Sales and operations planning
Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an integrated business management process developed in the 1980s by Oliver Wight through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization. The S&OP planning includes an updated forecast that leads to a sales plan, production plan, inventory plan, customer lead time (backlog) plan, new product development plan, strategic initiative plan and resulting financial plan. Plan frequency and planning horizon depend on the specifics of the industry. Short product life cycles and high demand volatility require a tighter S&OP planning than steadily consumed products. Done well, the S&OP process also enables effective supply chain management.
A properly implemented S&OP process routinely reviews customer demand and supply resources and “re-plans” quantitatively across an agreed rolling horizon. The re-planning process focuses on changes from the previously agreed sales and operations plan. While it helps the management team to understand how the company achieved its current level of performance, its primary focus is on future actions and anticipated results. Companies that have an integrated business management process use the S&OP process to monitor the execution of the company’s strategies.
APICS defines S&OP as the "function of setting the overall level of manufacturing output (production plan) and other activities to best satisfy the current planned levels of sales (sales plan and/or forecasts), while meeting general business objectives of profitability, productivity, competitive customer lead times, etc., as expressed in the overall business plan. One of its primary purposes is to establish production rates that will achieve management’s objective of maintaining, raising, or lowering inventories or backlogs, while usually attempting to keep the workforce relatively stable. It must extend through a planning horizon sufficient to plan the labor, equipment, facilities, material, and finances required to accomplish the production plan. As this plan affects many company functions, it is normally prepared with information from marketing, manufacturing, engineering, finance, materials, etc."
Sales and operations planning has evolved into a major business process adopted to manage the balance and trade-off between the conflicting preferences of the supply and demand side of the supply chain and offers many value creation opportunities. It is one of the most critical business processes used to achieve best in class performance to consistently outperform competitors. It is increasingly being viewed as essential to synchronise the entire supply chain in order to improve its efficiency.  It has also been described as "a set of decision-making processes to balance demand and supply, to integrate financial planning and operational planning, and to link high-level strategic plans with day-to-day operations."
The planning process
S&OP is the result of monthly planning activities. It is usually based on an Annual Operations Plan (AOP) that acts as the company's annual target in terms of sales and supply. Therefore, the sales and operations plans are a means to gradually accomplish the AOP targets - by linking monthly sales and marketing planning directly to the operations side of a business. The process for deciding upon the monthly S&OP is illustrated in the figure below.
S&OP best practices
S&OP best practices share a common set of approaches:
- Rely on a phased approach : S&OP is much more an integrated set of business processes and technologies than a single, all-encompassing process or technology. If you just focus on the implementation of a new technology and think that S&OP will miraculously take shape, you’re wrong.
- Develop an “outside-in” sequence of S&OP initiatives : typically, the events that will have the most profound and negative impact on your sales and operations planning are those outside of your control. For the most part, these are due to the decisions and actions of your customers, partners, and competitors, which have a direct impact on your revenue and your competitor’s strategy.
- Focus on more information, less data : another key to successful S&OP is clean, current, and accurate data. Plans are often slowed down by the effort of gathering data that has minimal importance to the overall project. It is important to ensure that you know exactly what business problem you are trying to resolve and understand the minimum data necessary for the project.
- Provide effective leadership for the process. S&OP crosses organizational boundaries - that is its strength but also its vulnerability. Many businesses find that their attempts to implement S&OP are frustrated by internal tensions between departments. Classic best practice suggests that S&OP must "belong" to the Chief Executive Officer. If that's not possible then a strong united coalition of department heads may be able to lead the process if they set clear ground rules and boundaries for working together.
- Donald H. Sheldon (August 2006). World class sales & operations planning: a guide to successful implementation and robust execution. J. Ross Publishing. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-1-932159-53-0. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
- Palmatier,George E., "The Need to Lead", text available here
- Dougherty, J.R., "Getting Started With Sales & Operations Planning", text available here
- Kumar, Rakesh and Srivastava, Samir K, "A Framework for Improving ‘Sales & Operations Planning"’, Metamorphosis, 13(1), 2014, pp.16-25.
- Wallace, Tom, author of textbooks on sales and operations planning, see for example S&OP 101
- Ling, R.C. and W.E. Goddard (1992). "Orchestrating Success: Improve Control of the Business with Sales & Operations Planning", Wiley
- S&OP The Sales & Operations Plan
A series of articles authored by Paul Trudgian CMILT MIoD of Gideon Hillman Consulting
- Sales & Operations Planning - Back to Basics for SMEs
- A proven 4 step method to design and implement S&OP for all manufacturing businesses
A series of papers authored by Dr. Larry Lapide of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics:
- Sales and Operations Planning Part I: The Process
- Sales and Operations Planning Part II: Enabling Technology
- Sales and Operations Planning Part III: A Diagnostics Model
A series of practical papers authored by Robin Goodfellow and Ian Henderson of MLG Management Consultants:
- An overview of S&OP and how to make it most effective
- Executive S&OP - a series of breakfast briefings undertaken with the UK's Institute of Operations Management
- Brief article on the need for and ways to succeed with S&OP
A series of Infographic Images authored by Jay Sharma of SupplyChainPro Consultants:
- An Infographic of a example Agenda in a S&OP Meeting
- An Infographic of a S&OP Maturity Model detailing key elements of different S&OP phases
- An Infographic of the key planning elements within S&OP and their inter-relationships
- An Infographic on key questions to address before a company implements S&OP
- An Infographic depicting key areas related to culture change for supporting S&OP