Maria Simos CEO

This is a good question. As I traveled down to Florida for the IBF’s Supply Chain Planning & Forecasting: Best Practices Conference w/ Advanced Practices in S&OP Forum I wasn’t sure which was harder to explain as a concept.  After a few days at conference I can, with confidence, say that Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) is much easier.  I’ll save my understanding of exactly what Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is for another time.

In order to recap this conference there are some strong overriding themes you must get acquainted with in regards to sales and operation planning and demand planning, as well as some key highlights that were found in some selected general sessions:

Innovation:To fully develop and be successful at sales and operations planning you need to be innovative in how you approach the whole process.  During the Toro presentation on “How Home Depot Synchronized their Supply Chain with Consumer Demand”, Nadim Zoberi stated, ‘innovation drives success.’  Using product innovation and building on their knowledge base, Toro is introducing a new line of battery operated mowers.  David Zatz from Post Foods shared in his presentation “How to improve Your Forecasts by Including Marketing’s View” that innovation, along with equity, price, merchandising and inventory work together as drivers for the forecasting process.

Trust: At times during the conference, I thought I was in marriage counseling sessions.  It is true that trust plays a huge role in yielding successful results in sales and operations planning and forecasting.  During the Keynote Presentation by OfficeMax’s Nikhil Sagar, he said that you need to build trust by example.  It’s important to share information, this is the first step in building trust with your suppliers, and even internally.  During the Round Table discussion, one of the tables I sat at was centered on Collaboration Within and Outside the Organization. Someone shared that if one of his company’s vendors provides them with a forecast, they are given a price break.  This, however, did not bode well for another planner at our table who then interjected, “But some of our vendors can be vendors for our competitors. How can we build trust?” And then, of course, there was the presentation by Liezl Smith of South Africa’s APICS who presented a slide saying that South Africa is faced with serious trust issues.  The world does not trust South Africa yet, although it may be the next frontier. How to build trust? Certainly seems worthy of further presentations and workshops at future conferences.

Dedicated Resources: Mike Levely from Xiameter/Dow Corning shared that one of the keys to their success in supply chain improvement was that they had a dedicated implementation team along with sub teams that were 100% focused on the transition.  In his presentation, “How Forecast Accuracy Impacts Inventory Costs” Joseph Motta from Navistar echoed this sentiment.  He advised implementing a change in business processes in several phases.  He has been in three system implementations and found that the most successful method use by organizations was in phases rather than a shotgun approach.  Both Mike and Joseph stressed that people should be dedicated to and best to fit the role.  Another neat tip that Mike gave us was that while goal setting and making a to-do list, you should also think of a ‘stop doing list‘ to improve your organization.  This will get you to start thinking differently and build new processes that are efficient as well as putting an end to doing non-value adding activities.

New this year to IBF conferences, was IBF Bingo! This was being played by conference attendees throughout the event.  The Bingo! board had a matrix of ways to enhance learning, collaboration and social media efforts.  Some of the cells included Meeting five new contacts, tweeting and asking a question during a session.  Ever competitive, people were enthusiastically playing along and working hard to get to Bingo and receive a nice prize. Unwittingly as attendees worked their way in columns or rows to hit Bingo!, they also,  got to meet five new contacts, tweet up a storm on the conference and have more dynamic sessions with more interactive question and answer sessions.  Tricky, tricky conference organizers.

Innovation, trust and dedicated resources are basic tenets that go beyond bringing your organization to the next level in terms of S&OP and forecasting.  Take a look at the online slide presentations to see what else was covered, or better yet, subscribe to the Journal of Business Forecasting and attend the next show.  Soon you’ll be singing the praises of S&OP too!