What is Product Forecasting: It is the science of predicting the degree of success a new product will enjoy in the marketplace. Forecasting is said to be the first and foremost step in the planning process. One of the requirements for effective long-term planning by managers is to assess the changes in technology and environmental conditions that could affect the firm. This is termed as environmental scanning which facilitates the firm to benchmark its performance as against the top industry standards. Technological forecasting involves anticipating development of new products and processes and the time taken for such kind of innovations to be accepted and absorbed in the market.
All predictive activity is subject to error, but technological and environmental forecasting is particularly different because they often involve assessing ideas and relationship that do not exist at the time the analysis is being performed. These forecasts are best suited for predicting performance a year or two in the future.
Based on forecasting, the firm decides the future course of action. Sales forecasts help the firm to decide on the volume of production for the next few months and aid in aggregate capacity planning. Labor productivity is a crucial factor in determining the success of a business environment, especially a production environment. Manpower planning is purely based on production forecasts where in, the labor hour productivity is also taken into consideration.
In the absence of empirical data, the forecasts must be based on expert opinions. Techniques like Delphi method can be used for this purpose. A group of experts is asked to assess a particular situation, presented with the judgments of others in the group, and then asked to reevaluate their individual positions based on what they have heard. The process continues until a consensus is arrived or until it is apparent that there will be no consensus. This helps the firm to consolidate its position with respect to specific problem situations. The Delphi method has been successfully used to forecast the nature and timing of technological change.
Techniques like Delphi and Brain storming also help in the process of identification of bottlenecks, the current business trend, the firm’s future prospects, range of estimates for the desired breakthroughs etc. Although the pattern of a business cycle or a product cycle for the most part, follows a fairly predictable pattern, the firm cannot overlook probabilities, upon which the firm has to capitalize on. The firm has to become alert and employ some innovations at that point of time, when the market becomes saturated. Or else, the rate of growth declines and the firm has to decide whether to continue with the operations which calls for additional investment or close down the operations.