Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) is the world’s leading kitchen and laundry appliance company, with approximately $19 billion in annual sales, 78,000 employees and 57 manufacturing and technology research centers in 2020. The company markets Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag, Consul, Brastemp, Amana, Bauknecht, Jenn-Air, Indesit, Hotpoint and other major brand names in nearly every country throughout the world.
In Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) it has approximately 19,000 employees, a sales presence in more than 35 countries and manufacturing sites in 5 countries. Whirlpool EMEA is an operating segment of Whirlpool Corporation and Whirlpool Corp.’s EMEA Headquarters are located in Pero (MI), Italy, where most of central functions are hosted.
In Italy, besides the managerial centre, Whirlpool owns its Centre of Excellence for Research in Cassinetta, (Varese district), and in Fabriano (Ancona district), employing researchers and technicians working on the development of innovations which are transferred to all EMEA businesses of the group. The Research Division has acquired over the years expertise in numerous areas such as manufacturing, materials, mechanical design, thermodynamics, energy transmission, energy efficiency, etc., that enable the company to undertake significant and challenging research projects. Strategic collaborations with several universities and research centres from all around EMEA support Whirlpool needs.
The white goods demonstrator for XMANAI project is focused on sales demand forecasting for a specific business channel.
Currently, the overall demand forecasting process in Whirlpool, executed on weekly base within planning legacy systems (SAP Integrated Business Planning), drives the whole production planning and supply management for all the products within EMEA region.
The demand baseline forecast is generated by statistical algorithms acting on historical data on sales orders, inventory levels, orders intaking, backorders, production and supply plan actualization, which is further enriched by manual input from central planning departments (capacity constraints, phase-in/phase-out…) and marketing and sales intelligence (promotions, selling opportunities, product range offer modifications, …).
The business partners traditionally served by Whirlpool are represented by trade partners in the retail channel and by kitchen manufacturers, both characterized by a focused negotiation activity which often drives the sales order acquisition.
Recently, Whirlpool initiated the business activity on a completely new channel, D2C or Direct To Customer, which is focused on direct sale to final consumers through the interaction with company web portal. In this perspective the traditional negotiation phase is completely replaced by an immediate customer reaction during the buying experience, which become crucial to enable and boost sales goal achievement.
Similarly, the conditions that have to be granted to ensure the best customer satisfaction within the buying experience pass through the capability to deliver the selected products in few days that means the full product availability for the customer selection.
In order to optimize the order to delivery process and the inventory level is then crucial to leverage on a precise sales forecast model, capable to reliably predict “the right product, in the right quantity, at the right time for the right customer”.
Even more important it is the need to deeply understand the key factors which determine the business dynamic and how they’re each other related in order to ensure the possibility, to marketing and sales organization, of leading it proactively instead of simply reacting to events.
In this context, XMANAI solution will provide a platform capable not only to ensure a reliable sales forecasting for the D2C channel, but also to open to the key process stakeholders (planning, sales, marketing) the visibility on the process dynamic and on the key factors influencing it.
XMANAI will also ensure the possibility to simulate the system behavior in “what if” scenarios, letting people making better decisions and acting more effectively and efficiently.
The “Explainability” of the XMANAI model will then ensure a real empowering of the key stakeholders through the real acquisition of a new knowledge and expertizes to be spent in acquisition.
Key benefits are expected by the successful completion of the demonstrator both in terms of business results and of people knowledge maturation:
- Customer satisfaction
- Revenue’s opportunity maximization
- Taylored inventory strategy
- Promotional actions effectiveness
- Product range optimization
- Business channel order to delivery process optimization
The project success will be measure through specific KPIs, focused on the measurement of the effectiveness of the introduction of the XAI solution supporting business channel management:
- DFE (Demand Forecast Error) monthly and weekly, measuring the reliability of the sales forecast generated by AI: <25-30% and <50% respectively
- ATP (Availability To Promise), measuring the organization capability to understand business dynamics ensuring the right products in the right moment for the customers: 98%
- Revenue increase, measuring the organization capability to understand business dynamics key factors maximizing sales opportunities: +10% vs. Other similar channels without XAI technology support.
- 5STARS, measuring the customer satisfaction and company reputation improvement driven by a higher service level of the business channel: 4-5