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Crib notes: baby furniture and supply chain frustration

by Davin Wilfrid

June 24, 2010

By Davin Wilfrid, Project Expert

As an expectant father for the first time, I have a long to-do list. Not only do I have to convert my office into a nursery, but there are any number of doo-dads, gizmos, and whatsits that must be bought and at the ready by the time my child is born.

Last weekend my wife and I went shopping for baby furniture (crib, changing table, etc.). We were told that no matter which model we chose, we should expect to wait 10-12 weeks for delivery. Often, the salesperson said, pieces take far longer than that -- up to six months in some cases.

This struck me as peculiar. I would have figured the market for baby-related things would be pretty well defined by now, since there are ALWAYS new customers, so to speak. Why, then, is it so difficult to get baby furniture delivered in a reasonable time frame?

I sent an email to Tom Craig, a supply chain consultant who works with many furniture manufacturers. He suggested several reasons baby furniture requires such a long lead time. 

- First you have to assume that the furniture is not made in the US. Almost all baby furniture these days is produced in China (the one we ordered is from Chile, but the rest of that manufacturer's line is pr oduced in China).

- Furniture makers do not typically adhere lean manufacturing principles, instead producing large lots of single items or lines of items. Accumulating volume to fill large orders can delay shipping.

- Procuring materials can be time-consuming for any furniture maker, especially if they use non-native wood.

- Transit to the east coast of the US from China would require at least 30 to 45 days of lead time.

These things all sound pretty plausible to me, though I can't help but wonder why baby furniture would be different from any other type of furniture -- after all, you can get a couch or dresser pretty easily within a month or so.

Any supply chain experts out there with furniture experience care to enlighten me?

 

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