4 indications that it’s time to replace your Excel planning spreadsheets
A lot of planning processes start out with a spreadsheet. It provides an easy, intuitive and flexible way to structure your data.
Times goes on, your planning process grows and more functionality and data are added to the spreadsheet. Not long after, you end up with an Excel that hurts to look at. The spreadsheet no longer keeps up and your planners are working continuously in fire-fighting mode…
It’s time to upgrade those planning spreadsheets to a more powerful solution when the following limitations are impacting your planning process.
1) Long and manual process
Producing a plan requires plenty of data from different sources. The planner needs the closed sales orders to generate the forecast, the open sales orders to be able to net that forecast, the on-hand and the confirmed purchase orders to generate the plan…
Most likely these data will come from different sources and the planner will have to copy-paste these into his/her Excel file. This is a long and repetitive task with no added value and it has the major drawback of consuming a knowledgeable person’s time. Also, the more data are added into the file, the more time it takes to open, edit, generate the plan, causing again extra waste of time.
2) Not collaborative
An Excel file is not a collaborative way of working and is usually a one-man file. Even if the file is located on a shared folder visible by many people, this is definitely not a long-term solution.
The first person to open the file — even if only for reading — will lock it for editing to other people. This becomes even worse when there exists (and there always exists!) multiple versions of the Excel file. This can lead to errors as we end up not knowing which version has the latest information.
3) Prone to errors
As mentioned above, populating this Excel file is a painful process often composed by copy/paste actions, this can be the cause of major data errors in the file.
On top of this, as various people edit the file, they might wrongly change some formulas. They then keep on using the file for a while before somebody notices a problem. People seldom set up a data validation to track mistakes process in the Excel sheet.
4) Not optimal
If small supply chain problems can definitely be handled with a spreadsheet, as your business grows, you will quickly reach the limits of Excel. Your results won’t be optimal and this will cause excess inventory, excess work-in-progress, and delivery delays for customer orders.
As a conclusion, moving from spreadsheets to a planning tool is a natural leap when a supply chain reaches a size that makes it difficult to handle with spreadsheets. It allows your planning process to move from reactive to proactive and opens the door to an optimized and competitive supply chain.