While Bartok did not discuss Wells Lamont's investment in the new forecasting tool, he says that the company anticipated a one-year payback period on the solution, and he adds that Wells Lamont aims to quantify its return on investment by the end of the first quarter of 2005. "We actually expect to see double-digit forecast improvements in some of the product lines," he says. Partly as a result, the company anticipates seeing significant reductions in expediting costs, as well as increases in production and purchasing efficiencies as staff in those departments are fed more accurate forecast data throughout the course of the planning cycle. "When you give a vendor or production manager a heads-up saying, 'This is going to be coming on the next plan,' that gives them a few weeks to reroute their purchasing or production plan to improve or maintain the scheduling and purchasing efficiencies," Bartok explains.
Perhaps as important as these gains, Wells Lamont has leveraged the new forecasting engine to take much of the tactical, data entry-type work out of its planners' days and move them into a more strategic, and more value-adding, role at the company. Bartok believes, based on a throughput analysis of the planning department, that the company's planning staff reduced its non-value-adding workload by as much as 70 percent, giving the staff more time to take action on the exceptions identified by the new planning solution. "We're getting the data out there to the decision-makers, we're making visible for them the product lines or programs that need action, and we're getting the results back," Bartok says. And, finally, Bartok says that the implementation has allowed the company to achieve one other significant goal: "We wanted a process and tool that we would be proud of when sharing data with our customers," he concludes.