DIS-TRAN Steel Blog

What Affects Lead Time for Substation and Transmission Steel Structures?

Posted by Brooke Barone on Feb 12, 2014 1:51:00 PM

In the utility world, "lead time" is the magical word. It’s one of the main aspects that can make or break a bid. Sometimes it’s the most critical aspect, and then other times it might not be as pressing. Fabricators give different lead times depending on various circumstances that revolve around the project. From the time the bid is won, or the fabricators receive the purchase order, all the way through delivery, is what determines the lead time.

>So what affects lead times from the steel fabricators’ side?

Shop capacity is the main factor.  Fabricators book work with the intensions of filling their available shop capacity while maintaining sales goals.  Secondary to shop capacity is engineering capacity, which may affect lead times on design jobs that are engineering intense. So, as a customer, you want to be sure to obtain information regarding the fabricator’s shop and engineering capacity.

DIS-TRAN Shop capacity

This is an overview of DIS-TRAN's plant located in Pineville, Louisiana, with roughly 260,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

 >What can a customer do beforehand to ensure the best lead times?

Lead times are typically reduced when the fabricator receives shop ready drawings because this can help eliminate the engineering process.  Another way is to negotiate with the fabricator; it might be difficult at times because everyone is busy, but it could help reduce lead times. Many of these bids are based on the fabricator’s backlog at the time the project is quoted, so if a customer needs a better lead time than what is shown in the quote, they shouldn’t hesitate to ask.  Not only does this allow the customer to get the best date possible, it allows the fabricator to really pin-point a production slot for the work in advance of actually receiving the order, which makes production planning easier on the supplier.

>What should a customer provide when submitting a bid to get the best lead time?

Providing shop-ready drawings can significantly help shorten lead times. But if not, here are some other important items to include:

  • Technical specifications
  • General arrangement drawings or engineering drawings
  • Plan and profiles
  • Loads (tensions, equipment cut sheets, environmental loads, etc.)
  • Site address and contacts
  • Delivery date

 >What can the customer can do on their end to get the best lead time?

Some things that the customer can do is to make sure the bid is neat, plans are in place, an expeditor on staff or even negotiate in the bid stage. Also, something as simple as specifying the required delivery date in the request for quote (RFQ), or suggest that bidders supply two bids: one meeting their schedule and one with their standard schedule (this will help during negotiations.) Customers can even look into becoming an Alliance Partner with a fabricator in order to get every detail of their project, from start to finish, communicated directly to them with tailored service and a personal “go-to” coordinator. 

>What effects delivery?

When changes are made far into the process, it can cause a snowball effect on the fabricator’s other projects.  If a customer misses their production slot due to changes, the next available slot may be weeks or months out.

8 Steps for putting a proper bid together, submitting it and what customers should keep in mind:

1. Submit to proposal administrator, such as a specific person or email address

2. Quote is logged and filed electronically/hardcopy

3. Quote is reviewed for scope and schedule by estimating manager

4. Next…

a. If engineering required: goes to engineer for preliminary design and weight takeoff

b. If no engineering: goes to estimator for weight takeoff

5. Materials and direct costs are estimated by estimator

6. Terms and specifications are reviewed by estimator

7. Schedule and margins discussed with estimating manager

8. Proposal submitted by proposal administrator to customer

Since fabricators are doing several bids per day, and if the requested time to put together a proposal is two weeks, then having all of the information neat, organized and complete will help ensure the best price and lead time.

For any RFQ's, resulting purchase orders or if you just have general inquiries, you can email us at dtsteel@distran.com for steel products or dtwood@distran.com for wood products.

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