Why are Ball Screw Deliveries so Long?

Steinmeyer manufactures more than 250,000 ground ball screws per year – or close to 5,000 per week.  We are often asked what some may consider a pretty simple question -“how long does it take to actually manufacture a ball screw?”  The reason we think this question is not so simple is because there are several issues to consider: machining time, assembly time, inspection time, machine maintenance time and the usual culprit for delays – production scheduling.  And this does not take into account the extra time needed to review a purchase order, especially if it is for a ball screw we have never made before.  Now, the answer to the question would be simple if Steinmeyer had a machine for every diameter and every pitch and every length and every process – in such a perfect world, especially one in which we only had to make that one specific item, it would take about 10 days from start to finish to make a ball screw.  However, we do not live in such a perfect world, because we have literally thousands of different designs in production and must resort to production scheduling at virtually every step in the process in order to efficiently manufacture such a complex product.  So, when we quote a lead time of say 16 weeks, what does that really mean?  It just means that this particular order has a place in the shipping schedule 16 weeks from today.  And working backwards from there, the rest of the processes are scheduled accordingly.  Typically we do not begin any serious machining until about 5 to 6 weeks prior to the confirmed date.  Until then, the order is just “in the queue” – which is one reason why we suggest it is always better to order sooner than later.  And when we are working around the clock as we do today to keep up with demand, any delay be it due to machine breakdown or material problem or inspection issue, etc. just causes the entire schedule to back up, with no chance to catch up.  And needless to say the production schedule is extremely fluid and ever changing depending on various factors, including as always customer priority – that is we subscribe to and believe in a statement made by one of our best customers: “the biggest animal in the jungle gets to eat first!”

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