Anyone selling products or services should be concerned about lead time. There are many benefits to being able to deliver your product to your customer quickly:
It gives you an advantage over the competition, as clients always want to receive their goods quickly. You also have the advantage of cash flow management. If delivery times are shorter, you will need less cash flow to finance your supply chain or your stock.
Here are some tips to help you reduce the lead time for manufacturing goods and about how a reliable procurement agent in China can help.
- Increase Parts Production by Increasing the Number of Cavities in Your Tooling
You can increase the production of metal or plastic parts if your tooling has more cavities.
If your injection molding plastic parts, producing four parts rather than one per shot will save you a lot of time, and it will also reduce the time it takes to make individual parts. It holds for metal sheet stamping and any other process that requires a machine and a tool.
It would help if you also kept in mind that an increase in the number of cavities on your tool can increase its cost. In other words, increasing the number of cavities on your tooling means that the cost of your tooling and workmanship will increase. More cavities mean more work when making tooling, and it’s all about the tradeoff.
- Run Simultaneous Parallel Production Line
To reduce lead time, you can run multiple production lines simultaneously. It allows you to spread out the work on many lines. The Theory of Constraints will then apply to you. It restricts your throughput by using the slowest producing process. You will need to identify the bottleneck in your process and then work on it to find ways to increase its throughput.
A Value Stream Map analysis of the production flow can often help you identify bottlenecks and what you can do to eliminate them. One example of a bottleneck in production is the plastic injection process. If your tooling has a limited number of cavities, you will be restricted by the daily production. There may be hundreds of workers who are waiting to assemble parts.
But if the plastic injection process is too slow or the plastic parts aren’t generated fast enough by the plastic press, your workers will wait for the parts to be assembled.
Procurement agent in China has a system where if a factory is overwhelmed and does not have sufficient production capacity, they will subcontract it to another factory. I do not recommend it as it can often produce different products.
People told me about the most disastrous situations when clients lost control of their supply chain or when the client’s supplier sub-contracted production without the client being aware.
- Control the Quality Early in Production
Don’t rush to deliver if you don’t have the time to inspect the quality of your production. I do a mix of an Initial Production Inspection and a During Production Inspection, depending on whether it’s for finished products or sub-assembly pieces. It is important to spot problems early to be fixed quickly. I often send quality inspectors.
Importers often wait until the last minute before shipping to inspect the product’s quality. They want to save money on quality control operations and think that if I inspect the product at the end, I will be safe. It is unsafe because you don’t ship or pay for your goods.
However, it is unsafe because you won’t be able to get your Chinese supplier to rework the entire production. That is why it is always safer to with a procurement agent in China.
- Have Your Manufacturer Work 24 Hours/Day with Multiple Shifts
Make sure your chosen manufacturer can run their production 24 hours a day with 2 or 3 shifts. Sometimes, manufacturers are located in areas where power is not available.
Some manufacturers are reluctant to allow their workers to work at night because they must pay them a higher wage, which can affect their margins. I can recall when I had to force a supplier to allow his worker to work through the night to complete an order on time. We delivered the customer on time, but they weren’t happy. I left the factory at 4 AM.
If you are looking for a supplier to China or Asia, ensure they can work through the night if needed to meet deadlines.
- Keep Critical Components and Materials in Stock
Although it is difficult to manage cash flow, it can be an option to build a stock buffer to protect some strategic parts that can be hard to source. Flash memories and chipsets are two of the most common components that shortages can affect. As manufacturers produce at full speed to supply the Christmas season, chip shortages will occur every year as we approach October-November, and the supply of chipsets becomes very low.
You might run out of one crucial component of your bill of materials at this time of year if you don’t plan accordingly. It could cause your product to be incomplete. Although I do not recommend stocking all components, I recommend having a buffer in case critical components are difficult to source.
- Multi-Supply Standard Parts
It becomes crucial to build a supply chain that includes backup suppliers. If you need to order parts, make sure you have at least two or three suppliers. You can avoid shortages by switching suppliers. It means that you must strengthen your sourcing from China. You should also invest more money, time and energy to ensure your supply chain is always available.
- Optimize Your Value Stream Map
You can implement Lean tools in your Chinese factory to speed up production.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that some manufacturers could be more efficient and quicker if they just applied some common sense. Before performing a value stream analysis, identify the bottlenecks. It can help you to increase production and optimize throughout.
It might be a good idea to review your procurement policy. It is not possible to immediately adopt so-called “best practices”. This might not be a good idea, especially if you have products that are labor-intensive and simple. It is important to carefully consider your options and test the feasibility of each supplier. You can take help from procurement agent in China to take care of finding and shortlisting the right suppliers.