To keep pace with demand, it’s critical to understand the meaning of lead time. This is the amount of time from start to finish to complete a task or project. The odds are, your business will come up against lead time in multiple ways and situations over your lifespan.
The focus of lead time will differ based on your business. You might be more concerned with customer lead time or how long it takes to reach the customer. Some businesses will focus on the material lead time or how long it takes to get the raw materials you need. Most companies will need to be aware of production lead time. And all lead times come together into a cumulative lead time.
But whatever the focus, being aware of and improving your lead time might help your company in these five critical ways.
If your lead times are too long in a specific area, it can slow down the company across the board. You might have certain divisions sitting idle while waiting for others to deliver their part of the equation. This can hurt both morale and overall productivity.
To avoid these bottlenecks, create realistic timelines for all parts of the project before beginning. In addition, it can help to equip everyone working on the project with free project management software so they can compare notes and management can keep tabs on progress.
Nothing slows down a project like running out of that one important item you need at the worst possible moment. But at the same time, no company wants to have a stock of things they don’t use lying around just in case. So finding a balance between having too much on hand and cutting it too close is tricky for all companies.
You’ll want to make sure you have enough materials to handle your upcoming needs and enough to spare without sitting on wasted money. An essential part of staying solvent and minimizing lead time is tracking your materials and ensuring that you’re keeping a good balance of efficiency and financial solvency.
Consistency of Standards
The most crucial part of lead time isn’t getting your time as short as possible. No one likes to wait, but it’s better to have a longer lead time to meet quality standards. However, the problem is if your lead times aren’t consistent and leave people waiting unpredictably.
To maintain a reputation as a reliable company, it’s critical to establish consistent lead times for projects and tasks. It’s better to overestimate and have spare time to double-check your work than to over promise and under deliver. In addition, you want your employees to have realistic standards that they can meet and your clients to have a solid idea of when you’ll deliver.
Remember that, above all else, you’re going to be judged on the final product you present to your client or customers. Poorly structured lead time can lead to essential elements getting lost along the way, resulting in a product that looks unfinished or doesn’t deliver a polished experience.
Think of your lead timeline as a finely tuned machine or a synchronized orchestra. Each stage and element is a moving part, and your job as the company’s point man is to make sure everything is moving smoothly. Before committing to a lead time and pushing a product out the door, ensure your team has everything they need to prevent any delays down the line.
Customer satisfaction is at the core of any lead time decisions you’ll make. It would be best to balance all the possible outcomes to maximize customer satisfaction. No one likes to wait longer for a product, but it’s far better to provide a realistic timeline than to push it back while people are always waiting.
Keeping this in mind, take your best lead-time estimate and extend it a little more. This is because the unexpected will always happen, and you’ll likely run into some snags along the way. So give yourself the time to account for these obstacles without having to disappoint your customers or clients. And hey, if everything goes right and you can surprise them with an early arrival, that’s a happy bonus.
Lead the Way to Success
At its core, lead time is just planning for the moment you’ve been working toward that showcases your efforts. This is when your hard work pays off, and your products or services are revealed. So plan accordingly, and set yourself up for the success you deserve.