Tag Archives: Sales Inventory and Operations Planning


There are a lot of terms used by organizations to describe their mid to long range strategic planning discipline.  Whether your organization calls it Integrated Business Planning (IBP), Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning (SIOP) or something else, the key message is that abbreviations are not important – results are. Strong strategic planning discipline orchestrates sales plans, operations constraints, and financial objectives while giving guidance to short-term scheduling for execution. At USC, we call this discipline SIOP due to the strategic importance of inventory to smooth supply and demand fluctuations to maintain customer service levels.

Survey Says!

Businesses find S&OP beneficial because it helps balance supply and demand, it improves communication between sales and other departments, leads to better decision-making with everyone on the same page, and it ultimately results in better efficiency. Most organizations refer to their planning process as S&OP, but we think it’s incomplete. Inventory needs to be part of this process to unlock greater levels of operational efficiency and customer service rates.

Planning Process Name Chart

Most companies have less than five years of experience utilizing a SIOP discipline and significantly, fewer than 50% of all companies integrate financial objectives into their monthly planning process. The result is the organization’s annual plans are disconnected from the monthly “replanning” SIOP process. Managers are typically held accountable to their annual plans which are increasingly out of date as the year progresses and better plans are known resulting in sub-optimal decision making based on old assumptions.

Annual Operating Plan Chart

Furthermore, since most companies rely on static models such as Excel and Access to as their primary analytical tools, the planning process can be labor intensive, time consuming and more prone to human error. Integrating decision support systems with operations data, procurement data, inventory data, and customer demand improves simulation and scenario analysis capabilities. Integrating with advanced predictive analytics can further augment planning knowledge.

Primary Data Analytics Chart

Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning

We tell our clients that SIOP is making sure you’re having the right conversations about the right things at the right time.

SOP vs SIOP Chart

Sales, Inventory, and Operations Planning is a holistic process that integrates customer-focused demand plans with production, sourcing and inventory plans and results in improved tactical and long-term business decision making capability.

Keys to Implementing a Successful SIOP Process

But Why the Added Focus on Inventory?

Inventory tells a story about a business’ operational efficiency. Inventory accounts pool the collective decisions and market forces affecting the company, telling stories of sales forecasting accuracy, manufacturing efficiency, planning effectiveness, supply chain disruptions, and quality control. Lean inventories reveal robust planning systems and culture, integrated ERP systems, and good governance. Excess inventories can be a short-term benefit to sustain high customer service levels during times of uncertainty, however they come with high obsolescence and carrying costs.  Inventory is a strategic lever to smooth operations, procurement, and sales fluctuations. The right level of inventory is different for each company, and changes based on current consumer demand, supply chain disruptions, and strategic decisions.

Benefits of SIOP

Interested to learn more about how adding inventory to your planning can make you more efficient? For more information on how SIOP can help your business read our eBook, “Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”

David Newman

David Newman

*This article is written by USC Consulting Group’s Supply Chain Practice Leader, David Newman.

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The rise in food prices is all over the news these days. The USDA and the Consumer Price Index tell us that, in 2023, grocery store purchases were up 5% from the previous year, while eating out cost an average of 7.1% more. This year, those costs are set to bump up another 1.3%. But, if you work in food manufacturing, (or buy groceries for your household) you don’t need the government to tell you those prices are rising.

It’s the trickle-down effect. Challenges facing food manufacturers mean higher production costs, which are ultimately influencing everyone’s grocery bills.

Here’s why, and what food manufacturers can do to save money on the front end to stop that trickle down.

Challenges affecting food prices

Some of the issues food manufacturers are navigating through that can ultimately show up in prices at the grocery store include:

Supply chain disruptions. Whether it’s geopolitical tensions, droughts, wildfires, strikes, or other events, it can disrupt the supply of raw materials food manufacturers use to get the job done. This can and does create delays, backlogs and other costly challenges.

Price inflation. Before price increases hit the grocery store shelves, the rising cost of things like grain, meat and dairy affects manufacturers who use those raw materials to make their goods.

Shipping costs. Rising fuel prices affect how much it costs to get those raw materials to food manufacturers, whether it’s coming from across town or across the world.

Labor shortages. The continuing battle to hire and train good people, and retain the ones you have, contributes to labor costs at the plant, which contributes to rising costs for the end user.

Evolving demand. Consumers are ever changing in their preferences and expectations. People are increasingly demanding sustainability, ethical sourcing, friendly practices like free-ranging and more. And dietary trends shift too, with plant-based alternatives growing in popularity on the one hand and minimally-processed meals on the other. This makes it difficult for manufacturers to forecast to accommodate the demand.

Regulations. Compliance with FDA regulations can be complex at best and lead to inefficiency and higher costs for manufacturers at worst. It’s especially prevalent in yield, when manufacturers are trying to hit the “wiggle room” the government allows between what the package label says and how much product is actually in the package. Not wanting to be out of compliance, manufacturers often overfill packaging to reach that sweet spot, but it means they’re actually giving away product… and profits.

All of these challenges can have a direct impact on manufacturing costs and will inevitably trickle down to their customers. It boils down to:

Higher production costs. This is by no means unique to the food manufacturing industry. Higher production costs on things like raw materials, labor, transportation and more mean higher costs to the customer – that’s a fact of life for most every business.

Supply and demand uncertainty. Supply chain disruption leads to shortages, which cause prices to rise.

How food manufacturers can tackle these challenges

In the short term, agility is key. But strategic planning, process improvements, and a focus on efficiency can shore up food manufacturers for the long run.

Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning which we call SIOP, takes the sales and operations planning (S&OP) process that most manufacturers use and adds inventory to the mix. At USCCG, we find inventory is often left out of the planning process, but it can be as important of a variable and a strategic tool. Following this methodology helps manufacturers eliminate waste, increase efficiencies and achieve an optimal level between not enough and too much.

It’s also an unparalleled tool for inventory management, which is a tricky business today given all of the challenges this industry is facing.

If you would like to learn more about SIOP, download our (free) eBook, “Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”

Sales Inventory and Operations Planning eBook

Process improvements. One way streamlining and refocusing your processes can help manufacturers now is in the area of yield. Getting a handle on yield — improving processes so you’re not giving away product — can save millions of dollars. To learn more about how one food distributor saved $2.3 million per year by improving their yield, read “Food Distributor Masters Management by the Numbers to Improve Yield.”  And speaking of management by the numbers…

Implement a Solid Management Operations System. Many manufacturers, whether food or other industries, tend to manage on the basis of what has worked in the past, a gut feeling by seasoned managers, and other methods. At USCCG, we like hard numbers, streamlined processes and everyone doing the same job the same way. And about that…

Focus on training. It’s crucial to have all shifts, all facilities and all employees working in tandem, doing the same job the same way. It’s how you create the proverbial well-oiled machine.

None of these tactics will stop challenges from happening, but they can and do make your operations more efficient, and in turn, save you money. Not only will it improve your bottom line, but you might just be able to trickle the savings down to your customers, too.

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All roads are leading most industries to adopt increasingly more sustainable practices. The pressure for manufacturers to go green is growing in the face of climate change, supply chain challenges and especially consumer preferences.

A report from the Roundup, “Environmentally Conscious Consumer Statistics,” paints a pretty clear picture.

Consumers are opting for products that are sustainable, but that’s not the only headline for manufacturers. Because, it’s not just products. It’s the companies, too. Some 29% of consumers said they are “often or always” influenced by a company’s commitment to adopting more sustainable practices.

Sustainability challenges: It’s not easy being green

Many in the manufacturing industry are undoubtedly feeling some kinship to Kermit the Frog these days. Despite the pressure to adopt more sustainable practices, as the Muppet so famously lamented: “It’s not easy being green.”

It’s all well and good to work toward shoring up the environment (and we need to) but it’s a challenging lift for manufacturers. Some obstacles include:

High upfront costs. New technologies, processes and materials come at a price. It’s especially tough for manufacturers in industries like food and beverage, which has razor-thin margins.

Long wait for return-on-investment. ROI from major expenses can take years to come to fruition.

Supply chain challenges. Even if your company has shifted to more sustainable practices, what about your suppliers?

Skilled labor shortage. It’s difficult enough to find warm bodies to work on the line. But new technologies come with new skills requirements.

Opportunities are emerging

At USC Consulting Group, we help companies look for the opportunities within challenging situations. We always find the silver linings. Here are a few:

Cost reduction. Yes, there are upfront costs. But sustainable practices can lead to reduced energy and water consumption, the possibility of lower regulatory compliance costs, and lower materials costs by using recycled materials.

New partners, suppliers and revenue streams. The sustainable marketplace is an ecosystem all its own. It’s possible to find new partners, customers and even suppliers.

Attract and retain top talent. Yes, there is a labor shortage. But the companies with strong sustainable practices are attracting the best people out there. Companies that care for the environment also find their employees are more engaged and involved.

Governmental tax breaks. The government is committed to rewarding companies for adopting more sustainable practices with tax breaks and other financial incentives.

Strategies for manufacturers

One of the best ways to adopt more sustainable practices is to first look in the mirror. It’s not necessarily about investing in new technologies and turning the world upside down. First, look at your processes and operating systems. You’ll likely find efficiencies you didn’t even know were there. Places to start:

Minimizing waste. Lean Six Sigma methodologies can find hidden wastes and lead to more efficient operations. Not only will it save you considerable money, but minimizing waste is a key principle in sustainability. That’s a win-win.

Operations improvements. How efficient are your operations? A solid management operations system, which is a structured approach to your operations, creates much greater efficiency. The best MOS focus on processes, systems, roles and structures to map out how the job gets done, and by whom. Learn more about it in our short video, Stop the Firefighting Mentality to Improve Your Bottom Line.

Sales, inventory and operations planning. You’ve heard of S&OP. We added the “I.” We find inventory to be a key piece of the operations puzzle. When doing sales forecasting and planning for demand and supply, adding inventory elevates the process a notch. It makes inventory a strategic tool. Learn more about it in our free eBook, “Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”

Training. About that skilled labor shortage. A way to combat that is by training and upskilling your people. And solid training for not just employees on the line but managers, too, will get everyone on the same page, creating greater efficiency organization-wide.

By moving toward more sustainable practices, manufacturers can ultimately reduce costs, find greater efficiencies, attract both consumers and employees and help the planet in the process. But it’s not easy. At USC Consulting Group, we’re the experts on helping companies become more efficient, effective and profitable. With more than 55 years behind us, we’ve seen trends come and go. The key is turning challenges into opportunities. Get in touch to find out more.

Contact USC Consulting Group

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The COVID-era supply chain disruptions are slowly but surely easing up for manufacturers around the globe. While the worldwide market is not yet fully recovered, signs point to a strong resurgence in 2023, with a return to normalcy by 2024. Even though good news is on the horizon for manufacturers, there are still a number of challenges to be aware of that will impact day-to-day operations. Here’s an overview of a few of the top manufacturing challenges for 2023, and how to handle them.

Challenge: Legacy technologies

Many manufacturers operate with legacy technologies — outdated hardware or software systems. These outdated systems can cause disruption for an organization in a few key areas.

The first problem: Legacy technologies can cause efficiency issues. Since these systems can be years (and sometimes decades) old, they simply don’t have the same features and capabilities of newer software on the market. Additionally, these legacy systems can pose a security risk. Older technology doesn’t have the same safeguards as newer systems, and cybercriminals have a much easier time infiltrating outdated software than one that is up-to-date.

Despite these problems, manufacturers can be hesitant to change systems due to familiarity, not wanting to enact a full system overhaul, or a mix of the two.

Strategy: Invest in new technologies and smart warehouses

Investing in emerging technologies should be a priority for manufacturers heading into the new year.

It’s a wise strategy, not only to become more efficient and protect systems from infiltration, but newer technologies can increase safety in the workplace and free up employees to handle more productive tasks. A recent survey from Deloitte found that 85% of manufacturing executives think that some form of robotics on the production line could increase employee safety, and 78% agree that updated technology can minimize repetitive work, empowering employees to focus on more productive and impactful tasks.

Challenge: Inflation

Starting in mid-2022, inflation across all essential goods prompted public backlash, not to mention squeezing the wallets of consumers and businesses alike. Bearing the brunt of the blame was the global supply chain, and the bottlenecks and scarcity it caused in markets across the world. Although those pressures are easing headed into the new year, inflation will still be a factor in 2023.

Strategy: Re-evaluate costs during design

For manufacturers, inflation means more careful planning to ensure operations remain lean, mean and profitable.

One way of doing this is by implementing Design to Cost — a method in which a manufacturer combines cost management with decision-making during the design stage of a product. Rather than the normal method of thinking about costs after a rough design of a product is made, the unit and material costs are fully integrated during planning to ensure products are profitable.

This type of thinking seems to be the reality for manufacturers in 2023, as a recent Forbes survey found that 87% of manufacturing CEOs plan to increase prices in the new year. Therefore, it’s important for all manufactures to think ahead, and integrate material costs into their design process as soon as possible.

Challenge: Inventory uncertainty

Inventory uncertainty remains one of the manufacturing challenges in 2023. Despite the healing global supply chain, manufacturers still need to strike a proper balance between stockpiling inventory and buying just-in-time. Striking that balance can be tricky. Not getting it right can cause businesses to become over- or under-leveraged at a moment’s notice — affecting the bottom line in the process.

Strategy: SIOP

Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning, SIOP, takes the normal sales and operations planning process and makes inventory just as important of a variable and a strategic tool. Following this methodology helps manufacturers eliminate waste, increase efficiencies and achieve an optimal level between not enough and too much.

We recommend that the SIOP horizon be a minimum rolling 14-month period that gets updated monthly. The aim is to look ahead multiple quarters to make sure inventory is available exactly when you need it. Involving a wide range of departments such as sales, marketing, engineering and finance, SIOP is a system that involves the entire organization to ensure yearly goals and objectives are met.

If you would like to learn more about SIOP, download our (free) eBook, “Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”

Keep moving forward

There will be manufacturing challenges in 2023 and beyond. By addressing your legacy technologies, adjusting to inflation fluxes, and taking the uncertainty out of your inventory management, you will be able to fine-tune your operations for optimal performance.

If your business could use some horsepower to power up your team on improvement initiatives, contact USC Consulting Group and we will put our over 50 years of experience to work for you.

Sales Inventory and Operations Planning: It's About Time eBook cover

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Supply chain disruption. Layoffs. The Great Resignation. Hiring wars. The past few years have not been smooth sailing for the manufacturing industry. Dealing with ongoing challenges can take more time out of your day than simply getting the job done.

So, how do manufacturers survive in this tumultuous business climate? Our subject matter experts here at USC Consulting Group have identified and examined six challenges as the most common issues bedeviling manufacturing right now, along with the strategies we offer to our clients to tackle them.

Manufacturing challenges include:

Dive deeper into each one of these issues and learn the solutions to overcome them in our free white paper “The Consultant’s Guide to Overcoming Today’s Manufacturing Challenges.”

The Consultant's Guide to Overcoming Today's Manufacturing Challenges White Paper CTA

1. The Ongoing Hiring Wars

Like most other industries these days, manufacturing is grappling with the most challenging hiring market in decades. IndustryWeek reports that 54% of U.S. manufacturers are finding it difficult to attract skilled workers to get the job done. That’s up from 38% before the pandemic.

2. The Skills Gap

The hiring wars and the skills gap are giving manufacturing a one-two punch. Not only is it incredibly challenging to fill open positions, but filling them with people who have the skills and experience to get the job done right is proving to be nearly impossible. Hence, the skills gap.

3. A Better Frontline Worker Experience

Just 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and 74% are actively looking for new jobs, according to a Gallup survey. With all of the hiring challenges and shortages of skilled workers, it’s more important than ever to focus on your frontline workforce.

4. Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has been an industry term for several years now. What it means, at its core, is utilizing digital technology to make processes faster, easier, safer and more efficient. The pandemic kicked digital transformation up a notch for manufacturers.

5. Supply Chain Disruption and Inventory Management

Supply chain and inventory management issues have long been a challenge for manufacturers, made worse by the pandemic. These are separate issues, but two sides of the same coin.

6. Change Management

All of these challenges represent and require some degree of organizational change. The term “change management” may seem like the jargon of the moment, but really, it’s about laying the groundwork for change to be successful in your organization.

Learn about each of these challenges in more detail and how to overcome each issue by downloading our white paper:

The Consultant’s Guide to Overcoming Today’s Manufacturing Challenges

If you’re grappling with any of these manufacturing challenges, USC Consulting Group is here to help. We are a global operations management consulting firm that has been helping organizations through more than 50 years of challenges. It’s our specialty. Give us a call today to talk about how we can help you.

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Remember the familiar line from an old TV cop show: “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City”? As USC Consulting Group’s Vice President and Senior Operations Manager Paul Harker likes to point out, the same could be said about your inventory.

Like most dramas, the story of your inventory management can take unexpected turns. It’s very easy to get lost in the din of safety stock levels vs. Lean principles, order quantities, reorder triggers and the lead time to replenish the stock. Supply chain disruptions and shortages haven’t helped matters over the past few years. The plot unravels when these stories don’t add up to a single coherent tale.

Major characters in this inventory management drama:

Operations, which sees inventory as a buffer against fluctuating demand. But how much is too much? They don’t want an excess of stock, which would fly in the face of the popular “just in time” or Lean operating method, which, admittedly took a bit of a hit during the pandemic when people panicked about shortages and bolstered their safety stock.

Sales wants product at the ready at a moment’s notice, not “just in time,” but “all the time.” They’re not overly concerned with storage space, inventory investment or production efficiency.

Finance looks at inventory as a double-edged sword. They want to reduce inventory in order to free up cash and minimize carrying costs. But inventory is also collateral. High levels of production, whether the goods are sold or not, can absorb overhead and drive better month-end results, which are Finance’s Holy Grail.

Executives are focused on achieving quarterly corporate objectives and view inventory in terms of dollars.

At a fundamental level, all of these decision-makers speak different languages, have different perspectives and conflicting messages. Of course, everyone has the same goals: efficiency and profitability. But they may be at cross purposes getting there.

The Hero: SIOP

You might be thinking: “Is that a typo? Don’t they mean S&OP?” Yes and no. No, it’s not a typo. And yes, S&OP, the business management process that involves sales forecast reports, planning for demand and supply, and other factors, is the foundation of all of this. We just think S&OP is missing something: Inventory.

When you’re focusing on inventory, it elevates the entire planning process up a notch. When your inventory is optimized, things tend to fall into place. But it is not an easy mark to hit in these days of supply chain disruption and the sometimes conflicting goals of key decision-makers. With SIOP, you can circumvent these challenges and make your inventory work for you.

“A key to SIOP is to emphasize inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in either demand or production issues,” explains David Shouldice, Senior Vice President and Managing Director at USC Consulting Group. “One lever of control in the SIOP process is to make inventory harder working as a strategic tool.”

As Shouldice notes, it’s about having the right conversations about the right topics at the right time.

This isn’t a one-and-done process. The SIOP planning horizon should be at least a rolling 14-month period. We recommend that our clients update their plans monthly. Some do it more often than that. The point is covering a sufficient span of time to make sure the necessary resources will be available when you need them. The plans take into account projections made by the sales and marketing departments and the resources available from manufacturing, engineering, purchasing and finance. All of that together works toward hitting the company’s goals and objectives.

Using SIOP for inventory management

Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning helps your company get departments in sync, ensures that everyone is on the same page and realistic about the process, helps you manage and roll with changes, and measures performance.

One powerful component of SIOP is that the process involves all of the key players in your inventory drama.

Here’s who we typically see take part in the SIOP process:

Different languages? You bet. But getting them all working together cuts down on the noise of those different languages. One reason SIOP is such a critical management tool is that key players from many departments are working from the same plan, and able to compare actual results to plan, evaluate their performance, and prepare updated plans going forward. SIOP: The universal translator, or C-3PO, for your business.

It is a powerful tool to help you wrangle your inventory management, achieve the optimal balance between not enough and too much, and settle back into Lean (or just in time) manufacturing principles that can eliminate waste and help ramp up your efficiency.

If you’d like to learn more about SIOP, download our (free) eBook, “Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning: It’s About Time.”

Sales Inventory and Operations Planning eBook

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Operations management consulting is a discipline designed to improve your company’s internal operations and processes, making them more efficient, streamlined and ultimately, profitable. It’s what we have been doing at USC Consulting Group for more than 50 years now. During that time, we’ve run across some misconceptions about operations management consulting. In this article, we’ll give you a short rundown of what operations consulting is, and highlight (and debunk) some of the more common myths that are floating around out there.

Operations Management Consulting 101

Operations consultants are outside experts (like us) who can look at your operations with a fresh set of eyes. If your business has a problem or obstacle you can’t solve — a slowdown in throughput, trouble on the line, machinery problems, supply chain issues, demand outweighing supply and more — it’s time to bring in an operations consultant. Operations consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. They talk with front-line workers, executives and everyone in between. Listening is a big part of the job. They employ methodologies like Lean Six Sigma, SIOP, the Five Ms and other tactics to uncover what’s bedeviling your operation and create ways to solve those problems.

Some operations consultants are advisory consultants, or “boardroom consultants” who perform a two- to three-week study and provide a book of recommendations to help you out, and then hand it to you and go on their way. Implementing consultants, like USC, roll up their sleeves and work with a company’s internal teams for as little as 12 weeks to upwards of around 40 weeks depending on the scope of the project to help affect change, and ensure those changes will stick.

For a deeper look at operations consulting, read our blog: “What Is Operations Consulting and Can It Help My Business?” Now, here are three common myths about operations consulting, debunked.

Operations Consulting Myths

Myth: Operations consulting is all about math

At USC, we like to say we’re 80% people and processes, 20% numbers. Yes, some data crunching is involved. But we’re more about getting into your operations, talking to people from the front-line workers to the boardroom, and listening to the pros on the line who do the job day-in and day-out. We use common-sense methodologies to find opportunities for efficiency that you might have missed. We’re not a bunch of pencil-pushing statisticians. Anything but.

Myth: Operations consulting is only for the manufacturing sector

We work with a wide range of industries, including chemical processing, forestry products, food & beverage, life sciences, mining & metals, oil & gas, transportation & logistics, private equity, and yes, manufacturing. We also work with a wide range of disciplines and departments within these industries, including organizational operations, supply chain, sourcing & procurement, maintenance, finance, business process management, shutdowns & outages, research & development and outsourcing.

Myth: Operations consulting has no strategic importance

We’ve got to admit it, this one stings. People somehow got the notion that operations consulting looks only at the day-to-day aspects of getting the job done, and not the big picture, so there’s no strategic importance in what we do. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

One example of how operations consulting is all about strategic importance: SIOP. What is it? It’s our enhanced methodology on Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP). S&OP is a business management process that involves sales forecast reports, planning for demand and supply, and other factors. The goal is to help companies get a better, clearer look at their operations and create better-informed strategic decisions, allowing them to deliver what clients need in the most profitable way. It’s a useful process, but we’ve found it’s missing a critical area: Inventory. Hence, the addition of the “I” in the acronym.

Adding inventory into the mix is just one additional step, but we find it can be the key to the whole thing. When you’re focusing on inventory, it requires a more careful strategy and elevates the entire planning process up a notch. When your inventory is optimized, which is not an easy mark to hit in these days of supply chain disruption, things tend to fall into place. With SIOP, you can make your inventory work for you.

Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning is a holistic process that integrates customer-focused demand plans with production, sourcing and inventory plans, resulting in improved tactical and long-term decision-making.

So, you see, it’s ALL about strategic importance. Three common myths, debunked!

Want to see more myths busted? Catch the second installment Debunking Myths about Operations Management Consulting: Part 2 here.

If you have questions about operations consulting and what it can do for your business, give us a call or email us at info@usccg.com. We have the answers you’re searching for.

To read more about SIOP, download our free eBook, “Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning: It’s About Time.

Sales Inventory and Operations Planning: It's About Time eBook cover

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The only thing that’s constant is change. It’s a phrase famously attributed to a Greek philosopher in 500 B.C., but it also sums up the past year and a half in manufacturing and, frankly, just about any industry out there. It seems like change is coming at us faster than ever before. Apps now run our personal lives, and in the workplace, we’ve all had to adapt instantly to everything from customers going away to how the shop floor is configured for employee safety.

The ability to react to sudden events in the marketplace, whether it’s a shift in the economy or a supply chain disruption, requires manufacturers to be agile enough to pivot on a dime. But, it’s not just a matter of being able to roll with the punches. It’s about being able to react quickly to opportunities, too. It’s about growth and the ability to sustain that growth for the long term, come what may.

Change management

When thinking about change management, it’s natural to think of change coming from outside forces. Economy shifts. Supply chain disruptions. Even sudden changes in demand for what you produce. But some change comes internally, as well. Longtime leaders get their gold watches and retire. Companies restructure. Mergers and acquisitions happen. Company culture suddenly takes a nosedive and nobody knows why.

Having a mindset of change management already in place helps companies react quickly and effectively when change inevitably happens.

For manufacturers, the bottom line is always very thin. At USC Consulting Group, we specialize in those tight margins, helping our clients find hidden opportunities to realize and profit from efficiencies they may not even know were there.

Some key factors in creating a change management mindset include:

Acceptance of change. When we uncover efficiencies for our clients, sometimes we ruffle feathers because of a mindset that is built around “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” The idea that it’s OK to let go of some traditional methods, try something new and change processes that just aren’t working anymore is key. This may sound basic, but it is difficult to produce a culture shift like this if your company has been doing the job the same way for years.

C-suite support. The ability to pivot and react has to come from the top.

Employee buy-in. We find that this is crucial to successfully implementing any change, even positive ones. The people doing the job on the shop floor need to embrace it.

Planning. If you fail to plan, as the saying goes, you plan to fail. It may sound a little counterintuitive, planning for change, but we find that if our clients have a solid planning process in place, it can act as a rudder in choppy waters. We recommend a process called Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning that integrates customer-focused demand plans with production, sourcing and inventory plans, resulting in improved tactical and long-term decision-making.

SIOP spotlight

We like to tell our clients that the purpose of SIOP is making sure you’re having the right conversations about the right things at the right time. And getting what you need when you need it.

“Key to the SIOP is to emphasize inventory as a strategic tool to help offset variation in either demand or production issues,” explains David Shouldice, senior vice president and managing director of USC Consulting Group’s global mining and metals practice. “One lever of control in the SIOP process is to make inventory harder working as a strategic tool.”

This isn’t a one-and-done process. We recommend that our clients update their plans monthly. Some do it more often than that. The point is covering a sufficient span of time to make sure the necessary resources will be available when you need them. The plans take into account projections made by the sales and marketing departments and the resources available from manufacturing, engineering, purchasing and finance. All of that together works toward hitting the company’s goals and objectives.

Sales Inventory and Operations Planning eBook

Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning is done on an aggregate level. The big picture, in other words. Those big-picture plans then drive the individual departmental plans. Each month, you meet again to determine whether the overall company plan is on course, and to adjust for changes in the marketplace and changes or problems within the company.

A foundational tenet to a robust SIOP process requires that the right conversations occur about the right topics at the right time. Core components of a successful SIOP process include:

With the right plan in place, your company is positioned well for whatever changes come down the pike. To learn more, contact us and we’ll be happy to talk about how a great plan can help you realize even greater efficiency.

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The planning and forecasting process has always been a vital part of manufacturing, but now, after a roller coaster of a year, it’s becoming clear to many in the industry that this process needs to be bulletproof — and in many cases, it isn’t. The good news? A little tweaking and refining can shore up your planning process and help protect your operation against any kind of uncertainty, or disruption, that may come down the pike in years to come.

Problems in planning

You already know that accurate planning and forecasting is designed to anticipate demand and determine how much to produce to meet that demand, including shoring up adequate, but not too much, supply. We find that for a number of our clients, that works out to a “tons per hour” measurement of what they can realistically produce on any given day.

But, snags that manufacturers encounter in their planning process tend to come from the “it’s the way we’ve always done it” files. Here are just a few that we’ve seen lately:

Data is old by the time the plan actually goes into effect. Does this sound familiar? You start planning at the beginning of the month. By the end of the month, you’ve got a plan to hold yourself accountable. Great! But, the problem is, you’re using month-old data to start their planning process, so at the time the plan goes into effect, you’re using two-month-old data.

Data is not uniform. If manufacturers have multiple locations, odds are that they’re not all walking in lockstep when it comes to planning and forecasting. You may have plants doing their own thing, how they’ve always done it in regard to efficiencies, so there is no single source of truth on efficiencies and capabilities companywide.

Vetting time. If manufacturers are taking too much time to vet the plan, it delays the accuracy and immediacy of their data.

Unforeseen circumstances. We all know now, all too well, how unforeseen circumstances can throw a wrench into operations.

Refinements that can solve those problems

We’ve found that for many of our clients, some tweaks and refinements to their planning process can make all the difference. Here are a few problem-solvers that our clients are implementing.

A rolling calendar structure. We recommend instituting a 24-month rolling calendar, so when one month drops off, another is added on the back end. Here’s how it looks in practice:

Compromise on perfection in favor of immediacy. Don’t write those 24 months in stone. The plan might change multiple times between the start of the plan and 24 months down the line because of unforeseen circumstances. Being OK with this might require a huge shift in mindset for some people.

Flexibility. The forecasting and planning process has to be flexible enough in manufacturing to roll with the tides that might shift at any given moment in time.

SIOP. We focus on Sales, Inventory and Operations Planning, a holistic process that integrates customer-focused demand plans with production, sourcing and inventory plans, resulting in improved tactical and long-term business decision-making capability. The purpose of SIOP is making sure the business is having the right conversations about the right things at the right time. Steps in the plan include:

Uniform efficiencies across all plants. If you have multiple locations, get everyone on the same page in terms of planning.

Bottom line, more accurate planning and forecasting is going to make your manufacturing operations more efficient and ultimately more profitable. At USC Consulting Group, we’re dedicated to helping our clients get there.

For an inside look into how we helped a national construction materials supply company refine their planning process, read “Building Materials Supplier Lays Groundwork with SIOP.”


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