Mastering Demand Planning

Supply Chain, The Uniform Chronicles

NAUMD is pleased to present The Uniform Chronicles, a new column written by Leslie Watt McArdle, former senior manager of merchandise and product design for Aramark and Vestis.

Demand planning is a critical and dynamic aspect of any business, especially in the uniform, image apparel, and workwear sectors. Having spent part of my career in demand planning, I’ve come to appreciate the unique blend of skills and knowledge required for this role.

A successful demand planner combines analytical prowess, industry insight, strategic thinking, and very thick skin. The first lesson learned is that demand forecasts are inherently imperfect; the goal is to be as accurate as possible and manage variances swiftly. While planning software is essential, it will never replace the need for the human touch.

Key Competencies for Demand Planners:

  • Analytical Skills: Interpreting data and trends to make informed decisions.
  • Industry Knowledge: Understanding market dynamics and product lifecycles specific to uniforms, image apparel, and workwear.
  • Strategic Thinking: Developing effective plans to meet business goals and customer needs.
  • Thick Skin: Handling criticism and setbacks with determination and a positive attitude.

Comparing demand planners to athletes highlights interesting parallels in strategy, decision-making, adaptability, and performance under pressure.

Strategy Development and Execution:

  • Demand Planners: Create forecasts and inventory plans to meet customer needs and manage resources efficiently.
  • Athletes: Develop and execute game plans and tactics to outperform their opponents.

Adaptability to Changing Conditions:

  • Demand Planners: Adjust forecasts based on market changes, consumer behavior, and unforeseen events.
  • Athletes: Adapt their play based on the flow of the game, injuries, or shifts in the opponent’s strategy.

Decision-Making Under Pressure:

  • Demand Planners: Respond to sudden changes in demand or supply chain disruptions with quick, effective solutions.
  • Athletes: Make split-second decisions during the game that can determine the match’s outcome.

Effective Communication and Coordination:

  • Demand Planners: Collaborate with sales, marketing, and supply chain departments to align strategies and operations.
  • Athletes: Coordinate with teammates and coaches to execute plays and strategies seamlessly.

Performance Metrics:

  • Demand Planners: Measured by the accuracy of forecasts, inventory levels, and overall efficiency.
  • Athletes: Evaluated based on their performance in the game, statistics, and contribution to the team’s success.While the roles of demand planners and athletes differ in their environments and specific tasks, they share core elements such as strategic thinking, adaptability, decision-making under pressure, and the need for effective coordination. By mastering these elements, demand planners can navigate the complexities of their role and significantly contribute to their organization’s success.
    For manufacturers and distributors in the uniform, image apparel, and workwear industries, understanding and mastering demand planning can lead to better resource management, improved customer satisfaction, and overall business growth.

    You can reach Leslie at 



Author: admin