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Dissecting Demand Planning

Tupperware's unique house-party business model presents interesting demand management challenges. Omar Campbell, director of marketing operations, talks about the importance of demand planning vs. forecasting and how Tupperware is working to improve its demand planning processes.

Demand planning at Tupperware presents unique challenges, says Campbell. Relying almost solely on house-party sales, Campbell notes that the company has no point-of-sale data, does not work directly with customers and "has a sales force of 90,000, any of whom may or may not be having a party this week."

The demand planning process at Tupperware is evolving from a standard forecast-based process used in the past, he says. "Demand planning is a much more collaborative process, so we are working to bring in more collaborative market intelligence. Today we have bits and pieces but we need to get to full engagement because we have some issues with inventory and customer service that we need to rectify."

The ultimate goal is to establish a demand management process in North America and then roll it out globally, Campbell says. "If it's a really good process, we should be able to tailor it to all markets and make it a global process. That is the long term goal." To do that Tupperware will "will have to make sure we have the right people and support the process with the right technology," he says.

"To be honest we are struggling right now to find the right talent," says Campbell. "I think a lot of people have this issue because the skill set needed for demand planning is pretty diverse. You need someone who is numbers oriented and analytical but who also has big shoulders because they will always be hearing that they are wrong. You need someone who works well on teams and who is good at collaborating and communicating. This skill set is hard to find and, on top of which, these people don't necessarily see the end result of all their hard work or receive the recognition that would get in other departments like marketing," he says.

The right person can come from different backgrounds, depending on the specific situation, Campbell says. "We brought someone in from manufacturing to lead our demand planning process in Europe, which was a perfect fit because he understood the operational piece and that is what we needed. But in Asia Pacific we were specifically focused on finding someone who really understood demand planning and knew the end-to-end process. So it varies on where you are in the process and it's also partly a numbers game - how much is the company willing to pay for that specific skill set?"

Over time Campbell's vision is to have demand planning become a standard operating procedure, just like accounting or sales and with the same level of credibility. "Instead of just driving down inventory or improving customer service levels, demand planning should be about driving end results and helping the organization achieve its financial goals," he says.

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Keywords: Supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain management scm, inventory management, inventory control, global logistics, logistics & supply chain, supply chain solutions, logistics it solutions, supply chain planning, supply chain systems, retail supply chain

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