Product Economics And Profitability

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Forecasting can be broadly considered as a method or a technique for estimating many future aspects of a business or other operation. There are numerous techniques that can be used to accomplish the goal of forecasting. While the term "forecasting" may appear to be rather technical, planning for the future is a critical aspect of managing any organization;business, nonprofit, or other. In fact, the long-term success of any organization is closely tied to how well the management of the organization is able to foresee its future and to develop appropriate strategies to deal with likely future scenarios. Intuition, good judgment, and an awareness of how well the economy is doing may give the manager of a business firm a rough idea of what is likely to happen in the future. Nevertheless, it is not easy to convert a feeling about the future into a precise and useful number, such as next year's sales volume or the raw material cost per unit of output. Forecasting methods can help estimate many such future aspects of a business operation. All forecasting methods can be divided into two broad categories: qualitative and quantitative. Many forecasting techniques use past or historical data in the form of time series. A time series is simply a set of observations measured at successive points in time or over successive periods of time. Forecasts essentially provide future values of the time series on a specific variable such as sales volume. Division of forecasting methods into qualitative and quantitative categories is based on the availability of historical time series data (Ulrich, et al, 2004). Qualitative forecasting techniques generally employ the judgment of experts in the appropriate field to generate forecasts. A key advantage of these procedures is that they can be applied in situations where historical data are simply not available. Moreover, even when historical data are available, significant changes in environmental conditions affecting the relevant time series may make the use of past data irrelevant and questionable in forecasting future values of the time series. Three important qualitative forecasting methods are: the Delphi technique, scenario writing, and the subject approach. Quantitative forecasting methods are used when historical data on variables of interest are available—these methods are based on an analysis of historical data concerning the time series of the specific variable of interest and possibly other related time series. There are two major categories of quantitative forecasting methods. The first type uses the past trend of a particular variable to base the future forecast of the variable.

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