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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 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."
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 share a common set of approaches:
A series of articles authored by Paul Trudgian CMILT MIoD of Gideon Hillman Consulting
A series of papers authored by Dr. Larry Lapide of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics:
A series of practical papers authored by Robin Goodfellow and Ian Henderson of MLG Management Consultants: