March 2, 2020      3 min read

Manufacturers rely on suppliers and lead times to plan out their production line. Suppliers are a critical part of the supply chain and your final product as a manufacturer. However, getting the supplies you need can often be trickier than you thought.

Suppliers have many variables that impact their lead time. As a result, these variations can directly affect your manufacturing line. Delivery times may change, or they may be out of stock for a high demand component. If you have a complex, bespoke part, it may take the supplier long than normal to get that out the door to you.

We’ve only just started to touch on what can impact lead times in the manufacturing space. Let’s see what else can be causing some fluctuations in your lead time. The more you understand these issues, the better you can mitigate the delay of sought-after inventory stock to your warehouse.

The complexity of parts

Lead time is easy to predict when a specific part is easy to produce or ready to go off the shelf. If you own a jewellery business and you need replacement silver hoops, a supplier’s lead time to get you that stock is likely to be short and predictable. It is a common part that they would most likely have in stock. In addition, it’s not something that’s oversized or would have shipping limitations.

However, if you asked for 3D printed metal hoops, with engraved branding, this might take much longer. A bespoke product like that is not sitting on their shelves — they need to get the right computer files, load it onto the printer, do a test run, print your product, make sure it’s correct and then send it on. The added complexities will add on to your overall lead time. If they are having difficulty with the specific metal in the 3D printer, it might take longer than expected. These delays can have a domino effect on your business and the lead time can throw off your schedule completely.

Shipping delays

This is one of the most commons reasons your lead time can be altered. Unfortunately, it can be unpredictable, and the supplier doesn’t have much control over it.

Globally, we are seeing the impacts of the coronavirus. There has been deep impacts on the global shipping industry. Imports and exports are significantly stunted around the world. There are cargo ships full of inventory stock stuck at sea or shipping deliveries cancelled, factories are shut down, and quarantine rules have been put into effect. Suppliers from China are emailing customers to let them know their parts won’t be delivered because they have stopped their operations and it’s unfeasible to ship products.

This is just one example of shipping delays. Weather events, customs and maintenance problems can all lead to shipping delays as well.

An unorganised warehouse

If you’re a supplier, you’ll know how important it is to get products out the door to manufacturers. If manufacturers don’t get their stock on time, it could have serious repercussions on their operations going forward. In addition, it could jeopardise your business relationship. If you stock a large number of different components, then you have to be organised. When there is only a millimetre difference between one part and another, it cannot get mixed up. If you have an unorganised workshop, you’ll struggle to find the right parts, ship them quickly and keep your manufacturing clients happy.

Don’t forget to include lead time in your reporting

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