How SonicWall’s Supply-Chain Strategies Are Slicing Wait Times
In an industry rife with backorders, SonicWall’s proactive approach to supply-chain management has allowed the company to fulfill 95% of orders within just three days.
Cybersecurity customers in 2022 occupy an increasingly uneasy middle ground. On one side are elected officials, news writers and security professionals all urgently warning that attack surfaces are widening, cybercrime is rising, and you really ought to have upgraded your security posture yesterday. And on the other side are equally urgent warnings from cybersecurity vendors that the components you need to do exactly that … won’t be in stock for several months.
With reports of wait times already stretching into 2023, how can you ensure your organization is prepared to face today’s cyberattacks?
“If you want a firewall next year, call them. If you want one next week, call us.”
The outlook for SonicWall customers, however, is quite different. Products are in stock when they’re needed, and time from order to receipt is a small fraction of what’s being estimated with other vendors.
Currently, SonicWall is fulfilling 95% of orders within 3 days.
Before the pandemic, this sort of lead time was admirable; today, it’s nearly unheard-of. Even more remarkable, SonicWall has achieved this track record during a period of record sales. The introduction of SonicWall’s Gen 7 product line, along with exceptional third-party testing results and industry accolades, has fueled a 33% increase in new customer growth and a 45% increase in new customer sales.
To understand why this is such an accomplishment, it helps to understand why today’s supply-chain environment has ensured such lead times are the exception rather than the rule.
The Ongoing Struggles of the Supply Chain
The COVID-19 pandemic is often discussed as having a “ripple effect,” like a rock being dropped in the water. But when it comes to the effects on manufacturing and shipping, it’s more like an earthquake, with unpredictable aftershocks unleashing chaos in greater magnitude than the original event.
Material shortages, cost increases and shipping challenges have been felt across the board, and roughly 94% of the Fortune 1000 have seen pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions
In a world where few things are manufactured in the same place they’re ultimately purchased, shipping is among the most crucial links in the supply chain. There is currently a 12-plus-week door-to-door ocean freight delivery extension — and those delays are continuing to grow as consumer spending increases and congestion worsens.
The Port of Los Angeles last year saw more containers than any year in its history, surpassing the previous high-water mark by 13%. While numbers aren’t yet in for March 2022, January and February 2022 have both set new records, suggesting that this year may be even busier.
This volume has created unprecedented strain: During the past few months, The New York Times reports that container ships have been stuck at ports for a week on average, up 4% compared with all of 2021 and an increase of 21% over the start of the pandemic.
The outlook isn’t much better once containers move inland: reports of trains backed up for dozens of miles aren’t uncommon, and trucking companies are facing a worker shortage nearly 80,000 strong.
And while all industries have been shaken up, security vendors and other tech companies have been especially vulnerable to the worldwide shortage of computer chips, with many companies simply unable to supply products to meet their customers’ security needs.
SonicWall’s Secret Weapon: Preparation
But if everyone is experiencing these problems, what are people doing about it? Not much, as it turns out. When consulting firm Alix Partners surveyed 3,000 CEOs in early 2022, fewer than half reported that they were taking longer-term action to ameliorate supply-chain challenges, while a majority said they were instead relying on short-term solutions.
SonicWall has been able to succeed in this climate because it bucked this trend — and it did so early on. The company’s current goal is that any product ordered be “on the shelf” and ready to ship. This has required SonicWall to change many of its internal processes, as well as how the company works with suppliers and ships goods — a process that began long ago.
More than 18 months ago, SonicWall’s operations department began noticing an increase in lead times. The shift was subtle at first, starting with a few decommits from suppliers that were missing their targets by a week or two. Suppliers weren’t yet officially announcing that lead times were going up, but these delays were enough to propel the company’s supply-chain management team into action.
At that time, the company planned roughly six to nine months out. To accommodate increasing delays, the outlook was increased to about 12 months, and since then it’s been extended up to 16 months for some products. These projections have helped ensure that if one part of the supply chain slows down or breaks, partners and customers are impacted as little as possible.
At the same time, SonicWall began working with its suppliers to identify at-risk components, and quickly set about redesigning products (without impacting performance or capabilities) to take advantage of readily available supplies. Using available components not only eases manufacturing, it also eliminates the possibility that a delay at the factory could create timing issues that could plague the process from start to finish.
SonicWall has also embraced flexibility when it comes to shipping. Because the time from when products are picked up from a supplier’s warehouse until the time they arrive at a SonicWall warehouse has increased from four weeks to eight to 12 weeks, supply-chain managers are constantly on the lookout for which ports are likely to be the least congested two to three months from now. And when it becomes difficult to find storage containers or book freight on time, products are also shipped by air when necessary.
While many of SonicWall’s competitors are struggling to fill orders, these steps have ensured that SonicWall has a strong inventory of products on hand and is able to provide customers with the solutions they need, when they need them. If your current security vendor can’t deliver, reach out to a SonicWall expert — you could be up and running by this time next week.