Michael Dell says poor planning caused laptop order backlog

Michael Dell has blamed excessively cautious sales forecasting for the long delays in getting new notebooks to consumers, but he said nothing about problems with paint on the laptops, the main reason other executives have given customers.

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Michael Dell has blamed excessively cautious sales forecasting for the long delays in getting new notebooks to consumers, but he said nothing about problems with paint on the laptops, the main reason other executives have given customers.

Speaking at the Citigroup Technology Conference in New York last week, Dell, the founder and recently renamed CEO said the company underestimated demand. "If you go back six months or so when industry growth was starting to pick up, we had quite a conservative forecast for demand," Dell said during the extended Q&A. "That turned out to be incorrect."

Dell customers have complained about notebook delays on Dell's own Direct2Dell Web site as well as other message forums, such as NotebookReview.com, citing shifting shipping dates, suddenly cancelled orders and difficulties with outsourced support personnel.

Initially, the delays were limited to the XPS M1330 notebook, a top-of-the-line system introduced in late June, but the Inspiron budget line has also been plagued with shipping problems.

Every other explanation for the backlog has pegged paint problems -- the Inspiron, for instance, is sold in eight different colours – as the primary cause. LCD shortages, although mentioned, have always been relegated to second place.

Dell, however, laid all the blame on the forecasts, which in turn resulted in the company placing too-small orders to its component suppliers. Not enough parts equals problems building machines in a timely fashion.

That will change, he said. "We've spent a lot of time on getting much more rigor in our longer-term forecasts, a couple of quarters out, so that we can accurately signal to the supply base what our needs are."

He also downplayed the long-term impact of the backlog. "As much as this is a challenge in the near term in terms of disappointing customers with long lead times and missing ship dates, it's generally a better problem to have than too much supply and not enough demand," he said. "I believe it's a problem we know how to solve."

Consumers have continued to savage Dell's company over laptop delays. On Direct2Dell, the 24 Augustexplanation on the Inspiron backlog from digital media manager Lionel Menchaca generated more than 1,000 comments, a record for the site

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