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. 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.
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. This 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.
The toolkit also includes a forecast accuracy calculator to support forecast and demand planning. The calculator discusses forecast horizons, how often to forecast, what to forecast, the impact of timing errors on forecast accuracy and the details of the forecast accuracy measurement. It also guides users through acceptable error limits, a forecast error calculator, error metrics definitions and tracking charts.
The comprehensive user instructions cover essential steps and two options for use (which can be used at the same time):
- Option 1 – tracks errors against forecast horizon
- Option 2 – tracks errors against product volume.
The purpose of the Forecast accuracy calculator is to build up a history that will enable more accurate forecasts and demands in the future. This should enable reduced variability and better communications within your company and with your suppliers.
the calculator supplements the other parts of the toolkit: A forecasting and demand planning checklist, a Forecasting template, and a Forecasting and demand planning communications pack.