Maria Simos CEO

Maria Simos CEO

A big treat in attending a conference is not only learning from attendees, but also having the benefit of one-stop shopping when it comes to vendors in the exhibit hall.  These vendors travel across the country, often times lugging huge displays, screens, white papers and swag to meet with current and potential clients and share with them what their software can do to help assist in their planning needs.

What better way to make this trip even more worthwhile than to share some top trends and news from the companies that have made the trek to exhibit this week at the IBF Best Practices Conference?

Top tier sponsors of the show JDA is coming in with major company news.  They are now the largest single company for supply chain planning and optimizations thanks to their recent acquisitions of competing firms Manugistics and i2 as recently as January.  With this synergy, the company now has over 6,000 companies across different industry segments using their software.  Danny Halim, VP of Industry Strategy and Calvin (Cal) Otto, Business Development Manager shared that what makes JDA truly unique is the company’s intimate knowledge  across the entire supply chain. This includes everything from raw materials to the retail space with the consumer experience.  Their company recently announced record first quarter profits, making Q1 the 22nd consecutive profitable quarter for the firm.  A major trend they see is the idea of supply chains competing versus one another rather than individual companies doing so with a convergence of the supply chain.

Smart Software and their Director of Sales Gregory Hartunian shared some impressive news that they have received not their first, but their second National Science Foundation Research Grant (NSF).  Ten years ago they were awarded their first Small Business Innovation Research Grant from NSF to develop a technology called the Smart-Willemain method of forecasting intermittent demand, also known as slow moving demand.  With their second NSF grant, Smart Software will further expand upon the Smart-Willemain method.  With this research completed, they will be the only vendor to offer a ‘next generation’ forecasting solution for slow moving capital goods, like service and spare parts.  Companies use this technology for a variety of applications, Kimberly Clark is using this to track in-house inventory as an example.

Tom Reilly from Autobox shared news of a new joint project with HP which was presented in more detail  Friday.  For this project, they were approached by a Principal Scientist of HP to work and develop a semi-hourly forecast model.  By breaking the day into 48 discrete time periods they are able to better determine precise demand at specific times throughout the day.  This methodology has been used for the last three to four months with application in call centers.  This method also easily translates using a mixed frequency modeling approach for making power estimations for power plants.

Forecast PRO’s Trac has a neat feature which shows how well the model fits with the history.  Bob Leonard gave a brief demonstration showing the archived forecasts over time.  Using this rich forecast archive helps track the accuracy of lead times.  Their software is off-the-shelf and a 5 user system can be implemented for $15-22K.

Boardwalktech Inc will be launching the 3.2 version of their software this June.  The company’s collaborative platform supports concurrent multi-users  down to the cell level using a back end system.  The software is easy to use and can be role based.  The real-time server recognizes who made the last change and makes notations.  Benefits of this system include integration that takes place in weeks not months, it extends the collaboration process, reflects a complete picture of the business and provides greater visibility.

SAS is excited to announce a new forecasting server plug in for SAP.  The plug in, called SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization (APO) links to read and write from live cache.  In other company news, IBF long standing member Mike Gilliland’s intramural basketball team has won the SAS intramural championships the last 2 out of 3 years.  (It’s not always about the forecasts, demand planners also need to have some fun, too.)

John Galt Solutions Inc. has an Atlas Planning Suite which focuses on the consumer-driven supply chain.  The suite allows for use of POS data to help assist in reaching higher levels of forecast accuracy and has over 30 models built in for planning new product launches and promotional events.  Using POS data and forecasting new product supply are also topics that were touched upon during the speed dating session.

Logility has a supply chain management solution called Logility Voyager Solutions which is internet-based.  Given the global nature of their client’s businesses, they have built in multinational support.  The costs and prices are given not only in the currency of the items ‘home market’ but also in local and regional currencies.  With this built into the system, it helps users build rollups to greater levels of detail for their inventory, production and transportation plans worldwide.

RockySoft Corporation has the Inventory Management Suite with Demand Manager and Requirements Planner, aiding clients in reducing inventory.  The suite also includes S&OP and Economic Order Manager (EOM).  With these tools, clients are able to work with the full supply chain to determine forecasts, procurement needs and replenishment quantities. Using this software also allows practitioners to take advantage of price breaks and volume discounts and also use the suite as a support tool to make decisions on a management level for inventory valuation and performance monitoring.   One key feature with the EOM tool is that you can easily compare annual costs of inventory with the annual cost of ordering based on varying volumes.  The suite is easy to use and training on the new system can be done in only four hours.  RockySoft’s applications are comprehensive but not complex.

Another vendor is working to optimize the time it takes to make demand forecasts.  OM Partners USA has  Abhi Patel at the show sharing information on their supply chain planning software.  Their core strength comes with the ability to integrate the forecast with S&OP planning and scheduling.  The company has a variety of suites that peel time down from a 4-week to possibly one or two week cycle.

A lot was learned by walking around and visiting with the vendors during the Best Practices Conference.  At times, and I know this because I have exhibited at a fair number of shows myself, attendees are not necessarily jumping at the chance to come talk to vendors.  Being on the other-other side of things this time around working as an ambassador and live-tweeting and blogging about the event though, I found that the folks exhibiting at the show were just truly excited about the new things their companies are doing.  So many new applications are being developed in this space and it is a real energizing time in the field.  So next time you are at a show, take some time to hear what’s new in the industry.  Visit with the vendors and simply ask, ‘what’s new?’  It just may be the best way to see what’s next.

Maria E. Simos is CEO of, an economic research and consulting company based in Durham, NH with clients ranging from media, academics, federal banks, major manufacturers to other consulting firms.  In her role, Ms. Simos works to further develop the reach of e-forecasting’s economic data and reporting capabilities. She also works closely with clients to ensure that they are receiving the important forecasts, economic data and support needed to be successful. She promotes the work of and provides economic analysis through her twitter account (@mesimos) and via other social media outlets.  Ms. Simos holds a Master’s Degree in Management from Carnegie Mellon University where she focused her research on management and network analysis. Her research explored social and business networks and their tie in to culture in organizations.  Her undergraduate study was completed at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.