What does the labels industry mean by “Fast Turnaround”? Our take on OTIF performance verses spin.

When do you start and stop the clock?

To record delivery speeds properly you need to record OTIF to the second over a long time period

How many times have you heard that suppliers are “specialists in fast delivery”, can do “same day delivery” and are “experts in quick delivery”?

With the labels industry seeking ever more niche marketing messages to differentiate itself to its customers, I’m seeing more and more of these type of claims, and so as lead time is a key benefit for us to sell to our customers, its about time we set out some hard facts as to why Mercian Labels really do consider ourselves as the UK market leaders in fast turnaround short run custom printed labels to UK businesses.

Anyone can do fast turnaround or same day delivery or next day delivery – however the simple truth is that customers have to pay extra for it if they want such a premium service as it does disrupt a manufacturing operation to fit in unplanned workload, however many times a day it changes as it does in digital label printing! Yes, we can do same day delivery as well, but that is not what matters IMHO.

What does matter is what is called the % OTIF and what is the specified default “dont prioritise anything” delivery period. OTIF is “On Time In Full”, and refers to the % of jobs that are dispatched from a factory on or before the date promised to the customer, complete, with no late deliveries, no part deliveries, 100% correct, no credit notes, no excuses, just a perfect service that meets everything you promised to the customer.

At Mercian Labels we have worked on reducing lead times for a decade now. In 2001 when we recognised the potential of the short run market and have marketed ourselves heavily in this area since then. In 2002 the lead time we offered as, in common with most of the industry, 3 weeks. By 2003 it was 2 weeks and by 2005 1 week. In 2006 we brought it down to 3 working days from artwork approval and we still hold 3 days as our core offering and what we use as our KPI. As far as we are aware from our market research there is no demand for a 2 day standard delivery in custom printed labels.

We started recording OTIF as the harshest score of delivery time in 2008 when it was, to be honest, about 60%. We’ve worked on this very hard since with new production planning, staffing arrangements and supply chains and accurate recording.

Taking the many, many thousands of unique custom printed label jobs we manufactured in 2010, the majority of which were new designs and not repeats, our OTIF performance was 94.7% with a default lead time of 3 days, delivering an average lead time of just over 2 working days. In 2011 we are targeting 96% OTIF for the full year (currently running at 97% YTD) with every single job measured automatically (to the second) from the time/date stamp of artwork approval to being booked out of dispatch and onto the carrier. All with a standard 3 day lead time, across digital, flexo and hotfoil processes. Yes, sometimes we deliver in part, or later than expected, largely due to supply chain failures or inaccurate job specifications being misinterpreted internally by us or between us and our customers. We do our best to service customers in these situations as best as we can to fix the problem– sometimes your customer service really shows when things go wrong. We make high quality bespoke products but confess to employing real people who occasionally make mistakes, but we always learn from these in accordance with our UKAS ISO9001:2008 accreditation.

Its easy to “talk the talk” with fast delivery of a custom printed labels, but we are the first company in our industry I know off who record and publish their delivery performance to demonstrate that we really do “walk the walk” when it comes to delivery performance.

We have a fantastic team at Mercian Labels who live and breath fast 3 day deliveries of customer printed labels as a core part of our culture. Yes, we often do same day or next day deliveries to help customers or simply because it suits us to deliver quicker on occasions, but the acid test is the OTIF number over a sustained period.

If you have seen a better delivery performance by any other label company, worldwide, then please post a comment below. To my knowledge, only the digital labelling pioneers at Lightening Labels in the USA (who I respect a great deal) report that they work on a 2 to 3 day delivery time – similar to us.

Please, no silly claims without hard data, but I’d be interested to see if anyone reports that they know of a business that betters our performance. “Typical” deliveries of 3 days is, as we have found out over many years now, very far away from a very strong, measured OTIF number in 3 days!