Posted September 3, 2021

Seven Ways to Reduce Production Supply Chain Lead Times


Although a new product introduction may enjoy the spotlight for a season, eventually, the competition will catch up. Original equipment manufacturers must find as many ways possible to cut expenses and increase production yields to maintain profitability. One of those ways involves shortening the manufacturing time and cost of getting the product to market. The following includes some ideas on how to reduce production supply chain lead time to do just that.

Shortened Production Lead Times Enhance Quality and Profitability

Traditional production methods rely on building a lot of inventory to respond to any market needs. While this process has advantages in a booming market, it adds expense and pressure to OEMs to maintain these inventories. Additionally, incorrect market projections can leave OEMs with stores of unsellable products. In comparison, trimming the production model down to reduce lead times enhances both product quality and profitability:

  • Products built for actual customer orders instead of estimated projections result in a better cash flow for the OEM.
  • Only procuring the parts and materials necessary for production removes the need for raw material management and storage.
  • Building products for immediate customer needs enhances quality by giving workers a real-time stake in production.
  • Completed products don’t sit in a warehouse consuming extra resources for management and storage.

Precision parts crafted by a CNC machine shop represent one of the essential components of a product built by an OEM. The following comprises seven methods of production that machine shops use to help reduce lead times and increase profitability.

The Seven Methods of How to Reduce Production Supply Chain Lead Times

Machine shops have gradually become more efficient in their operation, resulting in lower costs and higher quality. Seven of those methods in greater detail include:

1. Online ordering and part analysis

Submitting an order to a CNC machine shop requires analyzing the part for manufacturability and creating the order, which in the past could take weeks. However, with the advent of online ordering and part analysis systems, machine shops now complete this process nearly instantaneously. When a customer uploads their part into the online system, it responds with its evaluation and forwards the customer to the next step.

2. Software-driven factory processes

With the CAD part model already uploaded into the online analysis and ordering system, the system processes the data for the CNC milling and turning machines. Simultaneously, the part order forwards its data to the procurement team for materials ordering. Machine shops utilizing online ordering accomplish this process much quicker than traditional paper-trail methods.

3. Avoid unusual or difficult part configurations

Building a part that hasn’t undergone optimization for the mills and lathes slows down the CNC machining process. The online analysis identifies many of these problems before production. Additionally, the engineering staff at the machine shop will work with the customer to develop viable alternatives. Some examples of non-optimized parts include using the largest diameter tooling to reduce the milling time required, avoiding deep cavities in parts that increase production costs, rounding internal corners, and limiting the use of special tolerances.

4. Just in Time inventory control

With the online ordering system configured to build what you need when you need it, a CNC machine shop supports customers’ Just-in-Time inventory control processes. OEMs won’t need to contract for bulk orders of parts to save production costs when they have the option to build what they need as they go. By ordering smaller quantities more frequently, the OEM reduces their production lead time and expense.

5. Share your sales data with your manufacturer

OEMs can prepare their vendors to help them reduce production lead times by sharing their sales data. Letting the machine shop know when to expect orders based on actual sales data allows it to configure its processes to respond immediately to the OEM’s needs. With the part data already installed within their systems, the machine shop only needs OEM authorization to build the next production order.

6. Use domestic manufacturers as much as possible

It can take several weeks to ship products built by overseas manufacturers, and OEMs reduce this time by using machine shops closer geographically. Additional benefits to using domestic vendors include working within the same time zone, avoiding political unrest or national holidays in other countries, and negating expensive shipping costs and tariffs.

7. Work with a manufacturing partner that knows you and your product

Developing a trusted partnership with a machine shop can save an OEM both time and money. Engineers familiar with the OEM’s design requirements will save time and money with strategic design or materials suggestions. An additional advantage includes using the same vendor for prototype development and production runs. Since they already have the design in their system, they can move into production much faster than when engaging with new vendors.

Success Comes from Choosing the Right Manufacturing Partner

As an OEM looking to reduce manufacturing costs, it is imperative to work with a CNC machine shop that places a high value on the quality of its work and is committed to the success of its customers. With this combination, you will see a reduction in production supply chain lead times to help your company meet its production deadlines and be more profitable in the long run.

At Plethora, we specialize in manufacturing precision parts using the industry's most advanced CNC machining equipment and software. We’ve fine-tuned our manufacturing processes to provide quick turn-times on your orders. We are ISO 9001 certified, supporting our primary goal of manufacturing your parts to the highest level of quality. Our online DFM and quoting systems are ready to receive your data so we can begin working with you on your next project. To get started, upload your design files to Quote My Part or call us at 415-726-2256.

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The Plethora Team

The Plethora team is your go-to CNC manufacturer for hardware done right the first time. We have the tools and experience needed to create high quality custom parts quickly and with precision, whether you need a prototype or production run.

Topics: materials, Design, Manufacturing, finishing, CNC machining, Quality, Prototyping, Supply Chain