Inventory Planning Discipline

By Jim Lewis, CEO Enhanced Retail Solutions LLC

Last week I had the opportunity to connect with several colleagues that I hadn’t talked to in a while. Some are in a new job, some in their same job and some are looking for a new job. They were all very different conversations but one theme that came up was how technology is outpacing most companies’ ability to learn it and take advantage of it. Many are stuck in old methods and don’t follow what we call the Discipline of a Planner (DOP). We believe it is the key to optimize inventory planning and management.

The DOP was developed by ERS in collaboration with several of its clients. It documents the activities, roles, and resources required to implement best practices for inventory planning and retail analytics. We have different versions based on the type of business. For example, eCommerce has an added layer of tracking promotional campaigns and social media metrics. It is broken down based on the calendar- weekly, monthly, quarterly, pre-season, post-season and ad-hoc. Think of it as a giant check list. Clients that have implemented the DOP have streamlined their processes. This enables their teams to make better decisions in a timelier fashion. It has also improved collaboration and communication between suppliers and buyers.

Inventory Planning Discipline

The Right Tools

It still amazes me how many retailers and manufacturers still rely on spreadsheets to do all their planning. Don’t get me wrong- I live in spreadsheets, but they lack the sophistication, intelligence, and automation that 21st century inventory planning requires. Most companies don’t need to spend millions of dollars on a huge enterprise planning system. Modern BI tools such as Microsoft’s PowerBI offer both built-in intelligence and connection to data models in a more user-friendly environment.

Enter AI

Most planners are still looking for opportunities and liabilities manually or with crude exception reports, while more modern tools can pinpoint them for you automatically. Our Retail Narrative analyzes POS data and returns the most actionable information to improve your business. That’s the promise of AI, which I have talked a lot about recently. The alert panel in our fully customizable PowerBI forecast immediately provides the user with a roadmap of which SKU’s need action to optimize inventory productivity.

Forecast by month showing beginning and ending inventory, estimated sales and recommended buys

Forecast by month showing beginning and ending inventory, estimated sales and recommended buys


Even with AI enabling more automation and intelligence, I’m a firm believe that you still need a human behind the desk. Each of us has a level of expertise and curation that I have not seen ChatGPT or other bots embrace yet. That’s why I recommend the DOP in the first place- it’s what brings together everything you need to plan appropriately- people, tools and process.

To get a free copy of our DOP, contact us.

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