Lead times. They’re one of the most important supply chain metrics. Why? Because customers set their own deadlines to meet. Whether your shipment is simply trying to make it to a customer or catch a connection for a new route (domestic or international), timing is everything. From the moment an order gets placed, the clock starts ticking.
The customer is waiting, impatiently. Every day that goes by, and each hour that passes, can be considered a decrease in customer service.
While wait times are acceptable — at least until some form of teleportation has been discovered — reducing manufacturing and shipping lead times must be a priority for most businesses.
Shorter lead times = happier customers
Whether you manufacture your own products or order them from a supplier, decreasing manufacturing lead times is a surefire way to reduce the time it takes to get your products in the hands of waiting customers.
If you order from a supplier/s, there are a few ways to decrease manufacturing lead times:
- Consolidate suppliers: when possible, consolidate the number of suppliers you work with. By refining your supply chain to fewer entities, your manufacturing process won’t be waiting on deliveries from other locations.
- Expand your supplier list: it sounds counterintuitive to the last point, but that’s because every supply chain is different. If your products require little assembly, and you just need more of them, increasing the number of suppliers you work with will allow your business to handle more orders at the same time.
- Sales forecasting: sharing your sales forecasts with suppliers allows them to prep for reliable increases in orders during your peak seasons.
- Keep it domestic: when possible, work with domestic suppliers to avoid dealing with issues like overseas shipping and customs.
If you’re the manufacturer of your own products, there are still things you can do to decrease lead times in your supply chain.
- Go lean: implementing lean manufacturing processes will cut down on the time it takes to process an order, manufacture a product and send it out the door.
- Outsource kitting and assembly: partner with a 3rd-party logistics provider (3PL) who offers warehousing and kitting and assembly solutions. When products are stored in the same place where they’re shipped, lead times decrease because your 3PL can piece everything together and ship it all at once.
- Automation: automating processes like inventory management cuts down on the time it takes to manually input sales and order information. If you outsource warehousing, automated inventory management automatically alerts 3PLs of new orders, allowing them to quickly assemble and ship. It also alerts you or your suppliers when inventory is low in warehouses and needs to be replenished.
To shorten lead times, choosing the right 3PL goes a long way
Consolidation can be the key to reducing your lead times, especially with the right logistics partner handling your warehousing, fulfillment and shipping processes. King Solutions offers a variety of consolidated services including warehouse management, kitting and assembly, pick pack and ship, and many other program management and freight transportation services. We work with businesses to help reduce lead times, bring visibility to their inventory and shipments, and so much more.