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Become a Supply Chain Planning Master and Kick Your Microsoft Excel Habit

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Microsoft Excel is one of the most popular business tools throughout the world, and its power as a reporting and short-term analysis tool is undeniable. While many skilled professionals use it to perform complex data management tasks, they could unknowingly cost their company a fortune if they use it for demand and supply chain planning (SCP).

Let’s say you work at a small- to mid-sized company and you oversee sales, operations, supply, and demand planning. You rely on Excel for analysis since you can access data housed in your company’s ERP system. The problem is, the data is not always up-to-the minute current -- as you work with a snap shot of information you’ve got to manipulate it to work with it. That means cleaning the data and building complex formulas, then hoping those work as you keep adding rows/columns to the sheet. You may spend 90 – 95 percent of your time on these tasks instead of interpreting and understanding what the numbers are trying to tell you.

This is where a supply chain planning master would tell you: you either own the data or you let the data own you. This master would recommend you take a few steps toward becoming a master in your own right.

Consolidate and Integrate Your Data

To get to the root of the problem, your supply chain planning and your business systems need to work in harmony. An integrated supply chain planning solution will link bi-directionally with ERP and other business systems. This allows you to use your ERP data for examining what has happened with orders, materials, and delivery to develop your master plan. You can then push that plan back to your ERP and other business systems to operationalize it, and adjust your plan on a day-to-day basis.

Collaborate and Fine-tune

Because you are likely cleaning the data issues outside of the ERP, accurate numbers live in numerous spreadsheets and likely rarely match the numbers of other functional areas within your business. Make sure your team is working from one version of the truth by moving away from Excel and using a cloud-based supply chain planning tool. Don’t panic. You’ll soon realize this is the best decision you’ve ever made.

Using a cloud-based, supply chain planning tool lets you spend your time wisely. Instead of organizing the information in Excel, you can view the forecast quickly in numerous aggregations to pinpoint problem areas. If your team wants to see reports in different templates, no problem. Again, with an integrated supply chain planning solution you can update your plan, push that back to your business systems, and operate on a single version of the truth.

Breaking the Excel habit is no easy feat. It can be difficult to step out of your comfort zone. But even a savvy Excel user can change. A powerful cloud-based supply chain planning tool will not only save your company time and money but also make you a supply chain planning master.

Want to kick the Excel habit and get more accurate forecasts? Join us for a free webinar on DemandCaster Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) to learn how to balance supply and demand in your enterprise.