What is skuBrain?
Essentially it’s a tool that helps you decide what stock you need to buy and that’s a two step process:
- The first step is estimating or forecasting future demand for the products you sell
- The second step is planning stock purchases to make sure that you’ve got enough stock on hand to meet that demand
It sounds simple enough and essentially it is.
The process is something akin to planning a dinner party - so imagine we have some friends coming over for dinner.
First things first then: how many people will be coming? This is our demand forecast.
Secondly: what do we need to buy in order to feed everyone? This is the inventory planning bit. So let’s start with demand forecasting…
There are two basic ways that we can forecast demand.
The first is what’s called judgemental forecasting and it simply consists of asking some experts what they think demand will be. In the case of a dinner party the experts might be the people who organized the dinner party or perhaps even the guests themselves.
The second is to use quantitative techniques, which typically means analyzing historical data. A simple example of this would be to calculate the average number of people who turned up to dinner parties in the past.
Having established our demand forecast, the next step is planning what to buy.
For this, obviously, we need to factor in our demand forecast. However we probably also need to think about what we’ve already got in the cupboard - or our stock on hand. And maybe we order certain groceries over the internet - so perhaps we’ve got some some stock on order which will arrive a few days before the dinner. And some of the things we need may have a lead time. For example, maybe we want to order a cake that has to be ordered at least 2 days in advance.
All of this is just for a single dinner party. For retailers who manage hundreds or thousands of products with volatile demand, the problem is vastly more complex and this is the problem that skuBrain helps you solve.
The general process for getting started with skuBrain, is to:
- connect your sales data,
- create a demand forecast,
- create a replenishment plan
- and finally reorder some stock (based off the recommendations in the replenishment plan)
More generally, day to day you’ll probably skip the forecasting step. Typically you’ll prepare forecasts once every month or two..
So a day to day workflow would be to:
- import recent sales
- create a replenishment plan
- reorder stock from suppliers
In skuBrain, these three processes get carried out from the sales, forecasts and replenishment dashboards that you can access in the main nav.
The first time you visit the sales dashboard you’ll see various integration options that let you import your sales data into skuBrain.
skuBrain currently imports data directly from Brightpearl, Shopify and Vend… but data can be imported from pretty much anywhere by using intermediate CSV files. Once you’ve configured the integration that you want to use with skuBrain, you can import data from the sales dashboard at the click of a button.
The import obviously won’t be instantaneous - this gets run in the background as a job - you can track job progress on the jobs dashboard. Once the job is finished, you’ll be able to visualize your sales history on the sales dashboard and, more importantly, you can use your sales history to create forecasts from the forecast dashboard.
You can create a basic quarterly forecast simply by entering a description and clicking “Generate Forecast”. You can also make monthly forecasts and control some of the advanced aspects of forecast creation, all of which is covered in the documentation.
Forecasts, once again, run as jobs. When finished, you can view these from the forecasts dashboard and, if necessary, fine tune these using your own judgement.
Finally, from the replenishment dashboard, you can create replenishment plans.
As we discussed in our dinner analogy, replenishment plans need to take into account a number of factors including, of course, a demand forecast… however in order to make sensible replenishment recommendations skuBrain also needs to know various other things such as your current stock levels, open orders and lead times for acquiring goods.
If you’re using CSV files with skuBrain then this information can be uploaded in CSV file format. If you’re using skuBrain with a supported ERP system then most of this information can fetched directly from your inventory management system and probably the only thing that you’ll need to specify is how often you place orders and lead times for each of the suppliers that you order goods from. As with forecasts, replenishment reports get run as jobs that you can view from the Replenishment dashboard when completed.
The replenishment plans themselves are actionable reports. that contain detailed SKU level recommendations for items that you need to restock, any items that you might be holding excess stock for and any items that you simply have adequate stock levels for.
You can download replenishment recommendations as a CSV file or, if you’re using a supported ERP system, create purchase orders in your ERP system directly from the recommendations in the report.
So that concludes our whirlwind tour of skuBrain. We’ve glanced over a lot of details but hopefully it gives you a good understanding of the problem that the software is designed to solve and how you could use skuBrain plan inventory for your company.