When I first started this blog, one of my first posts addressed the importance of building a solid pipeline of Projects and consequently a backlog of service hours to build stability and give room to consider growing, expanding, investing, among other opportunities Investors/Consultants pursue.
I have an old personal interest in Supply Chain Management, never had much time to study deeper or gain much knowledge.
I came up with this article by Dr. Muddassir Ahmed where he talks about something as important as building your repeat-project client base: customer lead time. If we do not pay attention to this, either when participating in a project or delivering a product from another business, it will be fatal, even resonating to other potential customers.
Copyright and references after the article. Also, links to blog's pages, personal information, and other embedded into text. The article was written and publish by Dr. Muddassir and all rights belong to him.
September 10, 2017 by Muddassir Ahmed | Supply Chain Management Researcher
Customer Lead Time is unquestionably a buzz word in today’s fast paced business environment, and everyone involved needs an in-depth understanding as to why it is important. Customer Lead Time can be defined as the time it takes from the instant an order is made by a customer, till the moment it reaches the hand of the customer. The term ‘Expected Customer Lead time’ is commonly used in many fields like Manufacturing, Material Requirement Planning & Enterprise Requirement Planning (MRP & ERP), Project Management, Supply chain Management, Supplier Management, and so on. Ideally, every business has a Customer Lead Time. The promised Customer Lead Time is the promised customer wait time for an order. The Expected Customer Lead Time is the actual wait time (a random variable) experienced by the customer.
One of the key factors, which form the basics, is understanding what the term means and why we apply it to the various field we find ourselves. The explanation of Expected Customer Lead Time varies in each field and is dependent largely on the nature of operations carried out by the business. In Supply Chain Management, every professional knows how important it is to lessen the time interval taken from when an order is made until the time it gets to the hand of the customer. Below are some major reasons why it is important to understand Expected Customer Lead Time:
1. Competitive edge for Product and Services
Agile Lead-time provides a competitive edge for Product and services offered by firms. Let assume a scenario where the Customer Lead Time is Two weeks, then the distribution of such goods to customers is delayed by a whole two weeks. This can bring about a high level of dissatisfaction among customers. To remain as competitive as other brands in the market, you need to have a better Customer Lead Time. From this standpoint, you can deduce it is a critical element of any selling strategy by reducing your Lead Time as well.
2. Different Customer Lead Time Expectation for Different SKUs
This is one significant point that should not be overlooked, and Supply chain professional should be able to understand how different lead-time expectation comes at different prices. Some customers might want their orders delivered earlier than usual time agreed. Customers usually prioritize one of two factors:
For example I have seen business we offer 3-5 days for high running A-items (Made-to-Stock), offer 10-15 days lead time for B-items (Assemble-to-Order) and 30-60 days for C- items (Made-to-Order or Purchase-to-Order). By doing that they cannot only maintain the inventory at right SKUs (A & B items), but also achieve high On-time delivery performance.
Which do you a favor, faster delivery or steady, dependable delivery?
3. Customer Lead Time Plays a Significant Part in Demand Forecast
When you have High Customer Lead Time, delays experienced in fulfilling orders become relatively less too. With this, any supplier management system put in place can accurately forecast which is necessary in most cases.
Some companies have a very robust supplier management system who rate the suppliers and keep back-ups to serve for any reduction of inventory at the precise time. So, the higher the Customer Lead Time, the more precise your demand forecast would be. If you have a Customer Lead Time that is less, say a few more days or the demand exceeds your forecast; the delivery time of your product would be delayed.
4. Direct Influence on Customer Satisfaction
Customer Lead Time has a direct influence on customer Satisfaction. If you have a poor supply lead times your customers would in no time take up other alternative products. Customer Lead Time needs to be regarded as a general measure of proficiency of the entire supply chain KPI by the Supply Chain Management of any firm. It is not to be confused with Processing Lead Time or Production Lead Time, as they are both parts of Customer Lead Time or Total Lead Time as it is occasionally called.
Furthermore, recognizing a pool of suppliers with support activities, rating them, and also giving advice and response at suitable intervals is an important task. Many leading firms understand this and treat suppliers as their prolonged group. Educating suppliers on important procedures is important, so that they can know the value of their services in the value flow.
5. High Customer Lead Time Leads to Rising in Inventory
This reason is quite simple just like the old saying goes “Time is Money.” The inventory always stirs up the storage cost. The better the Customer Lead Time, the higher the inventory becomes. Customers are more motivated and willing to buy from businesses whose products and services tend to have the least Lead Time. In the end, such customers would always try to look for a supplier who has the least lead time. It is, therefore, a needed factor for any Supply Chain Management to keep refining their Customer Lead Time to stay TOP of the market.
6. Provides an Alternative Overview of Business Performance
For Supply Chain Management, Customer Lead Time is commonly denoted as a supply chain Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that can be broken down into different parts that can demonstrate the performance of quite a few components of the firm. They make an excellent alternative to checkmate your business performance. This may be more beneficial in assessing and refining operations in regards to expansion and better products to ease customers satisfaction, which is what the customers deserve. So, from the minute the customer makes his or her order there are three main parts of time until he or she accepts the order. The three main parts that make up a Customer Lead Time includes Order Processing Time, Production Lead Time and Delivery Lead Time.
To manage Lead time beneficially, one needs to understand the components of Customer Lead time. This delay in time is characteristically the sum of the time a supplier takes to distribute goods once an order is made, and the restructuring delay, which is the time taken while waiting for an ordering opportunity to arise again.
To lessen the gap between requested and actual delivery, you need to be able to evaluate actual Expected Customer Lead Time to check whether it ties to your real requirements and also map out your actual operations process, and try to improve your materials management competencies to meet customer expectation. Also, regulating the operative processes and documentation will aid in reducing misunderstanding among personnel, benefit easy learning and expand reliability in production. Expected Customer Lead Time reduction is a great way to improve productivity and increase sales.
Dr. Muddassir Ahmed is a Manufacturing Operations, Procurement and Supply Chain leader from international multi-site manufacturing experience in Electrical, Hydraulics and Internet industries. With considerable experience in deploying Continuous Improvement best practices in Europe, Middle East & Africa, Dr. Muddassir Ahmed considers himself as intrapreneur with a strong desire to become an entrepreneur.
Dr. Muddassir Ahmed has received a Ph.D. in Management Science from Lancaster University Management School, a MSc. in Management of Production from Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden and a B.E. in Textile Engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, Pakistan. Muddassir is a Six Sigma Black Belt and has founded muddassirism.com – a source for all things to do with Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Leadership. Prime focus is to assist readers in “gaining knowledge” in operations world and help them making decisions and assist them to drive “Continuous Improvement” in the jobs and business they are in. By providing tools, training courses, mentoring and virtual consultancy.
Topic for a future post: what are the motivations that take a technology professional (for the case of the author of this Blog, Computer Sciences, Electronic Engineering, Operations Management) to become an independent Consultant, even more being in the Corporate life for many years?
Potentially, we will find more corporate professionals that are driven to opening their own businesses or independent consulting career than similar professionals opting for this type of career from the get go. Do not have any data on this.
Anyway, we are getting ready to engage on Consulting given any motivation or opportunity. How ready are we?
Not unusual to respond to an opportunity given a necessity. We find ourselves in between jobs and receive invitations to participate in a project, we hear from a friend about a good opportunity, we receive an invitation from an agency for a temporary job.
It is OK. Gives is time to think what we want to do, how much more we want to give our body and soul for one company, or have the flexibility to do what we want, when we want, and have a variety of activities of our interest, at our own pace.
While we decide, a few things are important to get ready:
(1) Lay the foundations for your family's life to navigate smoothly (health care, life insurance);
(2) Lay the foundations for your future and retirement (Social Security Tax, Investments);
(3) Lay the foundations to operate professionally (isolate your personal life from your professional life to protect the family and your state from liabilities, have professional accounting and legal services, consider to open an LLC, have your LLC structured with its own bank and credit accounts);
(4) Lay the foundation to always operate professionally (business activities, including bank expenses, clearly separated from personal activities, pay yourself a salary and make formal reimbursements instead of using company's resources for personal matters, always have contracts with clear terms and conditions for any engagement).
Take the opportunity to understand how to build your pipeline of projects and activities. Quite often Consulting engagements take long time to develop and to close. If we do not prepare ourselves the frustration is fatal. Putting all sources together (friends, agencies, temporary, applications through LinkedIn, Development Aid and similar, among others) will produce results at a very low rate of return. It is important to invest a lot from the beginning to enable you to have a pipeline of projects and engagements and then a backlog of deliverables and invoices.
Between now and the day where we have a solid pipeline and backlog, the investment is very significant and time consuming with little to now resources.
At the same time, it is the opportunity to invest on the "low hanging fruits", for example, freelancing engagements from sources like Upwork and similars. Certainly lower hourly rate, smaller engagements but good complements for the early periods where we are starting up on this profession, and also for the future where a more comfortable pipeline exists, gives us room for quick wins and for constant flow of income.
I dedicate my life to science, technology, music and to bringing people together. And I do it my way.