How to set deadlines for contract manufacturers?

ZinkZink Member
I've worked with a few contract manufactures, and at small scales it's often a bit of a undefined back and forth process than can drag out quite easily. First you typically need to get a stable sample produced, and you're given a typical sample production turnaround of 1 to 2 weeks. Once you've agreed on a sample, payment & shipping terms, guarantees to be given, testing that needs to be done and materials that will be supplied, but before you place the order:

What are industry standard ways of agreeing on production deadlines? Do you give bonuses for reaching them? Discounts if not?  Is it even reasonable to ask for one?

Would love to know best practises for dealing with this and tips on how to ensure a good manufacturer relationship :)

Comments

  • DavidWDavidW Member, PCF student
    You need to understand that manufacturers are going to take care of the larger orders/customers first.  I always try to help "the small guys".  What usually ends up happening is a "small" potential customer will contact me while I am a little slow and have time to breath.  I agree to work with them and shortly after I get tons of orders.  Sometimes this forces a midsized or large manufacturer to take care of those who pays his bills first.    I am working with a few "small" customers now and have been for months and we are still in the sample or quotation stage.  Some of this is my fault and some the customer's fault.  I find that working with established medium size or larger customers moves the process along much quicker.  I find the small customers always have just 1 more change or 1 more question.

    Once you have all that out of the way and you are ready to place an order your manufacturer should be able to give you a lead time and pretty much stick to it.
  • ZinkZink Member
    Thanks DavidW, coming from a manufacturer this is useful information!

    I fully understand that manufacturers have limited bandwidth and will prioritize larger clients - personally I kind of see it as a favor when a manufacturer is willing to take on a small (say less than 3000 units) scale project - it doesn't seem like it'd be that profitable for them, and it's more with the hope that the client can scale sales later on. It also makes sense that there is more back and forth with samples with smaller, less experienced, clients.

    What I was getting at is the best practise for going forwards once you're past the sample stage, and what should you expect in terms of responsiveness to questions? 24 hours, 2 days, one week? 

    Good to hear that a lead time is standard practise, are these usually enforced or incentivized in some way though? 
  • ozgirlozgirl Member, PCF student
    The company I work for does some contract manufacturing (cleaning products not cosmetics) and I agree with DavidW that larger customers are generally prioritized but that doesn't mean that smaller customers are forgotten about.

    Manufacturers will usually give you a lead time and will try and stick to that. We have never had any sort of incentives or penalties for meeting / or not meeting a lead time. For your first few orders I would build in an extra week or two into your timeline on top of the quoted lead time to allow for any problems and just to see how the manufacturer is with sticking to their quoted lead times.

    One thing you will need to consider is if the manufacturer is supplying the raw materials is whether they are a stock item that they use regularly or if they are only ordered to manufacture your order.  If the manufacturer only orders the raw material for your order you could have long lead times because of the lead times on your raw material.

    I would usually expect your questions to be responded to within 24 to 48 hours during the week.
  • ZinkZink Member
    I'd factor 2 weeks into getting all (in-stock) raw and packaging materials typically, personally I'd prefer to supply them myself to ensure being as close to the original prototype as possible.

    Beyond those 2 weeks, what's a reasonable deadline for production of 2000 units of a fairly standard emulsion? 2 weeks? 4 weeks?

    If you don't get a reply within 48 hours, should you ping through email or call? You want to keep things moving, but you also wants to be courteous and maintain a good relationship to your sales rep and manufacturer :)
  • DavidWDavidW Member, PCF student
    Zink, I am a small to medium size manufacturer.  I get so many emails per day that by the time I read and try to take care of 5 or 10 of them I have 10 or 20 more.  For that reason I have on my signature line letting people know I only check emails twice to 3 times a day.  Personally speaking, phone calls are always best.

    As far as lead time for manufacturing it depends how busy the manufacturer is.  IF they are already scheduled 4 weeks out then you're not getting your product in 4 weeks.  Our company will usually run between 2 to 5 weeks after all components and anything else customer supplies is sent to us.
  • ZinkZink Member
    In my experience different manufacturers/reps all have different very preferences, I've known reps who refuse to do any phone calls (not exactly ideal). There also seems to be a lot of rep-turnover in the business! I sometimes want to move things forward without being pushy, so I guess an email/call every 2 business days if not getting a response is kosher?

    So e.g.1 month after receiving all materials is a reasonable max in terms of a deadline.
  • DavidWDavidW Member, PCF student
    What it boils down to is everyone is different.  Some prefer only emails, some only calls, some are ok with both.  Call when you'd like, email when you'd like.

    1 month to me seems reasonable.
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    @Zink, I couldn't say what is a reasonable or unreasonable deadline - each manufacturer is different and has a different schedule. What is reasonable, however, is for them to be able to give you fairly specific dates for when your product will be scheduled to be manufactured, and when it will be filled, and to be able to stick to those dates, or tell you why they can't.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • ZinkZink Member
    @Bobzchemist yes that was more what I was getting at, not the exact amount of days that's reasonable, but when it's reasonable to get A deadline/lead time and how often to contact your manufacturer if you have questions etc.


  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    @Zink, pretty much every manufacturer has a production scheduler, and they should be able to tell you something like "your batch is scheduled to be made the week of May 5th, probably on Wednesday, but we may need to push it to Thursday or Friday" Then, once it's made and has passed QC/Micro, the should be able to say "Your batch is scheduled to be filled and assembled during the latter half of June, and we will ship no later than July 15th" (Dates have bee pulled out of nowhere - timings will be different for every company)

    Once they've given you those dates, they should at least notify you if the dates will change, and tell you why.

    As far as responsiveness to questions is concerned? Most manufacturers are operating on a budget that's squeezed very tightly - and that means that there probably isn't much, if any, time to answer customer questions - and that time will also be prioritized towards the bigger customers. In other words, unless they're making a bunch of money off of you, they're not going to want to answer your questions, or even acknowledge your emails - because every time they do so, they are losing money.

    So, like many other things, you get what you pay for. If you choose to work with a small or mid-sized manufacturer who has lower per-unit costs and smaller minimums, you are going to get minimal levels of customer service. If you pay more to work with a bigger manufacturer, you will get better customer service.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • ZinkZink Member
    Thanks Bobz.

    This reflects my experience, useful to know about the production scheduler as well, it often helps is you speak the same language. 

    And it is also my experience that larger companies charge more per unit, even at the same quantities.

    My question is also one of etiquette, if you have questions critical to manufacturing, e.g. what kind of roll your label goes one, how often should you ping about your question? Hard to judge, seems every two days is reasonable.


Sign In or Register to comment.