How the US Air Force Predicts What’s Next as the World Changes
The Air Mobility Command of the United States Air Force (USAF) has the not-so-easy task of determining how many aircraft, when and where, are needed to transport equipment and goods around the world every day to supply their missions. The Command manages a 1,100 aircraft fleet augmented with commercial airplanes as needed. Due to the explosion of e-commerce, accurately anticipating demand up to 12 months in advance is paramount as they compete for excess capacity with the world’s largest retailers and package delivery services.
Donald Anderson, Assistant Director of Analysis and a retired USAF pilot who flew many missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, knows all too well what happens when the supply chain is ineffective.
“I know firsthand what it’s like to have a supply chain that doesn’t work. A mistake on our part could actually cost lives rather than cost money,” he said.
We had the opportunity to speak with Donald at our recent LLamaCon event about the USAF’s demand forecasting needs and how LLamasoft’s demand modeling solution Demand Guru helps them better forecast and predict demand patterns.
You can watch the conversation here.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation:
Q: What problems has LLamasoft’s Demand Guru solution helped you address?
Donald Anderson: When the world changed, our past forecasting techniques did not handle it. We’d have to manually rewrite all of the forecasts. By the time we came up with the forecast, decisions were already made and that’s not how we want to operate. With Demand Guru, you can actually train the data and we’ve got 10 years’ worth of data. When the world changes, Demand Guru can change the forecast within minutes. This lets us get ahead of demand patterns and we can get answers to our leadership before they make their decision.
Q: How has LLamasoft helped you improve your demand planning performance?
Donald Anderson: What LLamasoft has allowed us to do is to take some very smart operations research personnel, some retired pilots like myself, take a bunch of data, and turn it into something very useful very quickly. We keep getting “what if this happens” questions. We let LLamasoft do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to producing the forecast. The analogy would be accountants 30 years ago used to put numbers in spreadsheets. Accountants today actually take the results and advise people on what to do. So LLamasoft has had us go from creating forecasts the old-fashioned manual way, to actually taking the outputs and advising leadership.
Q: Once the decision was made to use Demand Guru, what did the implementation look like and how quickly were you up and running?
Donald Anderson: LLamasoft sent a trainer out to our location and we trained about eight or 10 people. From zero to the end of two days, we were functional enough to start creating some crude forecasts. Within a week or two, we were producing actual forecasts that exceeded the quality of what had been developed over several years prior to that. It is pretty amazing because we can change the forecast so quickly now that we just stopped producing the old forecast.
Q: What does an improvement in the forecast mean for the U.S. Air Force and for the United States?
Donald Anderson: We can measure the money. But more importantly, it’s the timing, the satisfaction and the comfort of our deployed troops. If you’re in Afghanistan and it’s Thanksgiving, and the turkeys don’t show up, it may not seem like much to us, but it’s huge to them. It’s extremely important to the nation, to our troops and to the defense of everybody around the world that we don’t let small, seemingly insignificant things snowball into morale busters because it’s the people that are keeping us safe.
With the help of Demand Guru, the U.S. Air Force is not only able to provide accurate forecasts and save money but also instill confidence in our troops.