Forecasting in Supply Chain

The forecast of demand forms the basis for all strategies and planning decisions in a supply chain. Consider the pull/push view of the supply chain. Throughout the supply chain, all push processes are performed in anticipation of customer demand whereas all pull processes are performed in response to customer demand. For push processes, a manager must plan the level of production. For pull processes, a manager must plan the level of available capacity and inventory. In both instances, the first step a manager must take is to forecast and what customer demand will be.

Mature products with stable demand are usually easiest to forecast. Staple products at a super market, such as milk or paper towels, fit this description. Forecasting and the accompanying managerial decisions are extremely difficult when either the supply of raw materials or the demand for the finished product is highly variable. Good forecasting is very important because the time window for sale is narrow and if a firm has over- or under-produced, it has little chance to recover. For a product with long life cycle, in contrast, the impact of a forecasting error is less significant.

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