Manufacturing firms cut product lead times by almost half, new research shows

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Manufacturers and industrial machinery firms have reduced their delivery lead time delays by almost half over the last two years, new data has revealed.

Unleashed’s Product Lead Time Index used data from its inventory management software to track how product fulfilment has changed since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

According to the index, Manufacturing and industrial machinery firms were one of the top industries to slash their lead times compared to pre-pandemic levels, dropping by 47.76% between 2019/20 and 2021/22 - the seventh biggest improvement for all sectors.

The analysis of more than 2,500 businesses and 25 different sub-sectors shows which ones experienced the most severe shortages during the Covid-19 crisis – and which recovered fastest as it subsided.

The sub-sectors with the biggest reduction in lead times since the height of the pandemic are:

Sub-sector

Percentage drop in product lead time between (19-20 and 21-22)

Food (including fruit and vegetables, baked goods, prepared meals, snacks, sauces and condiments)

56.14%

Electronics and telecommunications

54.90%

Health, medical supplies and equipment

53.71%

Office equipment and supplies

51.73%

Clothing, footwear and accessories

49.86%

Animal products

49.77%

Industrial machinery, raw materials and equipment

47.76%

Sport, entertainment and recreation

46.50%

IT products and services

46.50%

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

45.26%

Lead time is defined as the amount of time between when a purchase order is placed to replenish products and when the order is received in the warehouse. These times can vary between suppliers, where typically the more suppliers involved in the chain, the longer the lead time is likely to be.

Commenting on the findings, Stephen Jones, Regional Manager UK & EMEA at Unleashed, said: “Global supply chains are complex, and while the market has been more uncertain than usual, our data suggests that suppliers are working hard to build resilience. In fact, for many, the crises have only strengthened their resolve. Given how much lead times have dropped in some sub-sectors including manufacturing and industrial machinery, their efforts are clearly paying off.

“Keeping a tight rein on inventory is essential at any time but particularly during periods of disruption. When product lead times are fluctuating, the right technology can quickly show you the actual vs expected lead times which allows you to manage customer expectations, or look for alternative suppliers who can deliver faster.”

Methodology

To create the Product Lead Time Index and learn how different sub-sectors lead times were affected by and since the Covid-19 pandemic, Unleashed analysed data gathered from its own inventory management software users. 

The average delivery order time in days for 25 different industries for the last three years were analysed to work out an average day rate for each figure for the following ranges:

  • April 2019 - March 2020
  • April 2020 - March 2021
  • April 2021 - March 2022

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