We Deserve Better Delivery

By Lloyd Graff

In our machine tool business we routinely order a standard part that comes in many sizes. The company we buy from, a world famous company, is known for its reliability and quality — but not for its speed. It always quotes us three weeks for non-stock sizes (even though it sells variations of the product every day), and I always wonder, why?

I wonder how many sales they squander because of their rigidity. The company’s brand is literally sterling on silver, but they seem to take their customers for granted. We order their products, usually for resale, and the 3-week policy often deters our clients. Desperate customers who can’t afford to wait resort to purchasing used or surplus parts, borrowing the parts from friends, or EDMing their own.

I marvel at the rigidity and complacency exhibited by this company. It is inviting nimble competition in a core product line by thinking that its brand loyalty will last forever. Is three weeks always necessary to deliver?

It really bugs me that the 3-week delivery is cast in stone — it’s virtually biblical. Don’t question it.

Then I think about FedEx and UPS, which will deliver overnight from Seattle to Miami if one is willing to pay the price. I think about Amazon Prime, which allows Amazon customers to pay a $79 annual fee for 2-day shipping on millions of items, with no minimum order size.

In fairness, the company does offer an expedited product in 10 working days (at a 50% premium!). However, it doesn’t promote this service, and the expediting is subject to “production scheduling.” The last time we ordered parts I had no idea that expediting was possible until it was too late.

Question: Does a bigger customer deserve a better delivery time?

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11 thoughts on “We Deserve Better Delivery

  1. Ed

    NO!! Many small businesses that are just scratching by and often don’t have the redundant capacity or the quantity of “other” jobs to work on that big shops have nor the capital needed to stock a large quantity of spares. By giving better lead times to big shops, you make it more difficult for the small shop to compete.

  2. Ron B

    Granted, it’s easy to spend other peoples money… that said, I’ve worked for a couple of companies where it was apparent we could dominate the market with reliable / fast service. I’m not speaking of the impossible here… just a concerted effort and that unpopular investment strategy of being slightly over staffed. Most manufacturers operate with the mindset of being slightly under staffed to keep all very busy… then a call-in sick, an injury and a resignation and you have a melt-down which always damages the company creditability and market share.

  3. Jim Goerges

    Sounds like you need to demand rights and freedom of oppression from late delivery’s! I wonder if you should get like minded businesses and create a group to demand that the tyranny stops! Never mind shopping somewhere else, or have someone make that part…

    Funny how everyone is more important than the other guy, so, we just complain until we become the squeeky wheel.

    Maybe we need government intervention and maybe the great Obamian can solve this problem too! Let’s all hail the emporer and king.

    Funny, I wonder if we look at how the problem originally started and I wonder if someone forgot to order something and now it becomes the vendors fault, or to get this new order we gotta impress the customer and we want our parts to do this job NOW and how dare they need 3 weeks for delivery, wanna bet!

    Let’s all blame someone else, that’s the game being played now!

    1. Jim Armstrong


      I absolutely sure you are right. I wish I had the capacity to understand you and what your response has to do with delivery times from a major manufacturer.

      Me, I think it is unfortunate that too much of corporate America is run by number crunchers instead of salesmen or engineers. I think this delivery problem illustrates the situation. Our industry periodicals push “lean”. The big guys should bring themselves up to date on manufacturing techniques and maybe these problems would be fewer.

      1. Brian

        I think this question is too loosely framed. Which Lloyd is so good at. So let’s break it down:

        To the question its self. No, that is not the goal.

        To the paragraphs leading up to the question. You know the standard of your supplier & you do not agree with it so you want to create some political pressure here to justify your complaint. Well Lloyd without knowing the facts I would assume that it is a company that has made a lot of equipment that you have the opportunity to buy and sell on the used market. And because that equipment is non current most likely you want the same service as if you purchased a new machine from them. Most likely your market era of machines or models is a fading market for this manufacturer. So in reality you have a choice. Invest in the equipment and expertise to manufacture the parts to support the promises that you make when selling the machines OR tell your clientele the THRUTH that they are buying machines that are non-current production and that it will take more time to replace critical non-stock parts. If you do the second then you could also recommend a spare part list of long lead-time parts for preventative maintenance.

        Jim, that is exactly what Jim Georges was saying in abstract……………

  4. John Hayden

    There is the humorous story of the manufacturer who said:
    “Price, Quality, Delivery. Pick any two out of the three, but you cannot have all three.”

    When you think about it, it does seem to apply in many circumstances.

    Amazon is a wonderful company, but they deal only in finished goods, so if it is on the floor it can be shipped immediately. Maybe they also sell for third parties so they do not have to carry all the goods they sell.

  5. George L.

    I have noticed that since the recession there has be a decline in customer service in both the retail and manufacturing industries. It seems to me that suppliers feel that they are in the driver’s seat and that if you need items that are specific to their product line then you have no choice and will have to wait. Although many businesses have reduced staff sizes that is no excuse for poor support.
    Whether you are a large or small business having to wait 3 weeks is unacceptable. Any size business will still suffer some monetary impact when their equipment is down. This can range from delayed deliveries to your customers or possible workforce reduction during the downtime. Worst yet, is the small mom & pop business that has to close its doors because it loses a time sensitive order.
    This is only going to hurt the 3 week company at some point down the road when users are looking to add or replace equipment and they assess downtime and product support. The 3 week company has possibly lost a potential buyer from a large or small business if they provide inadequate support. They definitely have lost the mom & pop business which may have grown into a large business with the right opportunities. What the 3 week company has also failed to realize is that the bad taste they left with their users will stay at the front of their minds much longer than the good support they may have been providing. So who wins then?

  6. Sandro B

    You probably deserve better quality and pricing too. But guess what, this is a free market economy. And that means that generally, as customers, we get to pick two of the three; delivery, quality or price. Having worked for an OEM for years, I can say only market-leading companies CAN compete on all three. If they are smart, they CHOOSE not to compete on the low-price because they are offering better value to their customers. We take those marginally better profits, and plow them back into widening the gap on quality and delivery, and increasing marketshare.
    If you don’t like your supplier’s delivery, do what we do and look for another supplier. 99% of the time, here is someone else out there. The question is which one of the three did the new supplier choose to cut corners on?

  7. Val Zanchuk

    Give your big customers a special delivery schedule and you won’t have any small customers. Then, when the price shopping buyer of the big company finds a better price, you won’t have any customers.

  8. Bam Miller

    I’m in total agreement with the “pick any 2” philosophy, however we have found that we do 80% of our business with 20% of our customers. We strive to offer the best service to all of our customers equally, but at the same time, those 20% customers are committed to us, so we are in turn committed to them. They know they can ask for the difficult things because we know we are also getting the easy things. “Getting the gravy with the gristle” philosophy.

    The question has to be asked, are you part of that 20% with your vendors; perhaps you need to be looking for someone that you can be, it might cost you a little more than “that vendor” but at the same time that vendor may be looking at you as someone who is cherry picking their product line and missing out on the gravy items.

    TLDR; Build loyal relationships with both customers and vendors, and stick to it.

  9. Peter@Polygon

    I agree with Bam, that it is critical to take care of your top customers. However, you bring up an interesting point Lloyd that delivery is not only controlled by the manufacturer. For that reason, we are experimenting with delivery options for our rotary broach cutters that are available with same day delivery. At the customers preference, we offer USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Bongo, TNT and local courier shipping options depending on their choice.


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