Many of the parts that we make at Apex Spring & Stamping are multi-year projects. Some of these projects may be active for a couple of years whereas others may have an active status for over a decade. As many of you know, Apex Spring and Stamping makes a wide variety of clips, stampings, wire forms, and springs. Due to the nature of our work, we have the unique ability to work with a variety of customers across multiple industries.
Because of this, we are required to work with a vast set of suppliers. In years past, this was a manageable and repeatable part of our job, but as COVID affected the world, the narrative has shifted. Over the past 24 months, the manufacturing industry has been challenged and as a company, we have had to get creative to find solutions that are beneficial and effective for our customers, especially in the area of purchasing. Purchasing has become a difficult task because there are changes happening every day, even sometimes, by the hour.
Every single product we purchase from wire, steel, components, and packaging has dramatically shifted in costs and has been more difficult to find with adequate lead times. For example, a clip we make for the office furniture industry requires cold-rolled steel. Exactly five years ago the same exact item was 300% less in price and required the standard two week lead time.
As it stands today, we are given six to eight weeks lead time. This is from an outstanding supplier who knows us well and anticipates our usage and is proactive in buying common thicknesses and types of steel in advance. This lead time of six to eight weeks is a blessing because if they were sold out of this same steel today, we would be looking at a twenty to thirty weeks domestic lead time!
Some of the more unique products that require precious metals have lead times going into the Spring of 2023! We are also seeing some mills closing their orders until next Spring due to raw material, labor, and capacity shortages. Some of our orders that were due this past June have not been produced or are stuck in containers at US ports. Add to this the shortage of trucks and drivers to pick up these items, we are in the waiting game for even longer.
Some Good News!
Nobody could have predicted all of the ramifications of these shortages the pandemic has created. However, APEX does have some good news.
As things started to progress in early 2020, our team went on the offense to strategically think through how we were going to avoid these challenges for our customers. Here are some of the things we did:
- We studied trends, reports, forecasts, and internal spreadsheets of all of our parts.
- We placed mill buys well in advance so that our orders would be “inline” to ensure material would arrive in 2021.
- We combined spring wire sizes and anticipated what our customers may need.
- We sent PO’s out well over six months in advance to keep material in our pipeline.
- We monitor and review our yet-to-be-filled purchases so that we can make adjustments so that we can still deliver on the promised date.
These proactive moves have allowed us to maintain the needed manufacturing schedule to assure our customers of on-time delivery. We have tried our best to protect our customers from the challenges of the supply chain so they do not feel or notice it’s instability in the market.
At Apex, we will continue going to battle for our customers. We have worked hard at preparing and planning for the worst-case scenarios and have developed winning solutions that will serve our customers. The battle is not easy, but our team is dedicated and equipped to continue delivering expert engineering, quality parts, and on-time delivery each and every day.