Demand Forecasting Case Study : Brita UK

"We always knew Prophecy was a great sales forecasting and business planning software solution. We believe it will form a core part of our business systems for many years to come."
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Brita is the world leader in water filtration and its products are sold on all continents worldwide, for both household and commercial use.

The Brita group has a staff of some 610 people with production facilities in Germany, England, Switzerland and India.

Brita UK went live with Prophecy to support their demand forecasting process in early 2003.  The software has been used continuously ever since.

This case study gives an insight into the implementation of Prophecy, and the benefits Brita achieved.

Please click the Brita logo to visit the Brita web site.

Brita sells domestic water filter products through a large number of retail customers in the UK, spanning the grocery, pharmacy, department store and electrical sectors.

The product range includes jug water filters, filter kettles and replacement cartridges, as well as a full range of products for the catering, vending and beverage industries.

Following a period of rapid growth in the UK, Brita identified two specific commercial needs in order to embrace sales successes and continue to move forward:
  • Sales Forecasting and Planning: A fully integrated sales forecasting and business planning system which would allow sales managers to develop their forecasts and plan their business, providing instant consolidation for senior management review and business tracking, and which would provide data on past and future performance at the volume, revenue and profit level. The forecasts were needed to drive both procurement of stock and financial forecasting.
  • Analysis and Reporting / Better Access to Sales History. A simple tool for analysing sales data across time by product and customer at varying levels of aggregation. The system needed to be quick to implement, easy for non-technical business users to get up and running with but flexible enough to provide the kind of insights into sales data that the marketing and sales team needed.
The two objectives were originally viewed as separate projects. Prophecy was selected to deliver forecasting because it was viewed as delivering the most immediate and tangible benefits. However, it was also regarded as providing an interim solution for the second objective, analysis and reporting.

Brita initially approached Prophecy as the answer to its first key objective. This was to introduce a stable, robust, easy to use sales forecasting system which could assist Brita in planning business by customer, product and time, and which let users see their data at any level of product and customer summary from SKU / base customer upwards.

When the Brita project team - including sales, finance and IT managers - saw Prophecy’s reporting capabilities it was felt that it not only met the first objective (sales forecasting), but could also contribute to providing the kind of reporting environment specified for the second objective (analysis and reporting.) In summary, Prophecy was chosen because:
  • The software was extremely cost effective and efficient in delivering both key objectives: sales forecasting and planning, and analysis and reporting.
  • It has proven to be user-friendly, enabling individuals from various teams to learn and put it to use quickly and easily. According to Ben Wilkinson, commercial analyst for Brita "We didn’t want to incur large training costs, and we wanted users to have the confidence and ability to use the software independently and at times that were convenient for them. We found that a one day course was all most users needed in order to start using Prophecy productively."
  • The implementation has been very straightforward. The software was able to read data from Brita's ERP system and build the database quickly.
  • Technically, the software was also easy to implement. Tim Henry, IT Manager for Brita said: "A workstation install takes less than five minutes. Prophecy is a self-contained package independent of third party software. We use Windows Terminal Services to provide remote connectivity for our users and have been able to make Prophecy work well in this environment."
Wilkinson said: ”We have been able to replace the previous forecasting and planning system, which was based mainly on high maintenance spreadsheets, with Prophecy.”

A prototype database was produced and iteratively refined. It contained details of all Brita's customers and products, but no actual data, in order to help define the most helpful database structure for the users. This process was quick, but let users see the actual system they would be using, and allowed the team to verify the formulae, recalculations and analyses available.

A single database spanning three years of history and two years of forecasts was decided upon, with forecasts developed by month. In addition, ‘month to date’ data could be read in on a daily basis and compared to the forecast. This way, an early warning could be obtained on short-term variances from forecasts. The decision was made to model the forecasts from volumes, through standard prices and costs, promotional price reductions and discounts (percent or absolute) through to gross margin. Therefore, the profitability of each customer/product combination through time could be modelled, trended and analysed. A complimentary set of ‘Budget’ facts was created so that sales to date and forecasts for the rest of the year could be compared against budgets. Again, this gave managers the ability to monitor and compare achieved sales/forecasts, identify the sources of gaps and be able to take appropriate action.
Product and Customer hierarchies were built from Brita’s ERP data and imported directly into Prophecy.
According to Wilkinson, "Constructing the hierarchy files was a one-off activity. Now when a new product or customer is required we just append it to the hierarchy file, which takes just 30 seconds.” The final step was to obtain sales history data from the ERP systems, read it into Prophecy and fully validate it. Once the source data had been extracted, this process took less than a day.

Data Perceptions conducted a full database management and knowledge transfer training session for Brita's Prophecy database manager.

Each Prophecy user received training of approximately half to one day. Wilkinson reported that users picked up Prophecy quickly.
"We had taken a large amount of detailed historical and forecast data, so our users were excited about how accessible this became through Prophecy.”

Brita now has a comprehensive and powerful system for allowing each sales manager to analyse their sales, make their forecasts, and monitor performance to plan and forecast. Prophecy is used on a daily basis with the company.

Here are some first-hand user quotes, obtained after several months of using Prophecy:


"My role within Brita, which encompasses the UK forecasting, has been greatly enhanced by the introduction of the Prophecy forecasting tool. It has helped me reduce the time spent on manual collation, thus increasing the time available for constructive analysis and increased accuracy".
"Prophecy allows me to make informed business decisions when forecasting".
"An invaluable tool in managing day to day business, and longer term planning"
"Prophecy has enabled me to forecast for the long term including all promotional activity. This has allowed me to understand the true effect across all of my accounts for a 12 month period rather than 1 to 2 months as in the past."

As the quotes in this case study testify, managers at Brita feel that they have implemented a cost-effective and user-friendly system for sales forecasting and business planning.

In addition, through using Prophecy, sales and marketing managers have learned how to extract greater value from data and are now in a position to move forward to the full delivery of analysis and reporting. As a result Brita has revived the analysis and reporting project, and will be using Prophecy primarily in the area for which it was originally designed - as the best sales forecasting solution for real world business forecasting. Wilkinson said:
"Using Prophecy opened our eyes to the possibilities for analysis and reporting software. We may not have gained these insights without it."
He concludes,
"We always knew Prophecy was a great sales forecasting and business planning software solution. We believe it will form a core part of our business systems for many years to come."
On the experience of working with Data Perceptions, Wilkinson comments,
"Data Perceptions are a customer focused software company. The level of support and assistance we have received is first class. They view our satisfaction with the software as paramount and make an effort to understand its role in our day-to-day business. Would we make the same choice again? Most definitely."

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