Speed reduces competition and increases margin.
You probably can’t remember a time growing up when there wasn’t a microwave in the house. That microwave has figuratively (and literally) fed the appetites of today’s businesspeople, who require things as fast as possible. Today, a three-day wait for a letter is simply too long. Anything that takes over a week to arrive seems like an eternity.
Back in 1968, Hamilton Caster & Mfg. Co. started a no-extra-cost quick ship service. The original concept was that we promised to ship a limited universe of casters and wheels within two days after receiving an order. We would ship our most popular trucks within three days (moderate quantities only). Distributors valued this because a two-to-three-day lead time kept their customers happy, and they no longer needed to stock as much inventory.
Today, it’s quite apparent that two to three days is not fast enough. Now we ship either same day (on orders received before noon) or next day on most of our caster and wheel products, along with many products with optional equipment.
Who drives this need for speed? It’s your customers. Quick availability is often the number one criteria for a customer competition and increases margin.
Entire businesses are built around this concept. UPS and FedEx earn premium dollars for simply moving things fast—really fast.
Transaction speed also reduces costs. If you place an order and it drop ships to your customer today or tomorrow, there are no expedite calls. You can invoice your customer quickly and start the receivable meter immediately. And most important, you can be focused on your next order instead of checking on the status of “current” orders.
As UPS and FedEx commercials humorously demonstrate, the person who can satisfy his customer quickly is soon a hero.
How to Be a Hero
Early one morning a distributor called to tell us he had a customer who urgently needed 32 of our Maxi-Duty series casters equipped with 8 in. x 4 in. forged steel wheels by the next morning. Could we do it?
These are big casters that weigh 75 lbs. each and are rated up to 17,000 lbs.
Coordination between our inside salesperson, the caster department and the machine shop traffic department was critical. Inventory showed enough swivel caster rigs, but only 10 wheels. Fortunately, a stock order of these wheels was already being machined and the CNC-operator promised that the balance of 22 wheels would be finished in the early afternoon. After machining, the wheels had to be painted, bearings pressed in and then assembled into the casters. The traffic manager had to coordinate with a freight carrier who could make the pickup and meet the customer’s next-day requirement.
All this was accomplished by 2:00 and the casters were on a truck heading for a next-day arrival in Georgia. In all, 11 employees were involved in some aspect of getting this order out on a priority basis.
Only good communication, effective teamwork and focused supervision can achieve something like this. In the eyes of the end-user, the distributor was a hero.
|Meet the Author
Steve Lippert is executive vice president of Hamilton Caster & Mfg. Co. in Hamilton, Ohio.