For those who have championed shorter and shorter lead times, the results of this poll won’t make for good reading. Last week my latest poll concluded, this time focusing on the subject of short lead times and the effects on product quality and customer service.
This is the result.
The question and answer
This was the question I posed to followers for a week, and the answers that came back:
This isn’t a great advertisement for short lead times. I appreciate that for the past few years a certain portion of the industry population have been championing shorter and shorter lead times as a USP. We live in a world where at the click of a few buttons we have all sorts made and delivered in magic-quick time. However I have long worried that when it comes to items that have to be crafted, made by hand, that cost a lot of money, like new windows and doors for example, we were at risk of corner cutting and quality problems. After this latest set of results, it appears many do feel the same.
That is as good as two thirds of the industry (at least those who voted) that believe shorter lead times have lead to poorer product quality and customer service. Right now, with as much diversification on product and the chronic skills gap, the last thing we need as an industry is for those problems to be compounded further by racing to get our products out of the door even quicker.
Prepared to wait?
I am considering this question as a future poll on DGB, but will ask it on here first. As an installer, would you be prepared to wait a little bit longer for your products from your suppliers if it meant you could expect better product quality and customer service? If so, then how long would you be prepared to wait? 1 week? 2 weeks? 4 weeks? More?
Speaking with my installer hat on, the answer I would give is yes. Our lead times are over 4 weeks anyway, longer during the busier periods, and we order well in advance with suppliers so that they’re not having to rush through last minute orders for rapid delivery. So a couple of extra weeks to wait if it meant having even better quality and customer service would be fine by us.
Don’t get me wrong, having the ability to get a door within a week, or a window re-make in a matter of days is very helpful. Especially if errors have been made and we need product to get to us as quickly as possible to get us out of a sticky situation. But those occasions happen very few and far between. I’m not sure for the odd time it happens it outweighs the benefits of slightly longer lead times.
Do I think that we’ll roll back from super-short lead times? No. As I mentioned above, we live in a world where technology has made almost everything instantly accessible. Realistically that shouldn’t be the case for bigger ticket items, but more and more we’re seeing just that. We have set out our stall now, and installers will already be used to being able to order and take delivery of their windows and doors in rapid time. I think from the start of all of this however we should have been aware of the fact that if we’re going to expect our goods in such short spaces of time then that won’t come without a cost. That cost being product quality and customer service.
The challenge then for those in all parts of the supply chain will be to adjust to these new, quicker expectations, improving on their product quality and customer service, all whilst promising to deliver their products in as quick a time as their customers need them. It’s certainly not a position I would like to find myself in.
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