Manufacturing Lead Times Explained


Manufacturing lead timesYou’ve heard the saying, “I need parts yesterday!” As a manufacturer for over 50 years, we completely understand the importance of lead times with the success of a product. With manufacturing ramping up, we have experienced a wide range of lead time expectations for a variety of complex and simple parts. So we figured this would be the perfect time to define what all goes into determining lead times to help with planning and meeting your customer’s expectations.

To get started, it is important when sending out bids to manufacturers to take into account of the time it takes to quote. If your customer gives you 5 weeks for you to get their parts quoted and manufactured, be sure to account for the extra timing to quote and not just the manufacturing lead time. Depending on the type of shop, manufacturers will either do a budget quote (fast quote) or fully planned quote (long quote). Here at VIP, we only provide fully planned quotes since many of our customer’s projects are large and the costs are extremely important to be accurate for manufacturing the parts successfully. We also plan the entire manufacturing process to ensure we can actually fabricate the parts. So, we always recommend checking with the manufacturer of how long it will take to quote.

After the parts have been quoted and you submit an order, the manufacturing lead time begins. Some shops specialize in rapid prototyping, which quickly turn small quantities, while other shops have lead times that are weeks long due to their facility setup and their production quantities. Here at VIP, we do not provide rapid turnarounds since our business model is catered to production quantities and maintaining high quality, which takes time. Here is a list of common factors that increase lead times:

1. The manufacturer’s workload is a very important factor. Many shops are job shops, which means their workload is constantly fluctuating depending on the number of jobs they currently have. A shop’s workload could be completely empty which would allow for a quick lead time, or completely booked and be a month out for parts.

2. The complexity of parts is another major factor that we see quite often. Sometimes we run into an assembly of 10 components that are hardware assembled and have a relatively short lead time. Then there’s the assembly with 100+ parts that need to be welded together and require tight tolerances. Something like this should not have the same lead time expectations as the simple assembly.

3. Occasionally, if there is special/uncommon material, hardware, or tooling, there is a lead time associated with receiving it from the mill or distributor. Recently, we had a part to fabricate that required special hardware that no one had and resulted in a 5 week lead time just to receive the hardware!  We occasionally run into situations where a buyer wants parts in two weeks for a simple sheet metal bracket, but because the material won’t ship for a week, the lead time could be 4 or 5 weeks. Luckily, since we plan during the quoting stages, we let our customer know ahead of time.This is why it is always important to communicate with your manufacturer of these different factors when determining the delivery of parts.

4. Another important factor is outside/secondary processes that are done by another shop. Many times plating and silkscreen is done by a different shop who specializes in those capabilities, so their lead time is also a factor to deal with. Especially, if there are parts that require a special process, plus plating, and silkscreen. This can definitely add the to the length of the lead time.

5. Last but not least, the shipping time to deliver parts should also be taken into account. Here at VIP, we make parts for companies that are across the US or even out of the country, which means their transit time for the parts will be much longer than someone that is nearby.

There are many other different factors that can play a huge part in the lead time of manufacturing parts, but these seem to be the most common. We strongly encourage you to always communicate to the shop you are working with to find out realistic lead times so there is no disappointment in the requirements you need to meet. Plus, it allows you manufacturer to plan ahead for what’s to come.

Here at VIP, we strive to provide the best lead times possible to our customers. Although we are not a rapid prototype shop, we always provide high quality parts and with accurate lead times since we plan out the manufacturing process during the quoting stage. For more information on quotes and working with VIP, be sure to check out our Request For Quote page.

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