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This article from the November 2004 issue of Fast Company Living in Dell Time lays out what it’s like to be a vendor to Dell. It’s not for the faint of heart and some small business in the Triad might consider if it’s worth the acid reflux.
“Dell’s clout with its suppliers is epitomized by a set of thin white lines on the floor of the TMC plant. The lines form a rectangle that fronts each of the 110 cargo bays encircling the factory. Tractor-trailers loaded with parts line up at the bays. When an assembly line runs low on disk drives, a signal goes out. A forklift wheels onto a trailer bed, snatches a pallet of disks, and pulls out onto the floor. When the forklift crosses the white line, a scanner records the shipment’s bar code and the parts move from the supplier’s books to Dell’s. Dell doesn’t pull the part until it has a customer order; it doesn’t take ownership until it pulls the part.
In effect, that thin white line demarcates Dell’s entire supply chain. Dell holds inventory only for the six to eight hours it travels across the assembly line and for the 18 hours it takes for the completed CPU to be trucked to a merge center in Reno, Nevada, where the unit is bundled with a monitor and shipped to the customer. Total inventory time: two to three days. Most suppliers, however, are required to stage anywhere from 8 to 10 days’ worth of buffer stock in those multivendor warehouses located within 90 minutes of the TMC.”
Good luck to those that do tred into these waters. Let me know if you hear of any locals that do pull it off. It would make a worthy follow-up.