Who runs the forecasting and inventory-planning process varies widely from company to company. In some organizations, it's the individual on the shop floor. In others, a middle manager might carry the responsibility. Still others place it on the shoulders of top management.
Ball isn't suggesting that every company approach the issue of forecasting in the same way. "A cookie-cutter approach doesn't work anywhere," he says. At the same time, there must be some level of support from upper management, to approve process changes and technology purchases. Nor can the lower echelons be ignored. "They're the ones in the trenches making it work," says Ball.
The full benefit of forecasting systems can't be realized without accompanying process management. "So many people believe that forecasting technology is a black box," says Ball. The best approach, he adds, lies in utilizing both "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches. "We believe in blending the best of both worlds."
Step one in any new effort to improve forecasting is to understand an organization's particular brand of pain, says Ball. Much depends on the experience that a particular company has had in that area. Some might just need to tweak the process. Others "need more than a matchstick to light up their way, so they can get into much more dramatic changes." In all cases, he says, companies should "start small."
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