One of the toughest parts of a demand planner’s job is answering questions from the executive office upstairs, such as: “What are you guys doing down there?”
MacPherson’s is the largest art supplies distributor in North America, serving 2,600 retail customers through a variety of channels, including independent mom-and-pop stores, regional chains, mass market and e-commerce. Its vast portfolio spans more than 50,000 products and 250 brands and vendors worldwide.
Given that a large share of any product-making company’s assets goes toward inventory, MacPherson’s wanted technology that could reduce costly uncertainties in planning, and help the team craft processes that would positively impact the business. To further refine inventory levels and automate demand planning, MacPherson’s implemented Blue Ridge’s supply-chain planning software.
“Blue Ridge provided us with precision and visibility, thanks to the broadening of demand and supply planning projections, and the granularity of detail available in demand and supply plans,” says Tammy Kyle, MacPherson’s manager of product development and inventory planning. “The cloud-based environment enables us to move away from the spreadsheet method of buying, which often resulted in inaccurate forecasting, imprecise recommendations and slow reaction to shifting trends, disruptions and conditions. Now, our inventory analysts are using machine-learning intelligence to meet the dynamics of today’s market with precision and agility.”
Rather than spreadsheets, the inventory analyst is using Blue Ridge to obtain a realistic and timely picture of product availability, while making buying decisions that protect commitments made to customers. Since implementing Blue Ridge, MacPherson’s has improved fill rates to meet its service goal of 95% — a critical factor in the company’s ability to retain customers and grow sales.
A key priority was preserving the company’s high standards of service. But the expensive alternative of carrying high safety stock to make possible that wasn’t feasible. In addition, MacPherson’s struggled to get a handle on extremely long lead times for products imported from Asia. The company engaged LifeLine, Blue Ridge’s professional aftercare services team, to implement the vendor’s cloud-native supply-chain planning software, which allowed it to proactively correct issues and make decisions in line with financial goals.
MacPherson’s credits LifeLine for its success with the supply-chain planning applications. The support team helps the company to uncover vital issues that can be easily corrected, and improve processes with experience.
“LifeLine includes monthly calls to review our business, how it stacks up to others in the industry, and what’s going well,” says Kyle. “They ask the tough question when things don’t look right — always around the framework of, ‘Are we doing the right things for our business?’”
The LifeLine team looks for opportunities to improve customer service, inventory levels, cash flow and profit directly influenced by the team, as well as flagging any potential issues or disruptions that can be minimized or even avoided.
“Blue Ridge is always there for us,” says Kyle. “Whether it’s LifeLine, the hands-on training, or just during our implementation, we have their full support. They were instrumental in us going live on target with training, testing and implementation — on time and on track.”
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