English novelist, Dame Margaret Drabble once said, “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” Her brave view of the value of uncertainty is the kind of spirit UK manufacturing and supply chain leaders need right now.

With a Brexit deal in debate, British businesses reliant on supply and commercial networks both inside and outside the UK are tasked with preparing for the unknown… which could include sudden increases in lead times, should goods become tied up at ports or customs for days or even months.

The last several decades have seen a progression towards more open borders, which has allowed organisations to shorten lead times, decrease inventories and costs, and become more responsive to customer demands. A sudden, drastic shift in this trade paradigm – such as Brexit - has the potential to introduce substantial frictions in the supply chain that cascade horizontally through an individual organisation – with resulting changes in capacities, manpower and overtime staffing budgets. At the same time, manufacturing firms are navigating regulatory uncertainty while making difficult decisions about how to address the challenges of inventory, capacity and lead time all while focused on staying profitable.

Introducing the Power of Connected Planning

What if you had a real-time view of your whole manufacturing and supply chain network, with complete confidence in the signals you were getting from suppliers and the ability to connect with them directly? What if you could be agile and react to drastic scenarios in real-time with data that informed the health of your entire business, not just your supply chain?

These capabilities go a long way to mitigate potential disruptions like Brexit - and it’s exactly what the Connected Planning approach delivers.

Connected planning is about arming decision-makers with the right data from all relevant parts of the business in real-time, so they can feel confident making impactful business decisions in real time.

When the business utilizes a single planning platform or tool, accessible to anyone that needs it, this breaks down siloes. While finance cares about cost and accounting rules; supply chain cares about product volume, size and weight; and manufacturing cares about uptime, overtime and capacity – a connected planning platform gives all these different parties a common lexicon and a way to contribute to the overall health of the business. This enables high-quality decision making up and down the organisation - that is the connected planning advantage.

The outputs of this approach can be broken down into three key areas:

Agility is how quickly you can respond if something comes up, whether that’s a change in demand or a delay. Connected planning helps you respond in minutes or hours, not days or weeks because you have the right information, from the right people, in real-time.

Collaboration improves because there’s horizontal and vertical alignment across the organisation and throughout the supply chain so teams can more effectively collaborate, engage and discuss plans and data regardless of their location.

Intelligence is stronger because information is captured in a shared environment – so the business as a whole has the wider, data-driven perspective needed to deliver improvements in everything from forecast accuracy and lead time to inventory velocity.

Where to start & what to expect

For any manufacturer considering where to start on their connected planning journey – I’d advise them to focus on an immediate pain point – Brexit uncertainty is sure to have created a few. Once you identify and address that immediate pain point, connected planning will enable you to assess risk across your entire supply chain, evaluate your portfolio and understand the weaknesses that exist. With a clear picture in hand, you can feel confident when making supply chain decisions, particularly in this time of increased volatility.

With increased confidence, faster decision making translates to greater value. An analysis carried out by Forrester found connected planning (and in this case – the Anaplan planning platform specifically) delivered an ROI of 537% over three years.

While nothing is sure in times of volatility, a connected planning platform arms manufacturing decision-makers with the data and confidence needed to turn uncertainty into possibility.