Automation & IBP: Better Together
Automation transforms processes—from slow to fast, from manual to digital, from time-consuming to time-freeing, from painstakingly chaotic to harmoniously in sync. In the context of Integrated Business Planning (IBP), which views the business as one unit that functions holistically, automation can transform a hectic demand planning process into an agile, collaborative one. And by enabling humans to do their jobs faster and better, brands can use automation to streamline their IBP process and realize value almost immediately.
Automation and Holistic Supply Chain Planning
Generally speaking, IBP is an elevated and expanded version of S&OP; it’s the younger, hipper, more well-rounded sibling. Of course, you already know S&OP—it’s the process by which brands align on a baseline forecast and devise a plan to ensure that supply meets demand. IBP extends the principles of S&OP beyond the supply and finance teams to unite and rally the business holistically, accomplishing S&OP’s goal of maximizing sales and profit. Adding automation to your IBP process has the following benefits.
- Efficiencies galore. With automation, a brand’s data and the systems in which they exist, go from varied and siloed to uniform and universal. In other words, automation enables brands to align behind one single source of truth. And when it comes to demand planning, this saves key stakeholders incredible amounts of time, from culling data and manually calculating forecasts to spending less time in meetings and more time pushing the business forward. Automation makes cross-functional team dynamics stronger and more efficient, promotes collaboration, and pushes the decision-making process in the right direction faster.
- Full visibility and data granularity. A sure-fire way to eliminate silos, align teams, close communication gaps, and generate cross-departmental collaboration during the planning process is through automation. CPG brands can use automation to generate a fully visible, end-to-end view of important data across the business, such as historical sales and predictions, broken down by SKU and ship-to location or real-time inventory levels at various distribution centers. CPG brands should invest in automation technologies that prioritize granularity and visibility to provide one unified view of supply chain, financial, and operational data across sales, inventory, distribution, manufacturing, and more. This helps the IBP process play out much more seamlessly and without tedious back-and-forth between teams—thus creating a kind of digital brain for a business, eliminating blind spots from forecasts, and slashing hours out of the demand planning process.
- Refocused teams. Less time spent on demand planning-related tasks frees up teams to put their energies into efforts that will grow the business rather than slow it down. Instead of spending time manually tabulating forecasts or culling resources, data, and other information from disparate or mismatched sources, automation streamlines these for the betterment of the company.
- Greater forecast accuracy. Automation allows for top-notch levels of forecast accuracy across sales, inventory, distribution, and other parts of the supply chain by decreasing human error while unifying data, systems, and teams. Integrating AI to your tech stack can push your brand’s ability to leverage automation and forecast accuracy to the next level as well.
- Increased agility. Automation enables brands to be nimble—helping them act fast, be collaborative, and make the adjustments they need during the IBP process in order to holistically align operations with the pace of demand, and maximize efficiencies and profit.
- Advanced analytics. Automation enables CPG brands to access and analyze vital analytics in a fraction of the time it would take for a team of humans to arrive at these numbers, including historical forecast error, a ranking of the contributing factors that influenced these performance gaps, and a ranking of the factors that will drive predicted sales. CPG companies should adopt an IBP process that relies on automation to generate these analytics and benchmark them.
- Economies of scale. As companies scale, having automation in the IBP process allows them to grow faster and more efficiently because they have the data, speed, and visibility to know where and how to minimize risks and take advantage of opportunities. As a result, profits should increase relative to increases in sales volume. Meanwhile, supply, R&D, and distribution costs will decrease per unit sold, while profit margins increase.
Prioritizing automation means prioritizing growth
CPG brands should prioritize their investment in software that can enable them to approach the IBP process from a place of alignment rather than difference, unity rather than disparity, and harmony rather than chaos. IBP platforms should enable brands to leverage automation in order to help them better plan, manage, and pivot cross-functional strategies around the ever-changing nature of consumer demand and supply chain.
This combination—of the need for holistic planning plus automation and predictive analytics—is best realized through software that integrates all areas of your business into a scalable, well-oiled machine with a singular view of the future. This is where an IBP platform can do wonders for brands that require increased visibility, agility, collaboration, and speed in their planning process, which will take them to the next level.
Unioncrate is an AI-powered Supply Chain Planning Platform that gives CPG brands the technology they need to compete and win in a rapidly changing consumer landscape. Our automated demand and supply forecasts deliver unmatched accuracy, collaborative visibility, and actionable intelligence, simplifying a manual-heavy process and slashing hours from your week.