The best supplement manufacturers know that timing is everything

Posted On : May 6th, 2011 / 0 comments

Desperate To Get Your Product To Market On Time? The Best Supplement Manufacturers Know That Timing Is Everything

There is nothing worse than waiting for a new shipment to come in so you can fill waiting orders. The unsavory flip side of many a successful marketing campaign is a lagging inventory.

Time is of the essence. Customers are bugging your customer service reps, asking when they’ll get their product shipped – even canceling orders and switching to your competitors.

You can’t afford to wait an extra three weeks to get a new shipment in.

Consider the experience of one of our newer customers.

A promising sports nutrition company, they had built their business around a product formulated with a specific ginseng extract. Business had been steadily growing based on their pleased customers and sharp marketing.

However the production side of things was not so well-managed. Unbeknownst to them, sources of the ginseng extract that distinguished their product had been drying up. And unfortunately, their manufacturer at the time had not been keeping tabs on this development and looking for a new and reliable source.

When it came time to restock their inventory, their manufacturer was unable to manufacture their product because of this one elusive ingredient.

Without the product in stock, they were losing customers. Because of a simple supply chain problem that had slowed their production down, they were seeing their once successful business start to crumble!

Desperate to restock, they contacted us.

Fortunately, we were able to identify a source for the all-important ginseng and take over production. However, it was not without serious costs to their business, including the loss of many customers.

If their manufacturer had taken the extra step to monitor this ingredient’s availability and developed a system to keep it in stock, the owners of this company would not have been pulling their hair out.

“Measure Twice, Cut Once”: Investing Time Up Front To Prevent Problems Down The Line

As this story illustrates timing is everything. Supply chain breakdowns are one of several factors that impact how quickly you can get your product made and into your customers’ hands.

However, it also speaks to the hard reality of this business. No matter how badly you need to resupply your product, there are certain steps that just take time, like ingredient sourcing. And there are steps you just can’t skip.

Be wary of turnaround time promises that are not realistic based on what goes into manufacturing a product.

In general, an initial product run takes about 4-6 weeks from formulation to finished product.

The timing breaks down as follows:

  • 1-2 weeks for sourcing raw materials
  • 1 week for pre-testing of ingredients
  • 1 week for production
  • 1 week for microbial analysis
  • Shipping

“These time frames are more important to the customer’s first run than they realize,” notes Bret Hoyt Jr. executive vice president of sales at Vitakem. “Throughout the 4-6 weeks our team is working in the background but we utilize this time to work with our customer concurrently.”

This initial investment in time up front allows us to adhere to the carpenter’s old adage of “measure twice, cut once”. Rather than do a production run of 100,000 bottles and find out that the formulation isn’t quite right or the label is off, we prefer to spend a little more time up front making sure that everything is right.

“We have created a flawless step-by-step process in which we work along side the customer allowing him to guide us through the development of his product in which he signs off on each step,” explains Hoyt Jr. “This allows the customers to give full attention to all essential details in each step of the way throughout the production of their product. And consequently, nothing gets overlooked.”

In addition to the initial planning, testing and consultation, sourcing raw ingredients can consume many hours. This is especially true for the first run when we may have to identify new ingredient suppliers and source ingredients we may not have in stock.

If we have to hunt down unusual ingredients – like a rare botanical that’s highly seasonal – it can take our ingredient sourcing team as much as two weeks to get the material to our factory.

Finally, we need to make sure that all ingredients are pre-tested to ensure safety and accuracy. And we need to test a sample after production to make sure that there was no contamination. These tests are required under FDA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and take some time to perform.

Speeding Things Up The Second Round

However, we can speed this up a bit when it comes to the next production runs, bringing subsequent runs down to as little as 3-5 weeks.

First we save time on all the back and forth, conferring with you, our customer. The formulation is finalized and the labels are proofed. These steps can be skipped.

When it comes to ingredient sourcing, that big wrench in the works, we’ve done most of the major legwork in the first production run. In that first time period we’ve identified suppliers and even secured enough of some of the ingredients for subsequent runs.

In order to save even more time as well as money, especially if your formulation contains a hard to find ingredient or particularly expensive one, we recommend a simple tactic that many of our customers use:

Provide us with a blanket purchase order for this ingredient. With this authorization, our ingredient sourcers can then stay on the alert for good bargains. We can make sure that we keep that ingredient stocked – even if there are market shortages – and be ready to go when you’re ready to do a production run.

And Yet Another Way To Prevent “Low Inventory Surprise” And The Panic That Can Follow . . .

As noted here, you can save time after the first product run and get your turnaround time down to 3-5 weeks from order to shipping.

Nonetheless, when your inventory is dwindling, even 2 weeks feels like a year. For that reason, we’ve implemented a pre-emptive program that saves both our customers and us a lot of headaches.

Your Vitakem account manager will help you pro-actively manage your inventory and plan runs accordingly.

As part of their job, they will call you periodically to check inventory and schedule runs. Additionally, they will help you assess – based on how quickly you’ve gone through your inventory – whether you should increase the size of your next order.

Put These Tactics Into Play And Make Sure Time Is On Your Side

There are certain factors you can’t change in how long it takes for a product run. And yet you can take certain steps in cooperation with your manufacturer to shave off a few days and prevent supply chain frustrations.

When you work together, communicating about inventory, marketing plans and ingredient supply, you can make sure you don’t run into a quagmire.

As the best supplement manufacturers know so well, you want time on your side. These tactics will help you keep it there.