Competing against imports?


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If your U.S. customers and prospects are buyinb from overseas manufacturers,
    you can take that business back by following three simple steps – FEWER, FASTER, FINER.

How to Make Your Company FASTER

"Use swiftness to wear them out."

Cao Cao

The Art of War

A key weakness of overseas manufacturers is geography. The fact that they are thousands of miles away from U.S. customers hinders their ability to get product to them quickly.

You can exploit that weakness by being Faster. In today's business environment of tighter margins, it is likely that your U.S. customers currently buying imports favor low inventory levels and just in time delivery. Given these conditions, short production lead times and physical proximity of supply chain partners becomes more critical.

To take advantage of this, one of my clients instituted standard production lead times on all products, then drove those lead times lower, from 4 weeks to 5 days for most products. Being historically a "job shop," production lead times had traditionally been assigned on a per order basis. We knew that unless we drew a line in the sand and assigned quick standard lead times on all order types that our internal company culture would never change.

By focusing on the short lead time outcome as a goal, the team could then devise new administrative and production processes for achieving those compressed lead times. Because they are not an ocean away from their U.S. customer base as their overseas competitors are, they are able to get product to their customer in a matter of days.

Especially for short runs of customized product, delivering precisely when the customer wants is essential to maintaining customer loyalty. When a company is the path of least resistance for a customer's orders, business will continue to flow out of sheer momentum. Remember that if your company's production lead time is "whenever the customer wants it," overseas manufacturers can, at best, only equal that performance, they cannot surpass it.