min read

Mastering Lead Time & Cycle Time for Business Success

Shorter Lead Times, Faster Deliveries

Sean Elliffe
Lead Time vs. Cycle Time

Ever wondered how long it takes for a product to reach your hands? It involves a complex dance between time and quantity in the supply chain. Understanding these two key concepts, Lead Time and Cycle Time can help us navigate this dance effectively. It occurred that it may be useful, more so for myself, to re-ground my thinking on the two concepts, their differences, and the business benefits when they are accurate and managed correctly.

The Key Difference Lies in Their Scope: Purchasing vs. Manufacturing

Lead Time focuses on the external journey of goods, specifically the time between placing an order with suppliers and receiving the items, products, components, or materials. This encompasses all the procurement activities, from sourcing materials to negotiating contracts. One could argue that includes all activities from strategic sourcing, contract negotiations, supplier orders, and receipt of goods for on-sale or production. But in the day-to-day operations let's agree it is from order placement to receipt from the supplier.

Production Lead Time, on the other hand, dives into the internal world of manufacturing. It measures the duration from when production starts on raw materials or components to when the finished product is ready for delivery. This includes all the transformation steps, raw materials into finished goods including staging, processing, manufacture, assembly, inspection, etc.

Lead Time looks outward, managing the flow of goods from suppliers, while Production Lead Time focuses inward, optimizing internal manufacturing processes.

There's another crucial concept, Cycle Time. This measures the efficiency of a single process, action, or task regardless of whether it's in procurement, production, or even customer service. It's all about completing the task from start to finish as quickly as possible across all the functions of the company.

Understanding Cycle Time and Lead Time is essential for businesses as they directly impact supply chain efficiency. Cycle Time reduction offers various benefits, including heightened productivity, streamlined processes, cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and even a competitive edge. Organizations capable of ensuring fast Cycle Times, resulting in shorter Lead Times, can build and maintain customer trust and attract top talent. Lower Lead Times due to reduced Cycle Time translate to faster product delivery, increasing the likelihood of both new and repeat orders, thus bolstering business growth.

Why Lead and Cycle Time Management is Key to Supply Chain Success

Why are these concepts important? Because understanding and managing them effectively leads to numerous benefits:

  1. Improved planning: Accurate Lead Times allow for better scheduling, forecasting, and resource allocation.
  2. Optimized inventory: Shorter lead and cycle times minimize excess inventory and stockouts.
  3. Enhanced customer satisfaction: Faster deliveries meet customer expectations and build stronger relationships.
  4. Increased competitiveness: Quick turnaround times give businesses an edge in the market.
  5. Reduced costs: Efficient processes lead to lower storage, labor, and operational expenses.
  6. Improved quality: Faster cycle times help identify and address bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
  7. Faster time to market: Reduced cycle times accelerate product development and market responsiveness.

Before closing allow me to also mention another Lead Time which is not discussed here in detail but will be covered in a future blog and that is Total Replenishment Lead Time.

According to SAP:

“The total replenishment Lead Time is the time required to make the product fully available again (that is after all BOM levels have been procured or produced). It is not calculated by the system. Instead, it is specified in this field as the sum of the in-house production time(s) and/or the planned delivery time(s) of the longest production path. This time is necessary if the availability check taking the replenishment Lead Time into account is to be carried out for materials produced in-house”.

In today's dynamic market, prioritizing accurate Lead and Cycle Time management is crucial for streamlining operations and gaining a competitive edge. By understanding these concepts and implementing strategies to optimize both Lead and Cycle Times, businesses can navigate the supply chain dance with greater agility and efficiency, a symphony of benefits. This includes increased efficiency, reduced waste, improved agility, and ultimately, enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty. This, in turn, translates to sustainable growth and competitive advantage in the ever-evolving marketplace.


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