The Silicon Review
“Our use of impact factors sets us apart from the competition and allows us to consistently achieve extremely high forecast accuracy”: John Garren CEO
If we cast our minds back no more than twenty years, even for leading organizations, forecasting and replenishment activities existed, but often at a basic level.
Frequently, these activities occurred only within a larger commercial department, and as bit-parts within a wider role. Supply chain specialization was yet to be truly born.
If we return to the present, we see a landscape where there are very few successful retail, wholesale or manufacturing businesses operating without a dedicated supply chain department and dedicated forecasting and replenishment professionals.
However, with the typical benefits of a forecasting and replenishment change program estimated at 1 to 4 percent increase in turnover, 15 to 30 percent reduction in inventory and 1 to 10percent of operational expense, the opportunities are difficult to ignore.
Vendors that supply big-box retailers are bombarded with massive amounts of point-of-sale data. This critical information can be overwhelming and is often completely ignored. DemandLink offers a way to translate this data into useful, easy-to-understand information, improving retail forecasting and replenishment. With more than 35,000 impact factors, like local weather, product freshness, and real-time online pricing, DemandLink offers the most accurate insights into current and historical trends that affect seasonal consumer goods.
As a web-native program, DemandLink can be accessed anywhere, on any device with a web browser. This allows your sales teams to have up-to-date information in the office or on the road.
Born out of the live goods industry, DemandLink has expanded to the fashion bath, consumer electronics, and fashion clothing industries as well.
The company was incorporated in 2008 and is headquartered in Salem, Oregon.
Interview Excerpt: John Garren, Co-founder/CEO
Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
We started the company to accurately forecast and replenish seasonal demand and perishable goods using daily store-level point of sale data. This required us to develop our own proprietary statistical and Machine Learning models since none of the models commercially available provided adequate accuracy. It’s worth sharing that the models we developed consistently have outperformed models used in many other market segments. We recently beat Oracle’s Demantra by 20 percent in accuracy during head to head tests with one of our customers. Our forecasting software seamlessly performs at over 90 percent accuracy and we are the only company that tracks day-store-item accuracy.
What makes DemandLink stand out from its competitors?
Our use of impact factors (inputs)sets us apart from the competition and allows us to consistently achieve extremely high forecast accuracy. We use daily item/store level data, weather, and product age as well as demographic, economic, and pricing information to allow our models to consistently outperform the competition. We have also focused our research and deliverables on a wide range of human-interactive systems; for instance, diagnosing Alzheimer’s onset from in-home motion-detectors and climate data and predicting pain level and transition to advanced care.
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
Our first project launch was a big learning experience and also a huge success. It was released on a web-based platform that provided supply chain users with demand plans and replenishment orders using daily POS data. Our test region achieved a 20% year-over-year sales beat over the control region. The platform also allowed the users to better interact with their buyers and stakeholders by providing a full suite of reporting tools using daily POS data.
What challenges did you face in your initial years?
During our first years, we had to learn how to scale up quickly. It was a great learning experience and it forced us to adopt and innovate practices for architectural design and project management.
About adaptability, how do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this high volatile market?
The market continues to change at a rapid pace, and we continually assess our goals and direction to be ahead of current trends. This past year we completely updated our architecture and software to speed up our processing time by 25x. This has allowed us to deliver data faster than ever before. We are releasing a new demand planning and inventory management platform this year using our SmartCluster technology, to replace inaccurate and outdated cluster analysis currently used by large national retailers.
What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
At our time of launch, we revolutionized how our users received and interacted with their data. With our solutions, the analysts could now see demand plans and replenishment orders that were updated by the start of business each morning using the previous day POS data, up to date weather forecasts and promotional plans. It also allowed sales and merchandising a live look into their stores. They no longer had to print out sales reports when doing market visits, but they could walk into stores with up to date sales data and KPI’s on their mobile device.
Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?
We greatly value feedback from all of our customers; we host user summits throughout the year both in person and virtual where users can attend to receive training and provide feedback on current and future releases. We also position ourselves to meet with customers on-site at their facilities or at trade shows throughout the year.
Do you have any new products ready to be launched?
Yes. We are launching a new fully interactive web-based demand planning platform in this month that will allow users to adjust our forecasts on the fly based on their need. In 2019, we will be launching a completely new BI platform that has been rebuilt from the ground up allowing our users more self-service into their reporting. The platform will be equipped with features such as custom date ranges for KPI’s and sales data, custom report creation, and more robust visualization tools.
As a question on sustainability, where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
We look forward to continued growth and innovation. To stay ahead of the market, we will continue our focus on research to roll out new and more accurate systems leveraging Machine Learning technology.
John Garren: A Promising CEO
John Garren, co-founder, is the Chief Executive Officer of DemandLink. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science (Agricultural Economics) from Oregon State University.