As we write up these blogs to share with you, we typically have a process in place. This process has certain timelines and deadlines involved and obviously missing these deadlines has an impact on delivery.
Where loading schedules in the airline industry is relatively straightforward, for the majority of the cruise ferry clients loading schedules is a fairly manually intensive process where schedules for upcoming periods are loaded as a single block for that future season. As a result, early booking timelines may vary based on when these schedules are loaded. Missed timelines may impact said schedule loading, and ultimately the spread of demand.
Now, the focus of this write up was originally centered around the nuances of demand change as a result of special activities one of which is when schedules are loaded. However, as I was writing this up I experienced one of those external factors which can throw things slightly for a loop. With any luck it adds a little bit of a hook to encourage you to read the rest of this article for which I nearly missed a couple of critical deadlines thanks to Mother Nature.
Typically, when it comes to forecasting we are looking at the normal. Yes, there is a certain amount of learning as we progress through our demand periods but essentially relative consistency is important. However, we do know that there are special activities which will always impact that forecast. For example, the one cited above regarding loading of schedules may have quite a significant impact where in one year a booking cycle may be spread out over 450 days, yet delays in posting a schedule may mean that similar booking activity may only be spread out over 380 days for the coming season.
Other behavior which may impact demand at certain points in time and for differing lengths are things such as fire-sales, campaign activity or special offers. These items may be as short as a Black Friday sale or they may run for weeks or even months depending on the agreement.
As a result, a major feature in our next release is a module which we refer to as Demand Change Manager, which is used for times when there are exceptional circumstances impacting demand for a specific time in the booking cycle.
This new functionality is designed to allow the impact of such special actions to be:
- Excluded from regular forecasting
- Re-used to impact future forecasts
- Adjusted when using it in future to model the impact on both expected change volume as well as duration of impact.
The functionality provides the user with insight as to the impacts of special activities historically and allows them to select appropriate activities to apply to future amendments. The goal is to gain those additional points in terms of forecast accuracy to eke all possible gains from the solution. A key benefit from the Demand Change Manager functionality is the ability to adjust forecasts based on scheduling being changed or pushed forward as a result of Covid-19 based government restrictions on travel.
We are also focusing our efforts on this year’s maintenance releases to provide users with other tools to assist in minimizing the impact of Covid-19 uncertainties.
- “Artificial forecasts” will allow users to generate forecasts which incorporate adjustments based on their relevant government policies for travel, and will allow for changes at short notice as new announcements are made.
- Enhancements to how cancellations are handled will improve the forecasts and resulting optimization in this time where cancellation policies have been somewhat relaxed.
- Capacity Management will allow users to experiment with different staffing levels or equipment sizes to minimize costs of transporting their demand.
So where do the ants come into this? Well, as I was writing up this article in the week, I faced a few deadline challenges due to external factors. When it came time for putting the finishing touches to this blog, I got somewhat waylaid by a rather large nest of ants, who decided that my laptop was a nice warm location in which they should make a home. As a result, my machine started doing some strange things. I had to spend a fair amount of time getting rid of the blighters, delaying delivery somewhat. But they also allowed me to add the quirk to the article, and a hopefully catchy title.
Did the ants impact the entertainment value and the readability (or the number of readers)? I certainly hope so.