I sometimes wonder if our push for ever quicker lead times is causing us problems. Think about it logically; most of us will be operating on a lead time of anywhere between 3-6 weeks or even longer if you’re selling very specialist products. So why, when installers have weeks of work in advance do suppliers think they need to get their product to you in less than a week?

Their argument will be that by getting their window or door to you in under that week, you might be able to secure the sale of that customer who really needs that door fitting ASAP when no one else can. That is fine, but most installers will explain that those customers are very few and far between and probably won’t make the difference between achieving that month’s target or not. I know from the point of the of my company that we don’t get many like that, and the ones that we do, once explained to them about the fitting schedule are OK to wait a little bit longer anyway.

The reason I have chosen to talk about this is because in the recent push in reducing lead times to be used by installers as another USP, I feel that quality is suffering. Take the composite door market for example, the competition is fierce and quite rightly so as it continues to be a growing market. But the USP of delivery times and how quickly suppliers can deliver the product to you I think seems to be having an adverse effect on quality. Again, I can vouch on a personal level that not everything we have had delivered as a company has been perfect. I think there is universal concern that an ever reducing delivery time puts more and more pressure on the manufacturer and can lead to things being missed in QC and in various other stages of manufacture and delivery.

My good friend Nick Dardalis (@GlazingGuru) and myself were chatting about this a few weeks ago and there also seems to be concern within the aluminium sector, especially with bi-folds, that as the competition becomes greater and the the market becomes flooded with a plethora of different bi-fold manufacturers, the lowering of delivery times will have a negative effect. Aluminium has always had a longer lead time, specifically because it is a high end, complicated and very engineered product which takes many more weeks to product and assemble correctly. However, if this process is rushed and not made efficient properly, all in an effort to gain one more week over a competitor, then the quality of that product could suffer greatly. Which is a seriously negative point when you consider the monetary value of aluminium and the perceived edge of quality it has over other materials.

The other angle to look at are the OMB’s: one man bands. Because their workloads are much smaller and only do two or three jobs a week, they will need their products quicker. But this sort of point will then highlight that sore point between established businesses and OMB’s. Established businesses will make the point that they shouldn’t have to put up with products that aren’t of the best quality because OMB’s and suppliers will benefit from selling on a shorter lead time. They would much rather wait a little bit longer to make sure that the products they intend to fit in a couple of weeks time are of the right quality. It’s a tough one. Whilst OMB’s obviously need to make a living and keep their wheels moving, quality has to remain the core focus of what suppliers are putting out there and I just think that as delivery times are being pushed further we are seeing an increase in problems being reported from the QC side of things.

These are just my thoughts, but I think a few out there might agree with me. Drop me a comment giving your thoughts!