Forecasting of intermittent demand
This thesis explores forecasting for intermittent demand requirements. Intermittent demand occurs at random, with some time periods showing no demand. In addition, demand, when it occurs, may not be for a single unit or a constant size. Consequently, intermittent demand creates significant problems in the supply and manufacturing environment as far as forecasting and inventory control are concerned. A certain confusion is shared amongst academics and practitioners about how intermittent demand (or indeed any other demand pattern that cannot be reasonably represented by the normal distribution) is defined. As such, we first construct a framework that aims at facilitating the conceptual categorisation of what is termed, for the purposes of this research, “non-normal” demand patterns. Croston (1972) proposed a method according to which intermittent demand estimates can be built from constituent elements, namely the demand size and inter-demand interval. The method has been claimed to provide unbiased estimates and it is regarded as the “standard” approach to dealing with intermittence. In this thesis we show that Croston’s method is biased. The bias is quantified and two new estimation procedures are developed based on Croston’s concept of considering both demand sizes and inter-demand intervals. Consequently the issue of variability of the intermittent demand estimates is explored and finally Mean Square Error (MSE) expressions are derived for all the methods discussed in the thesis. The issue of categorisation of the demand patterns has not received sufficient academic attention thus far, even though, from the practitioner’s standpoint it is appealing to switch from one estimator to the other according to the characteristics of the demand series under concern. Algebraic comparisons of MSE expressions result in universally applicable (and theoretically coherent) categorisation rules, based on which, “non-normal” demand patterns can be defined and estimators be selected. All theoretical findings are checked via simulation on theoretically generated demand data. The data is generated upon the same assumptions considered in the theoretical part of the thesis. Finally, results are generated using a large sample of empirical data. Appropriate accuracy measures are selected to assess the forecasting accuracy performance of the estimation procedures discussed in the thesis. Moreover, it is recognised that improvements in forecasting accuracy are of little practical value unless they are translated to an increased customer service level and/or reduced inventory cost. In consequence, an inventory control system is specified and the inventory control performance of the estimators is also assessed on the real data. The system is of the periodic order-up-to-level nature. The empirical results confirm the practical validity and utility of all our theoretical claims and demonstrate the benefits gained when Croston’s method is replaced by an estimator developed during this research, the Approximation method.