Feature stories | Retail, FMCG | Technology & innovation

Tver’s Ingenious Team nurtures ‘e-manager’ to take stock of your merchandise

11 Dec '12
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor

We’ll take a look today at Ingenious Team, a young IT company from Tver, in Central Russia. Its flagship B2B effort, Forecast NOW!, earlier this month reached the final of one of Russia’s most prestigious innovation project contests, Zvorykin Award, in the “Best IT Project of the Year” nomination. The Forecast NOW! software has been designed for small and medium-sized businesses and offers retail and wholesale companies a sophisticated solution for market demand projections and inventory optimization. At the heart of the technology is what appears to be a successful attempt to simulate the human brain’s planning and prognosticating capabilities. The ‘smart’ system has been tested in a real business environment and is said to have helped companies increase sales by 40% while preventing inventory glut or deficit. Forecast NOW! is one in a series of inventive ideas that have aided Alexander Gritsai, the Ingenious Team leader, in securing broad-based support from the Tver regional government and the Skolkovo innovation hub outside Moscow.

Ingenious Team, an IT company from Tver some 105 miles north of Moscow, has developed its innovative Forecast NOW! as a tool empowering a business to forecast sales of everything from a single article of goods to broader commodity groups and entire inventory. The software is also able to generate supplier-specific forecasts, helping retail managers anticipate sales results for goods of specific brands and/or manufacturers, and prepare inventory management strategies based on this knowledge.

The start-up led by Alexander Gritsai, a local innovator, was established last year by the Tver regional government, and the Tver Regional Start-Up Fund was instrumental in providing legal and financial support for the young company as it grew to become two months ago a resident of Skolkovo, Russia’s largest innovation hub under construction just outside Moscow. Tver regional authorities are said to have recommended Forecast NOW! for use by the Tver Regional Ministry of Economic Development.

Benefiting a vast market

The Forecast NOW! software lends business owners and managers an ‘intelligent hand’ in inventory optimization. Its primary market includes retail and wholesale companies and outsourcers contracted to manage warehouse inventory. Another potentially unlimited market are e-commerce operators.

Ingenious Team claims it’s a sure shortcut to reducing storage costs while also preventing obsolescence and spoilage costs that are often associated with possessing a high amount of inventory for long periods of time. The system is designed to step up inventory and working capital turnover, thus boosting revenue streams, and streamline sales managers’ work to keep a company from losing out on potential sales.

How it works

The software is based on nonlinear forecasting models such as neural networks (NN) and the so-called genetic stabilization. Forecast NOW! offers a customer an automatic selection of NN structure, a data entry format, and other parameters based on original input data, forecasting horizons, and other key factors.

A user’s input data is pre-treated to screen out ‘noise’ and prepare the data for processing by a range of NNs the Tver software uses. To minimize possible randomness in forecasting, genetic optimization, or a set of genetic algorithms, is applied to balance out what neural networks continuously cross-breed, mutate and divide to produce—the best possible inventory management solution offering future demand scenarios for any particular merchandise and generated on the basis of comprehensive analysis of sales history over a given period of time, in any particular area, or in any given condition. History is obtained from prior sales data stored in any retail automation system Russian trading firms work with, including 1C.

In the process that emulates the functioning of the human brain, for each inventory article its exclusive forecasting model is generated. It may be likened to an article-specific electronic ‘manager’ that the system constantly updates and ‘retrains,’ if necessary. This ‘manager’ is capable of alerting its human counterpart to how much of an article must be purchased to support prognosticated demand.

The software also applies algorithms fine-tuned for seasonal demand based operation, which is useful for companies retailing car parts, building materials and other stuff people don’t buy all year round.

Last but not the least, Ingenious Team has ‘taught’ its sophisticated system to take into account external factors that can directly or indirectly impact sales of a specific article or a commodity group. Those may include weather conditions, a dollar-ruble rate at any given period of time, a market share now or in the past, warehouse inventory, etc. Forecast NOW! is also said to be able to analyze possible risks associated with any of these factors as they come into play.

Extending a product line

The advanced software can generate short-term (up to four weeks) and long-term (up to six months) forecasts, the developer says.

With its ‘artificial intelligence’ sort of approach Ingenious Team is already piling up orders for its new product. More than fifty were reportedly received just in one month. Taking advantage of the system right out of the gate, at its testing phase, were several Tver-based companies; a 40% increase in sales was reported as a result.

Mr. Gritsai’s flagship product already in perceptible demand, Forecast NOW! is not the only software the resourceful Tver team is pushing. In October, the start-up announced in Skolkovo another IT project aimed at “packaging” pre-seed stage businesses for venture and later-stage investment rounds.
Oleg Kouzbit, managing editor: “I’m glad you join us here and take The Bridge walk for Marchmont’s weekly review of the Russian regions’ innovative present and future. Stay close and you’ll find out more of how Russia is bridging the existing gap between its researchers and businesses.”
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Locations: Tver

Tags: Ingenious Team (2) / software (19) / Forecast NOW! (1) / Alexander Gritsai (1) / market demand projections (0) / inventory optimization (0) /

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