Explaining Packaging Lead Times

How long does it take to make a box? It’s a question we get asked often enough at Echo Cartons, and the answer lies in the lead time. While some companies say it takes 2-5 days, others offer 2-4 weeks. This difference comes down to a lot of factors – from how you define a lead time to whether you’re a priority customer at that business. To help you understand this important process, we’re sharing our thoughts on packaging lead times.

What is a packaging lead time?

To put it simply, a lead time refers to how long it takes to complete a process. Depending on the industry, the term ‘lead time’ can refer to many different processes. For example, in supply chain management the lead time usually refers to the time it takes from first quote all the way through to delivery. This version of a lead time is longer since it covers more stages in the one process.

In the packaging world, our definition is different. Packaging lead times are typically manufacturing lead times. They refer to how long it will take to actually make your boxes. This lead time doesn’t include preparation work – like getting quotes, finalising design and payment – and it may not cover delivery times either.

For example, at Echo Cartons we have a 5-day lead time on all new product work with standard board grades. This means that your packaging will be ready to ship within 5 business days from when your order is finalised.

First time ordering packaging? Not to worry – we shared 6 packaging tips for a new business on the blog. You can also read our glossary of packaging terms to get up to speed.

When do lead times begin?

If you’ve been told your lead time is 5-days, when does that timeframe actually begin? This is another one that depends on the company you’re dealing with. For our team, the lead time begins when we have signoff on your final design and the order is cleared to be released to production.

Do lead times include delivery?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This is another great question to ask your packaging supplier. At Echo Cartons, our 5-day lead time means shipped from our warehouse. In metro Melbourne, that will mean delivered as well, but interstate and rural customers need to add some travel time.

Delivery delays are a common problem when dealing with overseas packaging producers. While your boxes might be ready to ship within 1-week, they can take 4-weeks or more to actually get to you. This is often because they get held up in customs.

Choosing a local packaging producer is one way to cut down on delivery timeframes. To make it easy for our customers, we offer delivery across metro Melbourne or pickup from our factory in Braeside. For other regions of Australia, you’ll need to arrange transport.

top view of a red and white corrugated carton

5 reasons that lead times can vary

If you’ve been collecting packaging quotes, you might have noticed that the lead times are vastly different. What gives? Here are 5 reasons that lead times can vary between companies and at different times of year.

Capacity at the factory

Every business needs the right numbers of staff and equipment to fulfil orders. It’s no different in manufacturing. When we have a full team and every machine going, we can pump out orders fast. If we happen to have a few staff on leave or a machine not working – there can be delays. Our priority is always customer service. We maintain capacity on our machines so that we’re able to meet the 5-day lead time.

Seasonal events

At certain times of year, we might have to bump our 5-day lead time to around 7-days. The reasons are a combination of more orders to fill and less time to fill them. Many packaging producers will extend their lead times at busy times of year, so it’s not unusual. We make sure to communicate any changes with our customers early by sharing reminders on social media and in our email newsletter.

Choosing non-standard board grades

Our 5-day lead time applies to all standard board grades because we regularly have these in stock. If your boxes are using a board grade we don’t keep on hand, then we have to adjust the lead time to include time for the cardboard to reach our factory. We are more than happy to order in a special board grade for you, as long as you’re happy to wait a bit longer for your boxes.

How important you are as a client

When a large box manufacturer is quoting you 3-4 weeks for new work, it’s not because they lack manufacturing capacity. It’s often because they lack commitment to your business. Of course, there are exceptions – but in most cases this rings true. Smaller businesses with lower order values may get bumped in place of larger, higher paying orders.

Echo Cartons are specialists in packaging for SMEs and we treat all orders the same. Whether you’re a small family-run business or a growing Australian brand; we are committed to providing you with affordable, timely packaging solutions.

External forces

We all remember how hard it was to manage supply chains over the past few years. A global pandemic may not be common, but there are lots of factors outside our control that can affect lead times. Other examples include material and labour shortages. We’re solutions people at Echo Cartons. For example, if we can’t get one material, we might offer you another. We do what we can to alleviate external forces and ensure our lead times stay at an efficient 5-days.

flat cardboard box shelf-ready carton

How to manage packaging lead times

Managing lead times is an important part of running a business. It gets easier with practice, but for those just starting out – here are a few tips.

Start early

We can have your boxes ready to ship in 5-days, but that doesn’t cover the prep work. Giving yourself a few buffer days to complete your order is best. Start gathering quotes early and make sure you’ve adjusted for delivery time at the other end.

Get your design ready

One of the most common delays we see is with design. We use flexographic printing at Echo Cartons. It’s a simple method, but it does come with a few rules. For example, having the right text size, best colour choices and making sure your designs are vector art files. Our 5-day lead time can’t start until we have your design ready to go. If you’re worried about this, ask for a copy of our flexographic printing guide. It will guide you through the best practice tips for flexographic printing, so your designs won’t cause a delay.

As a last resort – try stock boxes

Every now and then, even a 5-day lead time just won’t cut it. For the real last-minute orders, we suggest heading to our online store. We keep a wide range of great box options in stock and these can be ready for delivery in 1-2 business days.

Need an order ASAP? We shared our tips for managing a packaging rush order on the blog.

Boxes ready in 5-days with Echo Cartons

Echo Cartons’ standard 5-day lead time is one reason that many businesses choose us for their packaging needs. Great customer service and quality manufacturing are two more. With a factory in Braeside, Melbourne – we’re the box manufacturer of choice for a wide range of Australian SMEs. For fast service and quality packaging, request a quote from our team.

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