Cross-item learning for volatile demand forecasting: An intervention with predictive analytics

October 2021 | Oliva, Rogelio

Despite its importance to OM, demand forecasting has been perceived as a “problem-solving” exercise; most empirical work in the field has focused on explanatory models but neglected prediction problems that are part of empirical science. The present study, involving one of the leading electronics distributors in the world, aims to improve prediction accuracy under high demand volatility for procurement managers to make better inventory decisions. In response to requests for an integrated forecasting methodology, we undertook an iterative process based on three guiding principles — data pooling, theory informed feature engineering, and ensemble-based machine learning. The resulting framework managed to improve forecast accuracy significantly and is applicable to a broad range of situations. We present reflections and insights derived abductively through engagement with managers in this problem situation. This “problem-driven” process corresponds to intervention as a research strategy that can foster theoretical and methodological innovations in OM. Our contribution goes beyond the development of the prediction framework as it elucidates ways OM researchers could leverage theoretical foundations to inform feature derivation and model construction. We posit that this work points to a way forward to the combination of OM principles with the emerging innovations in data science and artificial intelligence.



  • H.H.C. Chuang
  • Y.C. Chou


Journal of Operations Management 67(7):828-852.

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