We recently sat down (virtually) with Mary Lanham, COO of Lanham Associates. She was able to provide us with a great background around Lanham Associates Demand Planning solution.
Now, we’re all too familiar with the unusual pandemic-related trends in consumer buying patterns. And this makes it difficult for companies to forecast potential demand. COVID, however, is only part of the ongoing supply chain chaos. There are also political issues, tariffs, container congestion, and natural disasters to consider. How well your demand planning and replenishment system can dynamically adjust to the unexpected during uncertain times has never been more critical. This is why we are partnering with Lanham Associates®. They offer a functionally-rich Demand Planning system to help our clients have the right inventory, at the right place, at the right time.
Q. What is the history of Lanham Associates and the Demand Planning solution?
Lanham Associates pioneered the development of supply chain software to extend Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems for the distribution industry. This was when they created the first distribution functionality for Navision, subsequently purchased by Microsoft. Lanham has been creating complementary supply chain planning and execution products built directly inside Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central/NAV ever since. The Demand Planning product, now known as Demand Planning (DP), was introduced to the market in 1997 as UBP.
Q. What does the Demand Planning system do?
Lanham Associates’ Demand Planning solution ideally optimises distributors’ and manufacturers’ inventory position. This is so they can optimise fill rates for their customers without overstocking or stocking the wrong inventory. In today’s world this can be impacted by disruptions in the supply chain beyond any individual’s control. However, it is still extremely important to maintain visibility to what inventory is on hand, what is on order, and what is needed for customer orders and projections.
The system has built-in “dynamic controls” that allow for quick reactions to changes in demand, or the demand plan itself. This enables continuous replenishment adjustments designed to:
- Improve inventory positions,
- Free up cash, and
- Improve customer service levels.
The system’s rich functionality can help on a number of fronts, including:
- Avoiding running out of stock
- Identifying surplus and excess inventory
- Managing long lead times
- Efficiently handling seasonal and sporadic items
- Leveraging hub-and-spoke inventories
- Effectively managing promotions
- Collaborating better with customers and vendors.
Q. What type of customers do you work with?
Our supply chain solutions are used by middle-market distributors and manufacturers around the world. We currently work with approximately 500 Demand Planning implementations across a range of industries. These include food and beverage, wine and spirits, consumer package goods, electronics, and durable goods.
Q. What distinguishes Lanham’s Demand Planning product from other systems?
Right away our system is different from others in that it uses the same NAV or Business Central User interface, drill-down capabilities, and database as your ERP. So it is familiar and easy to use. But, to get supply chain right these days, companies have to be able to distill large amounts of data so they can predict future demand, and be able to adapt to ongoing change at the same time. Some of the ways our Demand Planning solution does this includes:
Forecasting – in terms of inventory management, a demand forecast is just a prediction. It changes moment-to-moment, based on reality. Lanham’s software starts with historical usage data and, using machine learning, then processes huge amounts of data in order to reforecast the past, by item. It tests each period for a forecast most appropriate to that item, and adjusts to the best forecast each new period. This is an ongoing process.
Collaboration (with customers and vendors) – Unique forecasts can be submitted by customers, and then reviewed with them for accuracy. Fill rate reports provide a good basis for discussion with customers so that they can see how their forecast impacts which products are available to them. By allowing the system to do the heavy lifting involved in analysing data, employees can be freed from managing huge data and spreadsheets. This allows more time to actually collaborate with their customers. Adjustments, tracked by individual, are always able to be made.
Dynamic Replenishment – We know that forecasts can change dynamically with reality. A key advantage in our Demand Planning software is the capability to dynamically change what should be ordered, based on current factors in the supply chain. We do this through the use of dynamic controls that continuously review all pertinent factors. Each morning, or on demand, optimised suggested orders are presented for purchasing review. The system provides real-time data – no need to wait until the next day to see inventory position in each location.
Transfers for Optimising – The system also considers when inventory should be moved from one location to another to fill orders. The cost of shipping items, vendor minimums, and other key information are all reviewed by the system. This presents information to the user who can review it in detail should there ever be a question about how a recommendation was made.
Q. How long does it take to implement the Demand Planning system?
Lanham Associates Demand Planning implementation service offers a rapid roll out in weeks, not months. We follow a structured software implementation program that includes:
Planning – Our Demand Planning team kicks off the planning phase with a remote meeting. We introduce the project team, discuss goals, define roles and responsibilities, and review the project timeline.
Data Validation and System set up – Your demand planning consultant will work with your team to test items and review historical usage so your data can be loaded accurately.
User Training/Implementation – Interactive remote training sessions help users to become familiar with their data inside Demand Planning. Beyond basic concepts, the training helps users grasp the “whys” behind the system’s recommendations, and also helps them become familiar with checking data and making adjustments when needed.
Q. What other supply chain solutions does Lanham offer?
In addition to Demand Planning we offer supply chain software to help distributors with:
- Shipping & Receiving
- Container Tracking
All of our solutions are built with the same user interface as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. They use the record data and business logic located inside Business Central, so you can seamlessly and securely store all your supply chain data in your ERP system. Our supply chain solutions are all designed to work together. Our customers can start with any solution and then grow from there, based on their business needs.