Simplify Your Planning and Watch Your Business Grow

by Sophie Guimaraes

7 minutes

A Day in the Life of a Supply Chain Strategist

As any supply chain manager knows, there’s a lot that goes into crafting and maintaining a demand plan. At the bare minimum, you need historical sales data, which is a rich resource for discerning patterns, seasonality, and more. And on top of that, so many other factors can shape a forecast: Sales orders, purchase orders, inventory levels, promotions, velocity, and sales reports from retailers or distributors. The list goes on.

If you’re a supply chain planner, you know—perhaps all too well—that all of those numbers need crunching. But there’s much more to demand planning than number-crunching. Take data cleanliness, for example. An effective demand plan hinges on data that’s more or less free of gaps, whether they be from mismatches, incompletions, or inconsistencies. Demand planners often take more time than they should chasing after well-organized, timely, precise, consistent, and complete data to fill those gaps. If they don’t, the forecasting model is just being fed bad data—and garbage in inevitably means garbage out. 

Once all of that data has been corralled, it takes even more time to make it visible and digestible, both before and after you calculate a forecast. You have to organize it into multiple spreadsheets, making a number of decisions about how to customize the visuals of your demand planning document as well as get everyone else on the same page. Then come the meetings—lots of them—involving cross-departmental correspondence, back-and-forth discussions, and last-minute changes to forecasts. On top of all of this, you have to review past forecasts, determining why they weren’t accurate via postmortem.

Is it worth it to put in all that time just to end up with a subpar forecast—riddled with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, headaches from archaic tech, and even human error? And even if your manual process does give you decent accuracy, is it still worth all of those hours?

We’re going to go ahead and say no.

Unioncrate: Simply Powerful, Powerfully Simple

Sales people want to sell. Strategists want to strategize. The C-Suite wants to act. And everyone wants to grow faster. Unioncrate simplifies your supply chain planning process and allows your teams to focus on each of these individual priorities, all while saving time—a lot of it.

So how does Unioncrate take a complex planning process and simplify it? Most significantly, Unioncrate...

  • Gives you automatic visibility so you can fully understand your true demand
  • Alleviates number crunching and slashes hours of manual computation
  • Delivers forecast efficiency you can’t get on your own, all in one place

Put it all together and you have the building blocks for effective demand planning, simplified.

Full Visibility of Your True Demand

Take a moment to think about demand—what comes to mind? Do you see empty shelves, shoppers pushing full carts, maybe even a Walmart shouting match on Black Friday? While all those do represent demand at the point-of-sale level, there’s so much more to demand than that.

The Unioncrate platform gives you greater visibility into your business operations in relation to the CPG ecosystem around you. The platform allows you to understand true demand, i.e. the people you’re actually selling product to: Distribution centers, large retailers, and any other ship-tos. These CPG buyers are your true customers, and our AI-powered forecasting models are optimized specifically to best predict their behavior.

Our platform features help you see your data as well—and we mean really see. The Unioncrate platform acts as a single source of truth, with all of your historical sales data automatically ingested and centralized within our sleek, industry-leading UI. You can play with your data in a more visible way via filters and tabs for time, customer, brand, units, dollars, and more, allowing you to understand your demand from a number of different angles such as distribution and SKU-level with just a few clicks. Plus, the granularity and accessibility of data helps teams coordinate cross-departmentally.

The result of all of this visibility? An incredible amount of time savings. It no longer takes days and weeks to make sense of your supply chain. Everything’s at the tip of your fingers.

Hands-Off Mathematics

We all love a good vending machine: Press a few buttons, put in a handful of quarters, and out comes the perfect bag of Skittles or M&Ms. But a lot happens behind the scenes, all sorts of mechanics and configurations that you’re not privy to—nor do you have to be.

What if you could have a vending machine for forecasts?

Unioncrate’s software is exactly that. Our software is designed to create a demand and supply planning process for your organization, filling in your business’s planning gaps in an automated way. Ultimately, we take the complicated data science and do it for you, processing historical sales, seasonality trends, and the ins and outs of your true demand.

On top of just the platform itself, Unioncrate’s data science team also supplements your operations team by thinking about all the things you either can’t—or don’t—want to think about (and believe us, both are valid). Essentially, the DS team sifts through datasets in an automated way, using better, AI-powered logic to provide you with better forecasts. Some demand forecasting software platforms apply the same simple forecasting model to all of their clients across the board, with no variation or nuance attuned to specific businesses. In Unioncrate’s case, though, our DS team picks the right model and finds the best data and metrics for it. Then, over time, they continue to optimize the models, keeping an eye out for signals, patterns, trends, and shifts.

There’s data, there are forecasts, and at a top-line level, there’s your demand plan. But something else comes between the demand forecasting process and your holistic demand plan: actionable insights. These insights are the answers to the questions, why did my forecast accuracy drop? and, how much inventory should I be transferring to other DCs? both of which require complex analysis to get to the bottom of. Our AI gives you an accuracy analysis at a granular level, visible via different combinations of filters: fiscal, dollar values, percent change from prior period, and more. Most importantly, it’s all automated, which lets you get insights faster, build forecasts more accurately, make better decisions, and save money in the process.

Forecast Efficiency You Can’t Get On Your Own

Efficiencies are the name of the game when it comes to the CPG industry, and the Unioncrate platform generates them—a lot of them. Our quick onboarding and easy integration make it easy to attain those efficiencies, especially when software adoption can seem like anything but. And we have multiple options for integration: Connect to your ERP seamlessly, or upload a CSV file of your data.

Easy integration means less energy expended on all sides. But this philosophy also extends to the models themselves. Unioncrate’s models get better on their own, iterating on themselves without any need to rebuild or re-calculate them. Our AI “thinks” ahead and adapts automatically to what model worked best, when, and why. And the more data, the better: We’ve ingested hundreds of millions of data points and iterated on each one of them to have a holistic understanding of CPG brands of all sizes. Iterate on your demand planning the same way you iterate on your product with better flavors, packaging, and ingredients. After all, how do you get better if you’re not iterating on the process?

Creating efficiencies across the supply chain in this way protects against human error, which saves you time from finding and fixing mistakes. The accuracy improvement trickles down to production, ordering, and so much more. It’s a common misconception that only enterprise-level companies can benefit from demand planning software, but ask yourself: What are your current accuracy levels? If you don’t have an answer for that, join the club—many CPG brands, particularly smaller ones, don’t either. What demand forecasting software can do for you, then, is establish a baseline forecasting accuracy if you don’t already have one. This gives you fundamental information about your brand—higher accuracy is just the cherry on top.

Now: Just Click a Button and Go

Make your forecasts work for you. Gone are the days of building manual forecasts, or doing time-sucking data crunching, or even computing the final bit of math that leaves you with your finished forecast. Now you can have one platform that does all the work for you, letting you simplify your planning processes: Click a button, do less work to get your forecasts, make better decisions, and watch your business grow.

About Unioncrate

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.

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