Forecasting: A New Crystal Ball

Special software helps smaller firms predict demand and cut costs

Bob Howard knew his company had a problem when he found himself dreading the good times. His firm, Sioux Chief Manufacturing of Peculiar, Mo., makes water-hammer arresters, which stop pipes from clanging. When demand periodically surged, the 350-person company was overwhelmed trying to handle the workload. "We had to do a lot of overtime, pull people off other departments, beg customers to take partial delivery of orders," says Howard, 61, Sioux Chief's materials manager. "It cost us money."

Finally Sioux Chief's managers sat down to figure out how to avoid such crises. Demand for arresters--and for many of the 7,000 other...

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