With companies targeting global customers, their supply chains and fulfillment networks have become intricate, multi-enterprise and geographically dispersed. Add to this complexity the constant reality of demand volatility, constrained supply allocations and shortening product lifecycles, and you get a picture of the challenges that demand management and fulfillment groups are facing on a daily basis as they try to ensure the right products are in the right place at the right time.
In short, the best possible plans are made, and then everything unravels when there is a last-minute or unexpected change that needs an immediate response.
Companies are managing demand response across their fulfillment networks by brute force. For too long this critical component of driving the business has been underserved by inadequate tools for visibility, analysis and collaboration. The consequences of poor analysis and slow reaction times are many, from customer erosion to higher inventories to missed earnings.
For brand owners and manufacturers, solving the response management need in their demand management and fulfillment operations represents the largest opportunity to increase customer satisfaction, enhance margins and attain more predictable revenue in the entire value chain. Companies must look to gain fulfillment network visibility and empower their front-line staff to understand true demand and continuously align finished good supply accordingly. By being able to respond rapidly to constant change, companies can gain significant competitive advantages in customer service while driving superior operations performance at the same time.
Responsiveness as a Competitive Differentiator
A strong competency in response management becomes the key competitive differentiator in this hyper-competitive, consumer-driven market. Today, whoever can deliver the product a customer wants, how and when they want it, wins…period. Demand management and fulfillment groups must be empowered to quickly respond to vigorous and volatile demands because if they don't, someone else will. It has never been easier to lose business to a global competitor who is just a mouse click away.
In an environment where the ability to respond to change is at a premium, the challenge to do so is not inconsequential given today's virtual enterprises, which, for a brand owner, can consist of several contract manufacturing sites, regional sales offices, distribution centers and inventory hubs. Demand management and fulfillment teams are forced to manage multiple sources of data all over the world in a multitude of systems, so achieving visibility and coordination in an attempt to manage daily change is no simple feat.
Achieving excellence in responding to changing customer demands has become the No. 1 challenge facing companies today; hence, a strong competency in response management can become a valuable competitive advantage.
An End-to-End Solution
There are several "point solutions" available that focus just on demand management or order management, which can provide improvements in isolation; however, companies need a collaborative solution that supports the dynamics of forecast, order and supply changes within a single integrated fulfillment network.
Despite investments in demand planning, supply chain planning (SCP), and sales and operations planning (S&OP) tools, demand management, sales and customer service organizations often end up relying on spreadsheets, which don't afford timely updates of multi-enterprise information and are hard to use in a collaborative analysis environment. The fact that user communities have tried to employ spreadsheets to address business challenges is quite frequently a sign that the company is struggling to deal with unexpected change. As a result, demand management and fulfillment teams "throw bodies" at the problem and/or become dependent on escalating their issues to manufacturing operations, which then puts a drag on both groups.