Metal service centers provide an essential role within many industries, all of which seem to be working in a just-in-time environment. Knowing a material order's lead time and whether or not it’s a time you can rely on can make a world of difference, especially when a failure to meet deadlines can have a significant impact on your bottom line. So, let’s get back to the question: how much lead time does a metal supplier need? Like with many situations, the truest answer is also the least satisfying: it depends.
Factors that Impact Lead Time
The amount of lead time a metal supplier requires is dependent upon any number of factors. Some of the major players are how well they understand their internal timelines, whether or not they have necessary material in stock, and whether or not they’ll need to rely on any third parties to meet the order specifications.
Processing Time, supplier lead time, and reliability
Different processes require different lead times, but a metal service center can build out a baseline of how long each of their processes usually takes. For example, slitting a coil could have a specific lead time, and deburring an edge on a coil would have another. Metal service centers should have a good idea of how long it takes them to process a material to particular specifications. Even better are metal suppliers who efficiently plan out timelines and manage workflow.
Beyond understanding the variables within their control, metal suppliers also need to understand and account for the things outside of it. For example, if they don’t have the material a customer orders in stock, they need to account for the lead time of their metal supplier in addition to their machining turn time. Not only that, but they need to consider the reliability of their chosen provider. Are they known for delivering material on time or do they occasionally deliver material late?
What a Customer Can Do
When lead times really matter – which, let’s be honest, when don’t they? - work with a metal service center that produces dependable lead times. Not only that, be sure to communicate your timeline requirements so that everyone understands your specific need.
Finally, if you find yourself with a regular order of a material your preferred metal supplier doesn’t regularly stock, ask if they’d be willing to house a dedicated stock specifically for you – especially if it’s something that’s harder to find. They may be able to order a year’s supply and house it for you. That’s one situation where it could be well worth your while to ask.