The retail, e-commerce, and wholesale industries are full of rapid customer demand changes, unpredictable supply chain issues, and complicated logistics. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges, disrupting the predictability of supply chains, changing the way purchases were made and fulfilled, and making historical sales data unreliable and chaotic.
In order to balance inventory levels and make accurate forecasting predictions in the fluctuating post-pandemic market, businesses need to employ dynamic inventory planning solutions. Spreadsheets and manual calculations are no longer sufficient to keep up with the rapid changes merchants are experiencing.
Maintaining optimal inventory levels and knowing what and when to order requires software that can utilize up-to-date data to make complex calculations in real-time. To navigate this new reality, many merchants have sought out AI-powered tools to help improve forecasting accuracy. In this article, we will look at ways that AI-powered solutions can help inventory planning processes, some of their drawbacks, and how Inventory Planner’s advanced algorithm helps businesses achieve and maintain optimal inventory levels, no matter how volatile the market becomes.
How Does Inventory Planning Software Use AI Demand Forecasting?
Inventory planning software is a specialized tool that helps businesses predict sales, anticipate customer demand shifts, and make informed purchasing decisions. These software solutions simplify the entire inventory coordination and acquisition process, from the supplier to the warehouse and, ultimately, to the customer.
By employing distinct algorithms and artificial intelligence technology, inventory forecasting solutions eliminate the uncertainties associated with demand prediction, erasing the need for time-consuming manual calculations and labor-intensive spreadsheets. These solutions enhance forecasting accuracy while improving purchasing decisions.
Using complex algorithms and AI-driven processes, inventory planning software like Inventory Planner not only refines every aspect of inventory forecasting and demand projection, but also improves supply chain management, offers accurate purchasing recommendations, and provides comprehensive reporting.
Benefits of Using AI Demand Forecasting
AI-driven inventory planning tools provide a number of advantages over traditional inventory planning solutions. These features reduce manual calculations, decrease human errors, and help ensure businesses order the right amount of stock at the right time, regardless of seasonality, promotions, supplier lead times, and other variables. Here are a few of the benefits AI demand forecasting provides that improve the inventory planning process.
Automation and Consolidation
AI demand forecasting can integrate with all your data sources, automatically updating purchasing recommendations based on the most up-to-date information. AI tools can factor in future sales predictions, current stock levels, potential supply chain delays, and any other demand or supply constraints to ensure your replenishment plan is always accurate.
Managing Supplier Unpredictability
Effective inventory planning relies heavily on the ability to accurately predict supplier lead times. As supply chains become increasingly complex and unpredictable, timeframes that were once reliable are now prone to frequent delays and deviations. These fluctuations can easily disrupt your inventory planning processes. With AI tools, new lead time information can be automatically applied to ordering plans, making sure they stay accurate and up to date.
Simulating Historical Sales Data
In order to maintain an effective ordering strategy, businesses must be able to accurately predict demand using reliable historical sales data. But for some products, such as new SKUs with no sales history, this can be impossible. With dynamic inventory planning software, advanced algorithms and AI capabilities can be used to simulate a demand forecast model based on similar products, automatically updating it as new data arrives.
Reducing Overstock and Stockouts
AI-based tools enable dynamic segmentation to create custom forecasting predictions across SKUs, product types, locations, and channels. This ensures that your ordering recommendations are specific to every SKU in your catalog, taking into account a variety of factors that can affect stock levels. By taking this dynamic approach, merchants can avoid the risk of overstocking or stockouts, giving them just enough inventory to meet demand without incurring unnecessary inventory holding costs.
Drawbacks of Using AI Demand Forecasting
While AI demand forecasting offers numerous benefits to retail, e-commerce, and wholesale businesses, there are also several challenges associated with its use. Purely AI-based solutions require advanced algorithms to serve as guardrails against potentially inaccurate information. Here are a few of the drawbacks of some AI tools.
Data Dependency and Quality. AI demand forecasting requires accurate and relevant data. If the historical data used for training the AI model is incomplete, inaccurate, or not representative of current market conditions, the forecasts generated can be unreliable.
Seasonal Variations and Events. Pure AI models may struggle to accurately predict demand during significant market fluctuations, such as holiday seasons or unexpected events, leading to inaccurate forecasts and inventory imbalances.
Unforeseen Patterns. AI models may struggle to recognize novel patterns or shifts in consumer behavior that were not present in the training data. When faced with new market dynamics, this can result in missed opportunities or incorrect forecasts.
Continuous Maintenance. AI models often need regular updates and recalibration to stay relevant. As market conditions change over time, failing to update the AI models can lead to diminished forecasting accuracy.
Integration Challenges. Integrating AI forecasting systems with existing legacy systems and processes can be complex and require substantial effort. Poor integration can lead to data discrepancies and inconsistent forecasting results.
Lack of Customization. Some AI forecasting solutions might not be easily customizable to fit specific business needs, resulting in generic forecasts that don’t align with the business’s unique characteristics.
Does Inventory Planner Use AI?
AI technology is still relatively new and requires careful attention and monitoring to ensure its powerful capabilities operate based on accurate input. Inventory Planner uses advanced algorithms similar to AI in their ability to synthesize data, adapt to new information, and automate processes. By taking into account historical sales, seasonality, market fluctuation data, and other metrics, Inventory Planner allows you to achieve accurate demand forecasting and improve replenishment recommendations.
Inventory Planner’s flexible options allow you to configure forecasting methods in various ways to meet your specific business needs, including by SKU, variant, bundle, supplier, channel, or warehouse. This gives you individual forecast demand for stock that trends differently and reliable replenishment recommendations for each product you need to order, as well as the reorder points for all components.
So, whether you’re selling items that follow different trends or assembling components, you’ll know precisely what to reorder and when. Once Inventory Planner has provided reliable ordering recommendations, its Replenishment report makes the purchasing process a breeze. In just a few clicks, you can choose the products you want and generate all the necessary purchase orders.
Inventory Planner also syncs with over 30 e-commerce, accounting, inventory, and order management platforms. All your sales data is combined in one place, helping you make better sales predictions and data-driven business decisions.
Coupled with Inventory Planner’s comprehensive reporting suite, this helps you stay on top of your business performance. View data by brand, supplier, or warehouse for a full 360-degree view of your inventory health. With more than 200 metrics at your fingertips, you can focus on the ones that truly matter to your business.
AI is still in its infancy, and AI demand forecasting will undoubtedly be a powerful tool for retailers, e-commerce businesses, and wholesalers to track and provide reliable inventory planning recommendations. But until some of the kinks are ironed out, it’s best to rely on the experienced and dynamic capabilities of a dedicated, advanced, and algorithm-based inventory planning solution like Inventory Planner.
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