A.T. Cross rewrites its supply chain plan for precision and efficiency
Connected supply chain planning doubles forecast accuracy, improves fill rate by 10 percentage points, and reduces inventory by 15% at luxury writing instrument and accessories maker
We all know the frustration of needing a pen but not having one handy. Now imagine that frustration multiplied by tens or hundreds of thousands. That was the issue A.T. Cross faced: The venerable manufacturer of fine writing instruments and accessories struggled with customer demand that was difficult to forecast using traditional and mostly spreadsheet-based processes.
To accommodate this unpredictability, the company needed to carry a large amount of inventory in all locations across its global footprint. Through initiatives taken in 2018, inventory was reduced by one-third—but service levels suffered as demand patterns continued to be very hard to predict using mostly manual methods. Fill rates began to fall by 20% or more in the fourth quarter of 2018—a critical time of year for a luxury goods manufacturer.
Cross CEO Karl Pearson felt a new approach was critical. He asked Anaplan partner Spaulding Ridge to help address this challenge and transform the company’s supply chain. “Our needs and goals were big enough that we wanted a fresh approach, rather than another tweak of existing processes,” Pearson said. Using Cross’s own data, the Spaulding Ridge team built a pilot showing how forecasting with Anaplan could do more than simply reduce inventory; it could help to strategically optimize inventory by location to improve fill rates while lowering inventory levels.
The Cross team was impressed by the pilot, so Spaulding Ridge was engaged to help build and better connect the company’s supply chain through demand forecasting, supply planning, inventory optimization, and relaunching of an integrated global S&OP process. Employing multiple statistical forecasting methods in Anaplan, the connected plans optimize inventory levels and proactively recommend when and how much product Cross should 1) order from suppliers; 2) manufacture within two-week intervals; and 3) distribute to its warehouses. This capability maximizes procurement and logistics spending efficiency and averts millions in lost revenue caused by stock-outs.
In parallel with its move to Anaplan, Cross was migrating from multiple ERP systems and data warehouses to Netsuite and Microsoft Azure, so the Spaulding Ridge team capitalized on that transition to automate data exchange between Netsuite and Anaplan.
“The people at Cross were ready for change, from the CEO to the supply chain analysts,” recalls Spaulding Ridge Director Kyle Rish, who led the implementation. “Their excitement made the Anaplan rollout fast and smooth and provided some quick results.”
Those results, delivered within months of going live with Anaplan, included:
- Increasing sales forecast accuracy from about 40% to greater than 80%.
- Improving the average fill rate globally to greater than 92%.
- Reducing inventory by an additional 15%.
- Slashing the entire planning cycle from six weeks to less than one week.
“Our supply chain is much more agile and connected with Anaplan,” Pearson says, “so we can plan proactively, adjust quickly, and invest in inventory more wisely. Improving forecast accuracy while cutting our planning cycle from weeks to hours with Anaplan has transformed our operations.”
Cross chose Anaplan because it enabled a dynamic, value-based supply chain built on a single connected platform. With Anaplan, Cross can respond swiftly to demand and supply changes, gain end-to-end inventory visibility, and avoid shortages and stock-outs.
“Our products have been unsurpassed in design, quality, and craftsmanship for more than 170 years,” Pearson says. “Now our supply chain is equally top-notch. Thanks to Anaplan, Cross products are much more likely to be in our customers’ hands whenever they want them.”