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Is it possible to plan for the unknown?

05 December 2019

Anaplan’s Global Supply Chain Lead Evan Quasney, offers insights on how businesses can plan through times of uncertainty.

It’s a bit of a conundrum for lots of businesses at the moment, particularly in manufacturing. How do you plan for what you can’t anticipate and do so with confidence? For decision makers in UK manufacturing or supply chain businesses, these times are especially pressing. 

With Brexit still in debate, and an upcoming general election before the new year, British businesses that are reliant on supply chain and commercial networks within the UK and beyond, are tasked with the challenge of preparing for the unknown. Whether that be a sudden, significant increase in lead times, or goods being held at customs indeterminately, they want to be agile about important decisions they must suddenly make and be able to make them with confidence.

How is politics impacting the manufacturing industry?

Over the last few decades, trade has progressed through open borders. This has permitted businesses to reduce lead times, in turn decreasing held inventories and minimising costs, whilst being more responsive to customer demands than ever before. Should there be a sudden alteration in the trade paradigm – such as Brexit, or a drastic currency fluctuation – it’s likely that the consequences would cause issues across supply chains that would then have knock on impacts throughout the broader business, such as changes in costs of goods, inventory holding costs, or associated capacity and transportation routes – just from a “small” change like a spike in foreign exchange rates.

Whilst dealing with these very real potentials, manufacturing firms are also navigating an uncertain regulatory environment, making tough decisions on how to address the challenges of lead time, inventory and capacity, all while focused on remaining profitable.

How can businesses stay one step ahead in these testing times? 

Being agile is essential. For instance, if Brexit trade regulations start to cause product velocity slowdowns at ports, an entire value chain could feel the impact rather quickly if adequate stocks are not held in-country already – and a shortage means lost sales and a slip in revenue, but too much inventory means capital tied up in goods and warehouses. Businesses will need to be armed with instant visibility across their entire manufacturing and supply chain network to understand the impact and quickly adjust in order to rectify delays, reduce losses and not let customers and partners down. 

Manufacturing businesses need to be flexible, and ready to react to drastic scenarios in real-time, with data that informs the health of the wider business, not just a particular supply chain. To take control of this, businesses should look to a Connected Planning approach to help mitigate against any potential disruptions. 

What is Connected Planning?

Connected Planning technology connects people, data and plans across the enterprise so business leaders can make faster, more confident decisions that unlock value and drive efficiencies. 

A Connected Planning platform serves as a single source of truth for businesses by breaking down siloes and allowing employees across the enterprise to view, analyse, collaborate and contribute data in real-time. So, each department’s vested interests, be it costs for finance, product volume for supply chain, or productivity for manufacturing, are represented within a common lexicon that helps drive the overall health and success of a business. 

Given today’s market volatility, utilising a Connected Planning platform can help businesses stay nimble, by giving them the insights needed to react quickly and make decisions that will help drive a competitive edge. 

What are the key outputs for a Connected Planning approach? 

A recent Forrester Total Economic Impact study commissioned by Anaplan revealed a number of clear results that businesses using a Connected Planning approach can expect: 

• Siloes are broken down: Consolidating siloed planning into one platform enables businesses to execute the same tasks faster which frees up time for value-added activities. And, better visibility allows decision makers to unlock value across an organisation

• Ability to make more informed, accurate decisions: A Connected Planning approach provides fast access to meaningful data, so businesses can discover trends and patterns in a quickly changing world. Better visibility into forecasting drivers also increases available time to make better decisions when reacting to changes in real-time in a constantly evolving environment

Where can businesses start? 

Most businesses should first focus on an immediate pain point – the potential implications of Brexit on their business, or the broader political uncertainty is sure to have created a few. Once that pain point is identified and addressed, Connected Planning can then enable risk assessment across the entire supply chain, evaluating portfolios to really understand any weaknesses that exist. Armed with this clear picture, business leaders can feel assured when making critical supply chain decisions, especially in our current state of increased volatility. 

This assurance allows faster decision making which directly translates to an increase in value. According to the Forrester TEI study, Connected Planning (and in this case – the Anaplan Connected Planning platform specifically) can deliver benefits of $21.4M versus costs of $5.1M, adding up to a net present value of $16.4M and a ROI of 324% over three years.

It’s safe to say that within these volatile times, nothing is 100% guaranteed. A Connected Planning platform gives manufacturing decision makers the actionable insights needed to unlock value in any market conditions and transform uncertainty into opportunities.

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