Announcing Lead Time Reduction
We’ve got great news. We’ve made big strides to reduce lead time by up to two weeks for smaller direct-drive fans and by up to a week for larger fans.
If it doesn’t sound like much, think about the past 10 months or so of industry-wide extended lead times due to major supply chain constraints and labor shortages during a time of unprecedented demand. It’s been painful for everyone, and we’ve worked all day, every day since it began to resolve it.
“High demand usually thrills us. As the supply chain crisis came to a peak in 2021, we were very disappointed as we began to see demand exceed our capacity to produce and meet customer expectations,” elaborates President and Founder, Keith White. “At the same time, the supply chain dysfunction seems to have become everyone’s new normal. We’re determined not to “settle” for the new normal and are applying creative thinking and planning to allow us to reduce lead times even as the constraints remain elevated and severe.”
Putting Lead Times into Perspective
This was not a time to shrug our shoulders and take comfort in the fact that it was happening to everyone. That isn’t who we are. Our commitment to reliability runs too deep.
Collectively as a company, we get very excited about quick turnaround projects, impressing customers with our fast customer service and expeditious options. We have always prided ourselves on meeting our lead times and honoring our commitments to customers for on-time delivery, which directly ties to our ability to manage or reduce lead time.
Sales Manager Chet White explains, “When we started to slip below our goal of 95% or better on-time delivery rate last year, we had to balloon the lead time. It made us sick. We tried hard to fight back against it and thankfully were able to hold firm on meeting the increased lead times we imposed in June of 2021. We just took a strategy of honesty. Better to tell our reps and customers the real story than pretend we could meet a lead time that under those circumstances we truly couldn’t.”
Steps Taken to Reduce Lead Time
Of course, meeting a long lead time is not a permanent solution, at least not for us. We evaluated everything and took both immediate and longer-term steps to address the constraints and reduce lead time.
Immediate / Short-Term Steps
We implemented real-time monitoring, pricing strategies, and internal facility expansion projects to improve our ability to produce profitable fans in higher quantities for our customers. Additionally, we hired like crazy to add personnel to knock out the higher capacity. And we worked really, really hard.
Even before it all hit the proverbial fan (which is the kind we almost never talk about), we had been seeing record demand and had started planning for capacity increases and growth. In April of 2021, we announced a Plant Expansion project, along with workforce expansion. Then the supply chain crisis hit. Between the cost of materials, construction labor shortages, and our own capacity constraints at the time, we had to put a hold on the new construction component of our expansion.
That didn’t stop the renovations in our existing facilities, but it put a damper on the incremental capacity expansion. That’s when we got very resourceful and started shopping for an existing facility to purchase instead of building it ourselves. We announced that purchase earlier this year, and it’s already up and running.
Cultural Dedication Softens and Speeds Path to Reduce Lead Time
One silver lining throughout the lead time reduction initiatives was that we thrive on hard work. This may have been a bigger challenge than average, but that grit to get our arms around it fast is instinct by now. We put our heads together and got to work to find creative solutions to the supply chain crisis.
The other cultural distinction in our favor was our relentless dedication to reliability shared by every single employee-owner. It’s something that our customers recognize, appreciate, and expect. So when we had to call and tell them about pricing and lead time adjustments, they understood it had to happen. That doesn’t mean they liked it – we didn’t either. But they knew they could count on the new lead times, and that’s noteworthy.
That same grit and dedication also drove us to enact our solutions to reduce lead time at a pace that is ahead of the curve.
“The solutions that we implemented for lead time reduction seem to have turned the tide a bit faster than the rest of the industry, so that’s encouraging. Seeing those strategies work to start to slide our lead time back down is a genuine relief,” Chet emphasizes.
Steps Ahead for Further Lead Time Reduction
There’s still work to do and ground to cover to reduce lead time back to where it was or even better. The fight against supply chain issues isn’t over, as we continue to navigate unprecedented challenges.
“As long as we stay committed to communicating with one another company-wide, I feel confident that we can continue to give our customers reliable expectations,” continues Chet. “We can’t guarantee that will mean rapid lead time reduction, but that is our hope, and our strategies are still aimed at accomplishing it as soon as possible.”
And Keith reiterates, “Continuous innovation and implementation of new manufacturing process changes will keep us moving in the right direction. We’re sticking to this. The AirPro attitude driving us forward is to never “settle” for “normal” when “normal” does not satisfy market needs. We will continue to apply our resources to be leaders in our industry and serve our customers with the best reliability in the business.”