“What is your gasket material lead time?”
This is the question that everyone asks. In a world centered around instant gratification, any wait is too long. In reality, especially in a manufacturing environment, lead times are a way of life.
Most manufacturing companies do try to have some of the more popular items in stock at all times. Customer satisfaction is the number one priority, but not far behind is the need to keep the business solvent (and in our case, that can’t be done by stocking every single gasket material that we have ever sold).
Reducing lead times is always a major goal. Anything that can be done to increase the speed of the ordering cycle benefits all who are involved. Maintaining strong relationships with suppliers and predicting the needs of customers and future customers as best as possible is key in this process. However, communication throughout the entire supply chain is what is ultimately going to make or break the ordering process.
Get the Answer You Want
Without a doubt, constant communication with your supplier is a must – especially if the item you order is not a stocked item. The more you talk with us about your upcoming needs, the more we are able to plan for a successful delivery when you need it. If you can find a supplier with a very high OTD% (on time delivery), that is going to help you build trust in the ability of your supplier to meet delivery commitments. We understand that sometimes there is a fire to put out, and we will bend over backwards for you to help when this is the case. However, if every order is a fire….see #2.
There is a rather blunt saying out there “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.” We don’t know of anyone that actually subscribes to this theory, but there is a little bit of truth in it. If you are constantly flying by the seat of your pants in your planning and ordering, it makes it very difficult as a supplier to continually meet your needs AND still meet the needs of our customers that are already waiting for their orders. A little bit of planning goes a long way. If you are always in this situation because your customer does the same to you, talk with your supplier. We have helped many of our customers figure out some sort of purchasing pattern to try to alleviate this issue.
3. Be Realistic
Lead times don’t generally change. If the product you order is always a 10 week lead time, there is a 99.9% chance that it is going to be a 10 week lead time the next time you order. Lead times are not arbitrarily set, and there is a very good reason why it is the way it is (in our case, receipt of some raw materials takes a while). If a 10 week lead is the norm for your material, please don’t always call your supplier with a delivery date of 8 weeks out. You need to be cognizant of the calendar and place your order with realistic expectations. If you continue to find yourself in this position, talk to your supplier. Most suppliers will take a look at purchasing patterns with you and figure out the best way to match your need dates with the lead times.
4. Be Flexible
In the spirit of customer satisfaction, sometimes if you are in a pinch and need something ASAP your supplier is able to immediately meet your needs. Sometimes, they may be able to get you partway there with a partial shipment of what is in stock, or can build a partial order with the raw materials that happen to be on hand. In even rarer circumstances, there may even be a substitute product that you can take in a pinch. Regardless, if proper planning couldn’t happen, anything your supplier can do for you will usually put you in a better situation than if they did nothing. Taking an “all or none” approach in these situations doesn’t get you on the way to meeting the needs of your customer, which is everyone’s #1 goal.
The Next Order
Most problems in our lives can be solved with communication. A customer/supplier relationship is no different. The more you can communicate with your supplier on your needs, plan the best you can, and work with your supplier to figure out the best way to handle the situations where you can’t plan, you will hopefully never be out of material when you need it most.
In those instances where planning isn’t an option, remember to be flexible – a good supplier will do whatever they can to ensure your order is delivered as timely as possible. If they are willing to get a bit creative to try to help you achieve your goals, jump on the bus – you might like where it goes!
What else would you add to this list?