Lead Time

Written By:
Paul Tracy
Updated September 30, 2020

What is Lead Time?

Lead time is a crucial part of managing a manufacturing business or any business that involves waiting for supplies or products to arrive. Generally, the lower the lead time, the more flexible a company is and the faster it can respond to changes in trends. However, shorter lead times can cost more money if the buyer has to pay for overtime, expedited shipping costs, or other rush charges. This in turn makes it difficult to say whether shortening lead time will increase profits, though it usually will increase customer satisfaction.

How Does Lead Time Work?

For example, let's say Company XYZ makes and sells widgets. It has a customer, ABC Company, that wants to buy 10,000 widgets to put in its retail stores in October for the Christmas season.

It takes two weeks to get the widget parts and a week to assemble 10,000 units, so Company XYZ has a lead time of about a month. That means that it must get the order from ABC company no later than September 1 in order to make the delivery on time.

Why Does Lead Time Matter?

Lead time is the amount of time between ordering something and receiving it.