Building an essential toolkit for forecasting and demand planning

newsJan 7, 2021 | News

Forecast and demand planning chalk board

Robust and transparent discussions between biomanufacturers and their suppliers are crucial to producing a strong forecast that both parties will find useful – never more so under the challenges of supply during Covid-19 and the increased demand on the in-bound supply chain. However, BioPhorum benchmarking exercises and surveys have highlighted that industry is often poor at forecasting and demand planning. For example, only around 50% of respondents do it, and only half of those find it useful.

BioPhorum has therefore published a Forecasting and demand planning checklist, which is a best practice checklist to define the recommended minimum required steps to generate a useful forecast. This is the latest piece in BioPhorum’s forecasting and demand planning toolkit.

Created by the Forecasting & Demand Planning 2 (FDP2) Workstream, the checklist is for companies moving towards mature demand forecasting practices, and biomanufacturers and suppliers with regular demand forecasting meetings. It should be used each time a new forecast is generated to ensure the key steps are carried out. 

It includes sections on:

  • Preparation, e.g. identify a 12–36 month time horizon
  • Data gathering and verification, e.g. review the data for accuracy
  • Internal company review, e.g. generate a final forecast for raw materials
  • Schedule and organize discussions, e.g. agree on timing/cadence of meetings
  • External alignment with a vendor, e.g. define time horizons for demand
  • External vendor review, e.g. stakeholders to review the data.

The checklist supplements the Forecasting Template published in November 2020, which defines the recommended minimum data required in a forecast. Used together, the checklist and template will improve industry-wide forecast and demand planning processes.

Key communications

The team has also produced a Forecasting and demand planning communications pack to explain the recommended forecast and demand planning cycle of events, i.e. when you should sit down and talk, what you should talk about, what should be in the discussions, etc.

Anna-Lena Bresch, Global S&OP Operations Leader at Cytiva said, “The format is easy to adopt, but above all, this tool helps us have an open dialogue and an interactive discussion with our customers and suppliers, better understanding each other’s challenges instead of looking over an Excel spreadsheet with detailed numbers. We’re happy with the work of the BioPhorum FDP2 team and we will continue to support the adoption of this tool within Cytiva.”

It will help guide and structure the regular meetings between biomanufacturers and critical suppliers. Having a comprehensive framework for those meetings is essential, especially when discussing key materials. It includes everything from the minimum required agenda items and an action log template, to a forecast confidence ‘traffic light’ indicator and ‘hints and tips’ to get the most out of the pack.

Catherine Piton, Senior Marketing Manager within Technical Communication and Regulatory Strategy at PALL Biotech said, “By piloting the FDP2 Communications Pack, we were able to evaluate how well we were running our forecast communication processes and identify potential improvements. The pack can facilitate and standardize data exchanged with drug manufacturers as well as with our critical suppliers. To build strong relationships, the pack provides robust data that supply chain teams can rely on to optimize their stock policy and better anticipate lead-time changes.”

The FDP2 team builds on the original FDP workstream that produced the Forecasting and demand planning best practice guidance in 2018. It consists of subject-matter experts from biomanufacturers and suppliers and plans to write a comprehensive forecasting guidance document in 2021.

Covid-19 and its ripple effect throughout the industry could cause stressful times for another 18–24 months, and it would be easy for companies to become reactive to supply and demand issues when they should really be doing more planning, not less. BioPhorum’s template, checklist and communications pack form an essential toolkit that will help companies plan over a longer period and ensure that the right materials will be available when they need them.

“Covid-19 development needs have further stressed the criticality of industry supplies, re-emphasizing the importance of forecast and demand planning,” said John Boehm, Vice President Biopharma at CPC. “The FDP2 Communications Pack provides a tool to help facilitate collaborative communication between drug manufacturers and suppliers to address supply and lead-time challenges. The pack can also be leveraged between Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers to drive needed forecasting information down to sub-suppliers. Like other workstreams, the key to achieving continuous improvement will be for us to work together to drive industry implementation.” 

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