APS Plastics & Manufacturing Blog

Three Ways to Reduce Lead Times

In an ideal world, the mission critical parts you need from your machine shop supplier would be at your receiving dock with the wave of a magic wand.  We don’t live in the magic world (yet). However, there are some things you can do to get the critical parts you need as soon as possible. This involves setting up your machine shop supplier for success, so they can help you meet your scheduled goals.  Here are three ways to reduce lead times, making the process of getting parts fast and practical.

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How do you know if a machine shop is the right one that can handle the parts you need? The best way is to do a quick assessment of their capabilities. For example:

  • What is their current capacity and how much of it is committed to other companies’ parts over the time frame you want your parts?
  • Do they have an approved quality system in place?
  • What is their history of on-time performance?
  • What is their history of delivering parts that meet their customers’ specifications?

These straight forward questions can help you conduct a high level assessment of any machine shop you are considering. The answers to these questions will help determine how well they can deliver your parts on-time.


One of the most common contributors to slow lead times is: “the machine shop does not know what to make”. Or, more precisely, they “do not know exactly what to make”. In order for a part to be made quickly, it must be made with no defects the first time. A defect is anything that doesn’t meet the requirements you have. So, how do you make sure the supplier knows what you want? What do they need from you to make the right part?

  • Approved drawings
  • Approved specifications (such as the right materials, tolerances, etc.)
  • Approved quality requirements

Misunderstanding your requirements is an easy trap for your supplier to fall into – derailing how quickly he can meet your schedule.


There is no universal way to make parts. Each part design requires different thinking and a different plan for production. For example, the most economical quantity to make might be 10 at a time – that is, there are 10 parts in production at a time and the completed batches include 10 parts. Sometimes what is the least expensive way to make a part might be slower than other, more expensive production methods. So, it is important that you clearly define how many parts at a time are necessary to meet your internal production needs. Going back to our 10 batch example, you might find that taking 7 parts at a time might be better for you, especially if you can get 7 parts faster than the 10 parts. Here are the important questions to consider:

  • When do you need the parts?
  • How often do you need them?
  • What is the right batch size that meets your internal production needs?



It IS possible to get parts from your machine shop supplier in a fast and practical process. The key is: transparency and open communication. By selecting the right machine shop and telling them exactly what you want and when you want it – they will be set up for success allowing you to meet your scheduled goals and reduce lead time.


Interested in exploring more? Download our checklist of items to communicate to your supplier so they meet your standards and deliver what you need.

DOWNLOAD "Checklist of Items to Communicate to Your Supplier to Reduce Lead Times"

Topics: Quality Supplier Communication Communication Evaluating a Supplier Best Practices Reduce Lead Time