A Merchandise Planning Team in a retail organisation consists of a number of individuals, each with the responsibility for one or more product categories. Each team member works from their own spreadsheet, which includes a lot of detailed information relating to the products in their category. Although each one is different, the spreadsheets often have some reference data in common, such as distribution centre codes, store identity codes, product type codes, etc. However, there is no way of ensuring consistency across everyone’s spreadsheets.
The business needs to complete company-wide intake plans, which consolidate the product commitments that the buyers have made, and work out the appropriate timing for the products to reach the distribution centres to be in the stores at the right time. This complex process impacts upon other business processes, such as finance, logistics and distribution centre operations.
Intake planning has historically been done based on information manually collected from each of the individual merchandising spreadsheets. This is a very time-consuming process (usually for highly-skilled individuals) and error-prone due to the amount of ‘cutting and pasting’ data that is required. Consequently, the company wanted to find a more efficient and accurate way of working out intake plans.
By implementing Info-CTRL, the company is able to automatically consolidate all of the spreadsheets. Info-CTRL has a relational SQL database back-end that is hosted on secure servers. Users upload data from their spreadsheets to Info-CTRL, and once uploaded, the data can be shared with other people who download it onto their own spreadsheets. Automated workflow processes within Info-CTRL manage the loading of reference data and any review and authorisation steps in the process, and automatically consolidate all the spreadsheet data.
Automatic consolidation of data eliminates human error and provides real-time information whenever anyone in the business wants to look at it. It means that intake plans can be completed within a fraction of the time and with the confidence that the data being used is accurate and up to date. This has a positive impact on other business processes which rely on the intake plans being accurate – e.g. finance, logistics and distribution centre operations.
Also, the planners do not have to significantly change the way they operate as they are still using the spreadsheets that they prefer to work with.