Digital planning: a pack for the e-cigarette

publishedinscm-300x61-2Its as if everyones talking about digital planning nowadays. That might seem pretty strange, because has there ever been such a thing as non-digital planning? Yes, once upon a time… decades ago, long before Excels predecessors became available. But since then, Ive rarely come across any planners who prefer the proverbial back-of-a-cigarette-packet calculations over modern computer software. If Excel doesnt go far enough, standard tools have often been implemented long ago – even in medium-sized organizations – to calculate statistics-based demand plans or use specific algorithms to optimize supply schedules. So why all the sudden excitement about ‘digital? 

I suspect that it’s because something really is changing when it comes to supply chain planning. During the recent pandemic, in numerous webinars, many organizations have shared details of their supply chain planning roadmap and their current progress. What strikes me is that these roadmaps go further than the traditional selection and implementation of a standard planning tool. Today, its more about using such tools as effectively as possible for planning purposes, in combination with the latest technologies related to data management, data lakes, powerful cloud computing and new algorithms based on artificial intelligence. There are two main goals: to improve the planning quality as the basis for better decision-making in the S&OP process on the one hand, and to further automate repetitive tasks in order to increase planning efficiency on the other. 

These changes will place high demands on supply chain managers. What additional data will the demand planners and supply planners have access to? Will they be able to distill the necessary insights from it themselves, or will a data scientist be needed? In the latter case, where will that role fit into the organization, and what will that mean for the future profile of the demand planner? In other words, what will become more important: technological skills in order to create and interpret the plan, or communication skills to gather the missing information that cant be derived from the available data? These are all questions that still need to be answered. 

Above all, the terms digital planning, ‘next-generation planning’ and ‘Planning 4.0 indicate that more insight is needed in order to unleash the value of these advancements – not with the aim of completely replacing the existing methods, but rather to enhance them… in the same way that a traditional cigarette packet can also be used to store the latest e-cigarettes.

Are you curious to find out why Tielemans has nevertheless embraced the term digital planning? Watch this video (in Dutch, English subtitles) or read the English transcript of his presentation during the Supply Chain Trend Dinner 2021.

This column is written by Peter Tielemans, and was also published on Supply Chain Media. 

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Albert Einstein