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Lead Times & Industry Shortages, where are we heading next?

Lead Times & Industry Shortages, where are we heading next?

Navigating the past two years has been extra challenging for engineering equipment acquisition and servicing. Assets have been sweated for longer, the rise of ‘like for like’ specification quote requests have increased, and service intervals have been stretched from 3 months to 6 and 6 has become 12.

This has been successful for many businesses as the industry has been significantly impacted by various shortages. Many of the big vacuum brands have seen lead times for new equipment, service kits and spare parts exceed 40 weeks at one point or another. Thankfully, these days seem to be on the cusp of entering the rear-view mirror, however the fallout from under serviced or sweated assets is now biting back.

West Technology supply and service all the major manufacture’s equipment in the UK, seeing hundreds of pumps, gauges and helium leak detectors pass through our factory in Bristol. Clear patterns and trends are starting to form:

  • Vacuum equipment servicing is becoming ‘on-demand’ with more of a reactive approach. Pumps are run until failure, rather than scheduled for interim servicing.
  • Vintage is back! We have seen an uplift in pumps from the 00’s return as organisations raid stores to find a temporary stop gap.
  • ‘Can you get this spec?’ With all manufacturers supply lead times varying by months, not days, the requests to find alternative equipment has become regular.
  • UK manufacturing has been impacted with production runs stifled with the same materials supply chain issues, so vacuum equipment failures are having more significant business impacts than before.
  • Reconditioned equipment supplies have all but gone, the demand peaked in 2022. Which now means buying new is in most cases the only option, putting enormous strain on already lengthy lead times.
  • Maintenance schedules have been lengthened, running equipment for longer between services. Which is has done two things, firstly increased service bills as the wear on components means replacement is the only option rather than refurbish. Secondly, increased turnaround time for the service, as we must suffer whatever the lead times are forced upon us for the component which now needs to be replaced.

West Technology have made various proactive & positive steps to help our customers navigate the above trends. The four main ones are:

  • Increased loan equipment stock and ensured the majority is ready for next day dispatch. This means we can loan you equipment, whilst yours is in for a service (free of charge).
  • Increased stock levels of service kits and the most commonly replaced parts for our most popular vacuum equipment makes and models .
  • Proactive engineer scheduling, ensures we can collect, inspect and service equipment to our current target of five working days.
  • Four vehicles, one dedicated driver and a pool of five other drivers if needed, ensures we can collect and deliver your equipment when needed (not using external couriers).


2023 and beyond……..

The industry is slowly improving lead times for sales/service across the board. We are seeing 40 weeks become 26 more often (although it still feels odd to deem 26 weeks as ‘good’!). Organisations are engaging with their service providers in much more depth than before, aligning requirements and highlighting future potential high-risk situations. This planning is seeing some forecasts and schedules into 2025 to manage and mitigate risk at every opportunity. Erratic production runs and the adaptive approach to manufacturing has created ample opportunities to ‘swap out’ equipment and re-evaluate applications and the impacts on the vacuum equipment.

Global uncertainty and events will continue to impact all aspects of vacuum equipment supply chains and we can’t be sure how this will then implicate you and your application. But West Technology have found the simple question, ‘what are your plans for vacuum equipment this year’ enough to stimulate a constructive business conversation. Combined with our consultative and strategic approach to the multitude of unique vacuum engineering problems, has built mutually beneficial relationships as we move forward.

If you are ready to have this conversation, please get in touch on 01454 329 898 or bookmark this blog for when the time is right in the future.