Interpower® 1-Week Lead-Time on Cords & Cord Sets Returns
Posted on 5/30/23 2:40 PM
Since its inception in 1975, the Interpower Corporation has steadily expanded its line of electrical cable, cords, cord sets, and components. Still, world-class products are only truly world-class if they arrive with protective packaging and reliable delivery. From the production floor to value-added options on packaging, labeling, and shipping, Interpower prides itself in meeting customers’ ever-changing needs.
Since 1975, Interpower’s product line has expanded to include North American and international cable, country-specific plugs, and an array of IEC 60320 components such as connectors and connector plugs, inlets and outlets, and a variety of accessory power system equipment such as accessory power strips (APS) and power distribution units (PDUs), and many other components and value-added products and services. After manufacturing an array of electrical products, the company focused on an ambitious if not dubious goal: to reach and maintain 1-week lead-times on all cable, cords, and cord sets. That goal was realized in 2008. And, in tandem, the company offered same day shipping on in-stock products with no minimum orders.
When asked how a small to midsized manufacturer (one of only two electrical cord manufacturers in the U.S.) has maintained 1-week lead-times year after year, Interpower Vice President of Manufacturing and Logistics, Mike Boyle, was quick to respond.
“It comes down to our employees embracing the mission. They pride themselves on teamwork, and cross-train on a variety of machines and equipment. Our experienced production and shipping staff do an excellent job of passing down their knowledge to coworkers—our employees continually learn on the job and in the classroom. They rotate on the production floor to train on multiple machines and processes to meet the ever-changing needs of the customer.”
Boyle added that teamwork includes every department from purchasing to customer service, to manufacturing and shipping. The cross-training and employee rotation to different equipment and stations allow the company to remain flexible to “adapt and overcome” despite a world whose logistics seems to change daily.
Boyle credits the entire Interpower staff during one the darkest periods in modern American history, which saw freedoms disappear amid lockdowns and supply chain breakage.
“Employees from multiple departments received on-the-job training just to help us through the gauntlet of orders,” Boyle said. “Whether it was ten-hour shifts Monday through Friday, or volunteers on Saturdays, employees stepped up to ensure we would return to our main differentiator—our 1-week lead-times.”
As if copied from a scene of a doomsday movie, the opening of Pandora’s box unleashed the madness and mayhem that was 2021—which to some extent remains to this day. The world endured prolific port lockdowns, community lockdowns, severe breaks in domestic and global supply chains, and raw material shortages affecting global commerce including the electrical industry. Especially scarce were resins and metals.
In March of 2021, just as raw material acquisition was nearing rock bottom, Interpower’s Purchasing Manager, Larry Utterback, was already in hand-to-hand combat with raw material suppliers. “That was an extremely challenging time for purchasers to get components on a global scale. Especially then, logistics was in a constant state of flux, and yet some suppliers were having raw material and labor issues while others were not experiencing that.
“Then there was the uncertainty of reliable transportation. With air shipments, if you were fortunate enough to get product on a flight, you would likely pay a surcharge. Less reliable was sea transportation due to port and rail congestion—it differed slightly from supplier to supplier . . . what type of product do they offer, and where are they located? What is the method of transportation?”
Then, and only then, Interpower was forced to pause its 1-week lead-times to scour the globe in search of raw materials and get those materials transported. Yet, it faithfully maintained its same day shipping on in-stock products.
Raw Materials Today
Utterback on the current state of raw materials: “Transportation has improved. International air shipments are timely, and we are considering going back to sea shipments from Taller and to ICL. However, material shortages are still noticeable, especially on-board components manufactured in China and the Far East—lead-times are currently at one year. As far as some of the longer lead-times, we have adjusted to them so they aren’t causing much of a problem. On the bright side, we aren’t getting additional delays on top of the few lead-times we have.”
1-Week Lead-Times Redux
With raw materials back in 2021 and 2022, weeks stretched into months. When they became available in quantity, Interpower ordered what they needed to make up for the backlog of orders caused by the shortages and port lockdowns. While lead-times shortened in painfully slow increments, they did shorten, and the goal of Interpower returning to its industry-unique 1-week lead-times was a goal that Interpower management and staff never lost focus on despite the mountainous backlog the world threw its way.
At one point, lead-times hovered around 16 weeks, which dropped to 12 weeks one to two months later. Then 12 weeks reduced to eight, eight to six, and when the announcement was made that two-week lead-times were in place, it was only a matter of time before 1-week lead-times returned. Toward the end of April 2023, 1-week lead-times were back. Interpower had conquered the chaos that was.
“We have to remain flexible to meet both current and future needs,” Boyle said. “We’ve added equipment and new production cells. And we’re working on several in-house projects as not to outsource at all if possible. Most of our products and material are already made right here in the U.S.A. anyway. Our 1-week lead-time on cords and cord sets, and our same day shipping is a huge differentiator for us in this industry.”