Manufacturers need parts fast to hit tough production deadlines.

This is especially true for manufacturers using just-in-time (JIT) production. But the same rule applies to manufacturers who need regular monthly production runs to keep projects moving forward according to plan.

It’s important to find a supplier that can accommodate both JIT delivery and regular monthly production runs. You need to outsource to a supplier committed to on-time delivery (OTD) according to YOUR production schedule.

Why can’t all parts suppliers guarantee on-time delivery?

To meet tough delivery deadlines, suppliers need end-to-end capabilities, from prototyping, to machining, to finishing, all under the same roof. When suppliers have to send parts off to other facilities to finish a job, you’re going to see production times go through the roof.

It also helps to work with a supplier in your area. Or at least a supplier that has demonstrated an ability to ship items very quickly. Ideally, you’ll want to outsource to a supplier that can accommodate JIT delivery.

But you don’t want to commit to a long-term relationship with a supplier just because they offer JIT. They’ll need to check a lot more boxes to get your approval – because you can’t afford to have a crucial shipment arrive late.

So, read one to learn what else you should look for in a supplier.

Does Your Supplier Do All This . . . ?

Imagine you’re introducing a new product to the market.

You don’t yet know how customers will react to it. In the old days, you might have ordered a large batch of parts to make a huge amount of products in bulk to save money (some people call this just-in-case manufacturing). But nowadays, you can rely on JIT delivery to get as many parts as you need, when you need them, responding to demand in the market. This takes the guesswork out of procurement.

So when you’re looking for a supplier to get jobs done fast, look for these specific attributes . . .

  • Fast setup times: Your supplier should have the ability to ‘retool’ at a moment’s notice. That means they need the right equipment and the know-how to operate it efficiently.
  • Reliable machines: Suppliers should not only use state-of-the-art machinery, but should also implement proactive maintenance to prevent failures. Having access to more than one machine is another must, so work can carry on while maintenance is underway.
  • Adequate floor space: Ever tried to fit heavy machinery in a tiny space? It results in an inefficient workflow and it’s also a safety hazard. Suppliers should have a logical setup so parts can flow from one machine to another without delay.
  • Quality assurance: If you have to wait to find out about quality issues after delivery, then JIT delivery is not working. Suppliers should have quality control and improvement teams working on the factory floor to catch quality issues fast and early.
  • Pull production: If your supplier doesn’t have the right material in stock, they should have processes in place to quickly ‘pull’ the required materials into their processes to meet demand.
  • Dedication: Is your supplier able to focus completely on producing a single part to fulfill your order? Or are they balancing several customer priorities at the same time? The ability to focus on a single part will lead to improvements in production efficiency and quality.

If you can find a supplier that gets all of the above right, it’s likely that you’ll be able to significantly reduce your inventory load and save a huge amount of time and energy over the long run.

Do Your Part to Ensure On-Time Delivery

Don’t leave it all up your supplier. There are many things you can do on your end to ensure on-time delivery.

It’s really important to open about your expectations. Many suppliers assume that manufactures account for supplier delays when they order, and as a result they have sub-optimal supply chains and production processes. If you ask for on-time delivery, and your supplier agrees, that’s what you should get. If you’re skeptical about whether your supplier can deliver on time, ask for regular status updates so you don’t get caught off guard.

If everyone is assuming there will be a small delay here and there, these tend to add up quickly. As a result you’re going to see your production schedule stretch way farther than you expected.

You need to find a partner that operates on your schedule.

The more time-sensitive the job, the more precise your agreed-upon delivery date should be. If you need it done fast, don’t go with a company that can only give you a wide delivery window. Go with the company that gives you a tight delivery window and has a history of meeting delivery targets.

What kind of delivery window should you expect? A typical delivery window is 5 days early, 0 days late (expressed as -5+0). Good suppliers often deliver early, but never late. Be sure to ask for an Advance Shipment Notification (ASN) and tracking details once parts are shipped.

A final note about on-time delivery: it’s a good idea to reconcile your data with your supplier’s data on a regular basis. Once a quarter should do the trick. You’ll want to make sure you’re both choosing the same metrics (e.g. ship date or dock date, working days or calendar days, promised date or required date, etc.). This will ensure both parties continue to be satisfied with delivery performance.

Plus, this effort will help strengthen your relationship with your supplier. The more you work together, the better your supplier will understand your production requirements; and if they’re good, they’ll continue to deliver on time when you need parts the most.

Primary keyword: on-time delivery
Secondary keywords: OTD, just-in-time, JIT