Let’s talk about lead times
People have been asking why we continue to run sales when we show production lead times of 8-12 weeks for some items.
It’s a fair question, and one that requires a bit of backstory.
If we look back to last August, several events had an impact on our lead times:
* A very successful Anniversary Sale, the best we’d ever had
* Launching six new products out of our R&D group:
> The Phoenix and Firebird armored backpacks
> The Protector and Patriot helmets
> New concealment carrier
> Two sets of purpose-built weight plates
* Senator Chuck Schumer saying he would introduce legislation to restrict body armor sales, less than a week after two mass shootings left 32 people dead and dozens wounded.
This confluence of events resulted in a sales increase in August of more than 400% over the year before, and the momentum carried through the rest of the year with September-December sales more than 200% from the previous year.
So while we've been blessed with the support of the marketplace, these blessings have come at a cost of production capacity.
We also experienced a couple of mis-shipments from vendors who sent the wrong materials, causing a delay in production of some of our soft goods. Those have been addressed and we’re nearly through that backlog.
How we are addressing the lead time issue
- Production: We’ve added an entire second shift, doubling our production capacity. However, teaching the craftsmen who make our armor takes some time. We’re through that ramp up, and now production is moving as quickly as it can.
- Quality Control: QC is one of the most important areas of our production line, so we’ve increased our QC staff by 50%, but it still takes time to train them to make sure our products meet our exacting standards.
AR500 will never cut corners in production or quality control. Too much rides on it to do any different. And because of this, lead times are still longer than we’d like.
So why are we running sales while we still have such long lead times?
On the surface, it may appear better to stop running sales so that we can catch up on production. But if you dig a little deeper, sales benefit everyone:
- Increased sales volume allows us to keep prices low through economies of scale. With orders on our books, we can purchase materials in larger quantities, helping keep prices affordable for everyone
- Continued sales volume also allows up to attack lead times through investing not only in production and QC (which we’ve already done), but also in our Customer Service department, which has expanded 40% in the past two weeks and is still hiring (If you're in the Phoenix, AZ, area and are interested, apply here)
Where do we go from here?
We continue to address lead times through increases and improvements in production, QC, and customer service.
And while we are experiencing longer lead times than we want, our ordering system is transparent on the lead times for products and product bundles. When you place your order, it’s implied that you’ve taken the time to understand the lead times involved with those items.
In the end, sales are what allow us to attack lead times and keep prices low by reinvesting the money back into the business. While the short term might be a little painful, the long term will benefit everyone.