Tips for specifying sheet metal components to achieve the shortest possible lead time

From last minute project developments to schedule changes, sometimes rush jobs just can’t be avoided. When you’re faced with the pressure of a tight turnaround, how can you ensure you’ll receive the right products at the right time?

These specification tips are based on our extensive experience of advising customers on how to get the shortest possible lead time for their sheet metal components.

1. Don’t skimp on the information you share with your supplier

The ability to deliver to a tight timescale very much depends on whether or not you’ve provided the manufacturer with clear, detailed instructions in the first place.

It may seem like a hassle you can do without, but asking yourself key questions at the quotation stage will save you time, and potentially money, in the long run. Lack of clarity can lead to production delays, which can have a knock-on effect on costs.

Do you really need everything now, or could some of your items be delivered at a later date? Does your component require a particular finish? And does the specified material lend itself well to short lead times? For instance, products generally made from aluminium, stainless or galvanised steel and zintec don’t involve additional finishing processes.

To illustrate the point in simple terms, same-day delivery of laser cut items is possible if you provide your supplier with sufficient instructions. Average lead times for products that involve several processes generally range between three and five days. If finishing processes, such as painting and screen printing, are required, the average extends to two to three weeks.

2. Look for processes and technology that facilitate short turnaround times

A good manufacturer will have the resource and expertise to be able to meet tight deadlines regardless of the complexity of your specification.

Having the full range of machinery at their disposal will enable the manufacturer to provide the optimum approach for your design. For instance, if you require laser cutting, a fibre optic laser is three times faster than the equivalent CO2 laser when cutting thinner materials. (Read more about how to save time and money on sheet metal laser cutting).

What’s more, many top-end machines have automated loading and unloading systems that speed up production and allow for unmanned operation, meaning production can continue around the clock.

The manufacturer will also have production control software in place and flexible, well-trained staff on hand to improve production processes and reduce delays, where possible.

For instance, we recently completed some acoustic vents that were extremely complex and involved multiple processes. Our focused attitude to the task, combined with our skill and team commitment, meant we were able to ship the bulk of the order for our client to commence installation and we used our own transport to complete the order. As a result the client avoided penalty clauses.

3. Ask for recommendations on how to streamline the manufacturing process

The best way to ensure you achieve the shortest possible lead time is to work with a supplier that has the expertise to provide recommendations that will streamline production.

When you’re up against it, appointing the first manufacturer you approach can be an easy mistake to make. However, when you work with a supplier that takes the time to get to know you and your application, the manufacturing process is much quicker, because there’s greater knowledge of your company terminology, requirements and working practices.

A good manufacturer will maintain ongoing communication with you throughout the entire process. Their engineers will be able to input into your initial design, using their knowledge and experience to recommend changes that will expedite production. They’ll also have a Plan B up their sleeve in case an issue occurs!

Need a component manufactured in a short lead time? Contact us to discuss your specification.