Holiday Shopping- How to Make Sure Your Gifts Arrive on Time
As the holiday season ramps up, it’s time to start ordering those gifts you said you were going to order months ago. Soon the item you thought was your greatest idea will be out of stock, or will be delivered after the holidays. But, before you start to find yourself in that situation and hit the panic button, it is important to understand what a lead time is and how different factors, such as scheduling can affect it. It is also important to decipher between the types of orders as well; both spot buys and blanket orders. Although, these ideas typically pertain to the manufacturer, they can help consumers as well.
Nowadays, it’s super convenient to do virtually all your shopping online because of sites like Amazon, who have large warehouses of inventory. Yet, many of the orders for gifts during the holiday season are spot orders, or orders that are a one-time purchase. As a manufacturer, there is another type of order that we at Ashley Ward see a lot; a blanket order. Whereas a spot order is a one time purchase, a blanket order is “an agreement arranged between an organization and a supplier to deliver goods or services at a predetermined price on a recurring basis for a specified time period” (What is a Blanket Order). For example, a spot order would be a company that wants 12,000 parts, and wants all 12,000 parts at once. On the other hand, a blanket order would be customer orders 12,000 parts, but only wants 1,000 parts every month because they don’t want all 12,000 at once.
Both types of orders have their advantages and disadvantages. Spot buys can help reduce inventory costs since the quantity made it simply the quantity that’s needed. On the other hand, a blanket order can also reduce costs and increases purchasing power, improves efficiency and shortens lead time. Blanket orders also allow for easier reaction to demand fluctuations (if we keep running parts on a machine, there will be parts on the shelf which can be available to ship if there is a spike in demand). On top of this, a blanket order helps customers monitor their inventory since we can do JIT deliveries. As a machine shop, we prefer blanket orders because we can set up a machine and continue to run that machine and ship the parts needed and then store the rest. This way we are getting the most economical value out of the machine and our skilled workers.
Like briefly mentioned above, it is very rare that an item is ready right away. Typically, there is a lead time on an order. In other words, a lead time is essentially the “total time required to manufacture an item, including order preparation time, setup time, run time, and inspection time” (Business Dictionary). In terms of manufacturing, there are certain machines that have a shorter lead time than others. Here at Ashley Ward, a CNC machine is going to have a shorter lead time than an Acme Gridley screw machine has. This is due to the fact that CNC equipment can be programmed and setup much faster than the cam screw machines. The type of machine a part runs on isn’t the only thing that affects a lead time, though.
Scheduling can also affect the lead time dramatically. According to James Lundy, scheduling can be defined as the “assignment of starting and completion times for the various operations to be performed”. There are many factors that will affect scheduling internally include types of machines available, availability of labor, availability of material needed, and the time needed to produce each part. For example, if we get an order that requires a Davenport operation but we currently have no machines open, this would affect scheduling and thus impact the lead time of that part. Moreover, if a company knows they have a particularly busy season, it can hire additional workers to help with labor and thus decrease scheduling time.
Knowing what scheduling is and how it can affect lead times can help you avoid being that person that can’t get that gift they wanted because it’s out of stock or won’t be ready in time. By understanding the different buying processes and how lead times can affect orders, you can stay ahead of the rush and be sure your parts are on the shelf waiting for you. Even if you are just buying presents for your kids, it’s good for consumers to know these things as well to ensure all their shopping is done early and the presents are all wrapped under the tree.
From all of us at Ashley Ward, we wish you Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!