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Old 07-12-2017, 04:24 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is online now
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Why does it take so long to build a sofa?

I recently moved and it was time to get a new sofa. I have not shopped for a sofa in 15-some years and it was quite the surprise to my get things in two days mindset.

To be fair I never thought I would get one in two days but was shocked to find that the vast majority of orders took two months to arrive.

Some few were kept in stock and could arrive within a week but unless you wanted that exact one you have to wait. This is not quite a "custom order". The merchant has a sample on display with optional colors/fabrics you can choose. A true "custom" order is selecting a color/fabric which is not on offer.

I guess my issue is we here that GM can make a car every several minutes so why does it take eight weeks to make a sofa? I will grant that GM is bigger than sofa makers but eight weeks for a sofa?

I would think with modern manufacturing and processes they could get one together in a week or two. I pushed the sales person on the time and they were adamant...eight weeks, they aren't kidding and it will not come sooner.

So what gives?

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 07-12-2017 at 04:26 AM.
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Old 07-12-2017, 04:37 AM
CuriousYellow CuriousYellow is offline
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16 weeks for mine, you got lucky
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Old 07-12-2017, 04:39 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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GM doesn't make a car in minutes, they take days. Sofa production lines tend to be less streamlined than those for cars, often needing to retool between each two sofas: that alone multiplies production times.

A way to lower time between orders and shipment would be to have some sofa frames in the warehouse, so only the parts which are different for each customer would have to be made to order. But alas! Stock is passive! Aaaaaaah! No! Must not have passive! I'm not even sure I'm exaggerating, given the way some economists and associated trades react when they hear the word "passive".

A lot of current industrial practices are directed specifically to lowering stocks as much as possible, and this includes finished product, half-made product and raw materials. It is perfectly possible that those long production times for sofas do not just include the time to make and ship the sofa, but also the time for the sofamaker to order some of the parts they obtain from some other company - such as the ready-to-finish sofa covers (a friend of mine works in a factory that makes the covers for bus seats - just the cloth covers - but bus seats aren't ordered as one-shots whereas sofa covers might).

Last edited by Nava; 07-12-2017 at 04:42 AM.
  #4  
Old 07-12-2017, 06:46 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is online now
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
GM doesn't make a car in minutes, they take days.
GM sold 10 million cars in one year. Presumably they built 10 million cars in that year. Perhaps they had cars on hand for that but still...gives you an idea of their production capacity.

Do the math:

1 Year - 10 million cars
1 Month - 833,333 cars
1 Week - 192,308 cars
1 Day - 27,397 cars
1 Hour - 1,141 cars
1 Minute - 19 cars

Of course they do not build a single car in a minute but I'd wager a sofa is as ubiquitous as a car so the demand should be similar.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 07-12-2017 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 07-12-2017, 07:29 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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You're counting as if each car was the only one being built at the time. Each individual car is built at the same time as many others. A single line (much less a single factory, or all the factories making GM cars and preassemblies) is not fully occupied by one car.

I can make 20 individual flans in 20 minutes. But that's not because I make a flan in one minute: it's because I make 20 flans at the same time. Making a single flan still takes 20 minutes.
  #6  
Old 07-12-2017, 08:19 AM
Ludovic Ludovic is online now
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
Of course they do not build a single car in a minute but I'd wager a sofa is as ubiquitous as a car so the demand should be similar.
I would think the demand should be definitely lower, after all, a sofa could last decades whereas a car is lucky to last a decade. In addition, there aren't very many no-car families that have sofas whereas there are plenty of several-car families that only have one sofa.
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Old 07-12-2017, 08:26 AM
Robot Arm Robot Arm is offline
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It occurs to to me that the sofa factory might be busy right now making sofas that were ordered six weeks ago. When those are done, they'll start working on the sofas that were ordered five weeks ago, etc. In six weeks, they'll start building yours, and you'll have it in eight. Two weeks to build a sofa doesn't strike me as being particularly out of line.
  #8  
Old 07-12-2017, 09:08 AM
Gary T Gary T is online now
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
I guess my issue is we here that GM can make a car every several minutes so why does it take eight weeks to make a sofa?
GM cannot make a car every several minutes, they can complete a car every several minutes. If you custom-order a car, will you be able to drive away in it a few minutes later?

It doesn't take eight weeks to make a sofa, rather it takes that long to process the order.
  #9  
Old 07-12-2017, 10:05 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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We don't typically wait several weeks for a car because dealers carry sufficient inventory to allow for a range of choices. My guess would be that high-end furniture manufacturers offer too much variance to make that sort of inventory practice feasible. Some furniture stores offer this range of inventory as well, but they tend to be down-market, and they do so by constraining the variety available.
  #10  
Old 07-12-2017, 10:11 AM
Desert Nomad Desert Nomad is offline
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
I recently moved and it was time to get a new sofa. I have not shopped for a sofa in 15-some years and it was quite the surprise to my get things in two days mindset.
Ours took 16 weeks, as did our office furniture.
  #11  
Old 07-12-2017, 10:36 AM
FluffyBob FluffyBob is online now
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Where I work at times we could have twice the staff. Also a lot of times we can push a job to go faster than normal, but there is always a cost. Mistakes, things missed, bad communication all become more likely in a rush job and other jobs may get neglected. Sometime those negatives can wipe out any profit or end up costing us money. If things are slow too much staff / idle resources quickly eats away at income from good times. Several local companies in our field went under in the past year, but we have been stable, getting the job done for twenty years. We find a balance where we can keep a group of well trained staff, enough for both the busy times and the slow times, and get jobs done sustainably.

I think the guys making the sofa are doing the same thing.
  #12  
Old 07-12-2017, 10:38 AM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
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I think it's about managing inventory and only making what you know you can sell. Having a warehouse full of finished sofas that nobody wants doesn't do you any good. While they can project demand to a certain extent, it seems to be more a build to order situation than other mass produced goods. So you build some and send them out to showrooms and then wait for the orders to come in. You pre order parts and start building based on anticipated demand, and if it take 2 months to ship out a sofa that's okay. It's not that time sensitive for most people. If the sofa has to made in China and shipped the the US that adds a month right there.

Last edited by dolphinboy; 07-12-2017 at 10:38 AM.
  #13  
Old 07-12-2017, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
...but I'd wager a sofa is as ubiquitous as a car so the demand should be similar.
You said you haven't shopped for a sofa in 15 years. How many cars has your family bought during that time? How many people do you know whose sofa is newer than their car?

Does your family have as many sofas as cars? Do all your friends?

Many teenagers have their own cars. How many teenagers have their own sofa?

Also, there are only 3 American car companies, plus a handful of companies that export cars to the US. There are 41 American furniture companies listed on Wikipedia, and I bet there are many more that aren't listed.

And I bet there was a LOT more varieties of sofas available at any given furniture store than the number of car models sold at any car dealer.
  #14  
Old 07-12-2017, 10:55 AM
scr4 scr4 is offline
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In addition to the Just-In-Time inventory control, they may be hoping for several orders of the same type to improve their efficiency. After tooling is set up for one, it's much easier to build extras of the same model. You don't have that flexibility if you promise a 2-week delivery time.

And of course, they have to account for fluctuations in demand. What if your factory can make 100 sofas a week, but one of your dealers has a huge holiday sale and manage to sell 300 in a weekend? You're in deep trouble if you'd advertised a 1-week delivery time.
  #15  
Old 07-12-2017, 11:07 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Why does it take so long to build a sofa?

Ever try to build one yourself
  #16  
Old 07-12-2017, 11:12 AM
obbn obbn is offline
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Whenever I've purchased a sofa it has always been in stock at the retailers warehouse. The last two purchases I can remember were from Rooms To Go and Havertys. Am I the only one who doesn't have custom furniture made? Is it common to have something like a sofa custom ordered?
  #17  
Old 07-12-2017, 11:58 AM
DrCube DrCube is offline
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We don't typically wait several weeks for a car because dealers carry sufficient inventory to allow for a range of choices.
Yep, and I've always bought what the stores had in stock. I never bought furniture new that I couldn't pick up at the warehouse that same weekend. So it is possible, if you aren't too picky, to avoid the wait. Of course, I don't buy new furniture often, usually I'm okay with used.

It baffled me when my girlfriend worked at a furniture store and explained how her customers had to wait six to eight weeks from the date of purchase to receive their furniture. Apparently, returns (or warehouse stockers' mistakes) from sales she made months ago could wipe out her monthly quotas and eliminate her commissions. It was a messed up system for customers and salespeople alike, in my opinion.
  #18  
Old 07-12-2017, 12:05 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whack-a-Mole View Post
I guess my issue is we here that GM can make a car every several minutes so why does it take eight weeks to make a sofa?
The furniture manufacturer might roll a new sofa out of the factory every several minutes. (It probably takes a couple of days to make a single car, and the reason it is so fast is that they have enormous capacity because of the large scale and relative predictability of the business.) It just takes eight weeks to make any single sofa, and the clock starts ticking when you submit your order.

It may take two or three weeks before they even start making your sofa. To be cost-effective, they want to keep resources at a level where they are not idle. If they beefed up to the point where they could get you your sofa in a week, there would be times where they are sitting around doing nothing waiting for the next order. They have to balance that against having enough resources so that their throughput is good enough that they don't lose business because of it. Did you shop around for who could deliver your sofa fastest, or did you go with the sofa that you liked the best?
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Last edited by CookingWithGas; 07-12-2017 at 12:05 PM.
  #19  
Old 07-12-2017, 12:11 PM
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obbn: I would guess that people have custom sofas made either to have a a tremendous selection of fabrics or because the want to buy a set with matching chairs/other furniture.
  #20  
Old 07-12-2017, 12:38 PM
Evan Drake Evan Drake is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Why does it take so long to build a sofa?

Ever try to build one yourself

*fulminating old wiseacre* : "Bought ? Bought ? Nay lad, thee must build anything you want from the ground up; only then will you fully grasp it's mystery. Be self-reliant ! Don't take that shop-bought gimcrack stuff; build your own house, weave your own clothes, grow your own food, dig your own oil. And at the end of the day, you can say satisfiedly: ' I made that.'"
  #21  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:33 AM
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The way I heard it, is that manufacturers can only produce one model of sofa at a time. For a different model they have to set up the production facilities differently, which is a drag and costly.

So they only set up for a certain model once they have enough units ordered to make it worth the effort. Much of the waiting time is waiting for other people to order the same model sofa.

If too few people do so, you might still get told the sofa is no longer made... and to pick another model.

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Last edited by polar bear; 07-13-2017 at 01:34 AM.
  #22  
Old 07-13-2017, 08:54 AM
doreen doreen is online now
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But how long does it take to get a specific car that the dealership doesn't have in stock? Every single time I've bought a car, the choices that I could pick up within a few days were limited. Maybe I want a Civic - and the dealership has the sedan available in four colors and the coupe available in three different colors. But I want a coupe with a manual transmission and the remote starter - and dealer only has one car with a manual transmission and a different one with a remote starter. And I hate the colors of both of them. How long will I have to wait to get the color I want with the exact features I want? I remember being told it would take about 6-8 weeks, maybe a little more or less depending upon exactly when the dealer would be submitting their next order to Honda.

"Customization" doesn't only refer to having the couch, etc made in fabric/color that is not normally offered. It means it was made to the customers specifications rather than being a stock item. And customization always takes longer- I can go into a bakery and walk out with a cake in 10 minutes if the only customization I want is "Happy Birthday" written on the top. But if their stock cakes are yellow cake with chocolate filling and white buttercream frosting and I want white cake with pineapple filling and whipped cream frosting, I'm going to have to order it in advance- usually at least two days in advance. Even though it doesn't take two days to make a cake
  #23  
Old 07-13-2017, 09:03 AM
SigMan SigMan is offline
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Aren't couches hand made?
  #24  
Old 07-13-2017, 09:33 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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The way I heard it, is that manufacturers can only produce one model of sofa at a time. For a different model they have to set up the production facilities differently, which is a drag and costly.
True to some extent, but a lot of different looking sofas are built on the same frame and then padded differently. Making a frame, sewing up the uphostery, and then stuffing and assembling the final piece are very different steps.

Just guessing now, the upholstery pieces are probably cut by an NC machine so the sewing and stuffing wouldn't need special set-up but the frames are likely to be assembled from some pre-cut pieces that they would wait for a production run to make. And that assumes they have that fabric available, unfortunately sometimes people have to wait forever for a custom sofa.
  #25  
Old 07-13-2017, 09:58 AM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is online now
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Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Whenever I've purchased a sofa it has always been in stock at the retailers warehouse. The last two purchases I can remember were from Rooms To Go and Havertys. Am I the only one who doesn't have custom furniture made? Is it common to have something like a sofa custom ordered?
My sofa is only sort of "custom".

That is to say the store had one color in stock. Any other colors had to be ordered. It is not "custom" as if I am having them make a one-off special sofa for me. They make this sofa hundreds or thousands of times and they offer it in a variety of colors.

It'd be like you seeing a car you like at the dealer but they only have it in green in stock and you want red so you order one made that is red which they also offer.

As it happens it turns out buying a sofa is more difficult than I imagined. My GF and I promised ourselves we would not buy a sofa without sitting on it first. We saw many that looked great in an ad (and in person) but were decidedly uncomfortable when sitting on it. Finding a sofa that is in your price range, looks good to you and has the comfort you like (some are very hard, some squishy and some in-between; seat depth, seat height, etc.) is a chore.

Last edited by Whack-a-Mole; 07-13-2017 at 10:02 AM.
  #26  
Old 07-13-2017, 12:57 PM
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No one stands around waiting to build your sofa.

Work is queued up... and it'd better be queued deep enough that, when orders dip, the labor pool and all other things assigned to work/feed/ship it are kept working, without their work drying up.

If your sofa came twice as early, it would cost three times as much.

A queue of work that is deep enough to survive drops in demand ensures everything keeps churning. Impractical to pay people to do nothing but wait/react. Utilization of 100% would be nice. How? By having work queued up.

Should things slow down, the several weeks buffer built into production might shrink to just 1-2 days of work queued up.

People forecasting workloads, turn times and demand must ensure this flexibility.

If people order 20000 sofas a month every month, it'd be easier to get you a sofa in two weeks. But sometimes they order 5000 one month and 30000 the next.

How to keep the workforce utilized? A queue of work that is deep enough and which doesn't jeopardize demand.

Underutilized labor is expensive, disengaged, suffers from lower quality, longer training curves, etc.

.

Last edited by Philster; 07-13-2017 at 12:59 PM.
  #27  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by scr4 View Post
You said you haven't shopped for a sofa in 15 years. How many cars has your family bought during that time? How many people do you know whose sofa is newer than their car?

Does your family have as many sofas as cars? Do all your friends?

Many teenagers have their own cars. How many teenagers have their own sofa?

Also, there are only 3 American car companies, plus a handful of companies that export cars to the US. There are 41 American furniture companies listed on Wikipedia, and I bet there are many more that aren't listed.

And I bet there was a LOT more varieties of sofas available at any given furniture store than the number of car models sold at any car dealer.
Bolding mine. GM, Ford, and Fiat/Chrysler are all multinational companies like these others that manufacturer cars here in America:
Tesla, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Honda/Acura, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and a couple of others I'm missing.
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Old 07-13-2017, 01:19 PM
PastTense PastTense is offline
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But how long does it take to get a specific car that the dealership doesn't have in stock? Every single time I've bought a car, the choices that I could pick up within a few days were limited.
I think this may have changed. While there are only a limited number available at your local dealer, there are an enormous variety at other dealers within a few hundred miles and these can be shipped. So the options are no longer just available at the local dealer or from the manufacturer.

Last edited by PastTense; 07-13-2017 at 01:19 PM.
  #29  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:22 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Whenever I've purchased a sofa it has always been in stock at the retailers warehouse. The last two purchases I can remember were from Rooms To Go and Havertys. Am I the only one who doesn't have custom furniture made? Is it common to have something like a sofa custom ordered?
No, and in fact we almost never buy anything retail. When we moved most furniture buying was done at a consignment store or similar. New furniture is crap quality and over priced.
  #30  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:24 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
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Having just shopped for furniture. We ordered a sofa. We had the choice of hundreds of different fabrics. The store had two or three sofas in stock naturally they did not have the fabric my wife and I preferred so we had or order it. That took a few months.

There are some furniture stores that don't carry a lot of inventory because people that shop there want to choose from a lot of different fabrics. There are others that have a lot of furniture in stock but with only a small range of choices so people can have them in the next day or two. There are a couple of chains here in San Diego that advertise same day delivery.
  #31  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:28 PM
Atamasama Atamasama is offline
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Also, there are only 3 American car companies, plus a handful of companies that export cars to the US. There are 41 American furniture companies listed on Wikipedia, and I bet there are many more that aren't listed.
I used to work for a company that makes and sells furniture (including couches) and they aren't tiny; they sell furniture all over the US. They aren't in that list. I imagine that list is a tiny fraction of the number of manufacturers.

By the way, I have no idea how long it takes to make a couch. Where I worked they only made mattresses on the premises. Other furniture was made in SE Asia then shipped overseas.
  #32  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:29 PM
doreen doreen is online now
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I think this may have changed. While there are only a limited number available at your local dealer, there are an enormous variety at other dealers within a few hundred miles and these can be shipped. So the options are no longer just available at the local dealer or from the manufacturer.
Sure, but they are all going to have the most popular combinations. Which means that you will see a lot of silver Civics with automatic transmissions , but maybe no burgundy manuals
  #33  
Old 07-13-2017, 01:32 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Note also- they have your money, they are in no hurry.
  #34  
Old 07-13-2017, 02:02 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is online now
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Note also- they have your money, they are in no hurry.
Not in my case. At least, not completely.

They took a 30% deposit and get the balance upon delivery.

No idea if that is normal or just what this store does.
  #35  
Old 07-13-2017, 02:22 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Not in my case. At least, not completely.

They took a 30% deposit and get the balance upon delivery.

No idea if that is normal or just what this store does.
Well, yes a deposit. But they still have some of your money, without any outlays on their part.
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Old 07-13-2017, 02:34 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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I wasn't aware furniture stores no longer keep a large inventory.

We've always selected something from the showroom, arranged delivery and paid.

Nearly every item in the showroom was in inventory. Or they'd sell the floor model if you were in a rush.

I'll warn my wife that's no longer the case.

You say it takes several months now to get furniture?

Last edited by aceplace57; 07-13-2017 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 07-13-2017, 02:35 PM
Nansbread1 Nansbread1 is offline
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Why does it take so long?

The containers from China take that much time by sea.
  #38  
Old 07-13-2017, 02:52 PM
doreen doreen is online now
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I wasn't aware furniture stores no longer keep a large inventory.

We've always selected something from the showroom, arranged delivery and paid.

Nearly every item in the showroom was in inventory. Or they'd sell the floor model if you were in a rush.

I'll warn my wife that's no longer the case.

You say it takes several months now to get furniture?


No, you can still get furniture in a couple of days - but at stores that give you a very limited choice of color/fabric for each piece, like Bobs or Raymour and Flanagan.


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  #39  
Old 07-13-2017, 02:57 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
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No, you can still get furniture in a couple of days - but at stores that give you a very limited choice of color/fabric for each piece, like Bobs or Raymour and Flanagan.
Which of course is spelled out in the OP so I am not quite sure why aceplace57 is coming away with the idea that furniture stores don't stock furniture for immediate delivery.
  #40  
Old 07-13-2017, 03:08 PM
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Cars and custom sofas are not a fair comaprison.
I'd guess custom sofas are manufacured in a Job Shop style. Various machines, materials, and skilled labor working a carefully crafted workflow schedule to optimize the use of all of them. Everything from lead time on materials to machine setup times to batch quantites is all figured in nowdays and fed to sophisticated workflow software that will figure out a schedule for you. If you want a type X sofa with type AA fabric and and nobody else wants either of those at the moment you may be at the end of their queue a while.
Autos, unless some custom made Bentley, are build in a mass or batch style of manufacturing. Make lots of the same thing or similar batches and build up an inventory.
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