always produce according to Sales’ forecast. What is the reason for this? And how can optimal cooperation be achieved? A Sales & Operations Planning brings relief! Learn in this blog why good Sales & Operations Planning can solve many abuses in the form of high intermediate inventories and failure to deliver on time, resulting in cost savings through lower inventories and higher customer satisfaction through better deliveries.

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    Overpromising and Under delivering

    Usually the sales department is judged on revenue. The Production Department, on the other hand, deals with the cost per unit of production. This practice creates the risk that Production creates inventory products that are not sold by Sales and that Sales sells products that Production cannot deliver on time. In doing so, Sales tends to forecast more sales than orders actually come in.

    This “overpromising and under delivering” results in Manufacturing unilaterally correcting sales expectations. A decision is made to produce less than would be necessary according to Sales’ forecast. Indeed, this keeps inventories low as well as costs.

    Be able to deliver On Time In Full (OTIF)

    However, the problem arises when the orders expected by Sales are actually received. Production then cannot handle the demand resulting in supply problems. In the process, if unforeseen extra orders, last-minute actions, promises to important or potential customers or other acute issues further disrupt normal demand for products, this leads to delivery time overruns resulting in dissatisfied customers.

    Good coordination between Sales and Operations is therefore necessary. This can be done with the help of a Sales & Operations Planning. This tool ensures that these two parts within an organization start working together, start speaking the same language and, as a result, start delivering to customers again On Time In Full (OTIF).

    A new planning process

    In short, if there is no or too little cooperation between Sales and Production within an organization, it leads to poor service, late or incomplete orders, overstocked or understocked inventory, and ultimately declining sales. Sales & Operations Planning is used to match production capacity to expected sales. In practice, this means rebuilding the planning process from the ground up by Sales and Production together.

    In this new process, Sales creates a new (rolling) sales forecast by product family every month for 18 to 24 months. This forecast should be as good a representation as possible of the actual expectations, which means it may differ from the set budget or target. Because Production plans in production units (and not Euros), Sale should express this forecast in the units used by Production such as kilograms, liters or pieces. The ultimate responsibility for all differences (both positive and negative) between the short-term forecast and actual quantities sold lies with Sales.

    Production will compare this forecast by product family to any production constraints (bottlenecks) and respond to any capacity issues visible in the short, medium and long term. This can be done by taking capacity-enhancing measures (short-term), initiating and implementing projects (long-term) or by adjusting (buffer) stocks. Each month, a cycle is run using current sales for the past 3 years to generate a statistical forecast (Winters’ Method) of sales for the next 18 to 24 months. Sales adjusts this statistical forecast with their market and customer information and Production then optimizes their capacity based on this the data.

    The result?

    The result of this Sales & Operations planning is an improvement in customer service level (OTIF), lower inventory and therefore lower costs. Moreover, communication between Sales and Production has improved, resulting in no more big surprises, fewer peaks and troughs in Production, less employee stress and a continuously rolling realistic sales forecast as a reliable input for annual planning.

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