What’s in a Lead Time?

What do urgent care and the fire department have in common?

Their lead times could be a matter of life or death.

If you’re calling an emergency locksmith because your toddler is stuck in a hot car, you’re going to want that service provided as quickly as humanly possible – for good reason. Anything less could endanger the health of your child.

I want to make a case for why this level of urgency should not necessarily be applied to all repair/maintenance services for which you’re shopping. As someone who hears complaints about Kaser’s long lead times every single day (and has lost business because of it), I want to explain what long lead times mean in the context of non-emergency services, and reframe how our customers think about them.

Myth: “This powder coating shop is scheduled 5 weeks out?! They must be lazy.”

Fact: Most small business owners love what they do, and want to do more of it. Additionally, there’s a lot of joy involved in providing a service to the community – who wouldn’t want to pursue that feeling? If a reputable shop has told you that lead times are 5 weeks, you can rest assured that that’s not because the staff is coming in late and taking long lunches. It’s simply that the shop has 5 solid weeks’ worth of work ahead of yours.

Myth: “Clearly, this shop just doesn’t want my business.”

Fact: If the shop is forthcoming about their lead times and make an effort to get you on their schedule, no matter how far out, you can trust that they do want your business. I know from experience that if I don’t want a customer’s business for one reason or another, it’s in everyone’s best interests for me to come out and say so immediately.

Myth: “If it’s going to take them six weeks to powder coat my part, they must not know what they’re doing.”

Fact: Providing the shop has good reviews and a solid reputation, you can trust that it’s not taking them six weeks to coat your part. The long lead time is due to all the work orders ahead of yours. Believe it or not, this is good news for you: a shop that deals with a high volume of parts has made (and learned from) every mistake in the book before even touching your part. You will directly benefit from this wealth of experience.

It’s ironic: yes, long lead times are a source of understandable frustration for customers; but they’re also a sign that the customer has chosen a good company. The more sought-after your provider is, the more comfort you can take in the knowledge that they must do good work. The more parts are ahead of yours in line, the more experienced the powder coating professionals will be when they get to your project.

My recommendation – to Kaser customers, and all consumers of small-business, non-emergency services – is to view long lead times as a positive sign. Be willing to wait for your preferred company. It will be worth it in the long run. 

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