NEW YORK Demand for aluminum aerospace alloys has pared back slightly due to seasonality, but the slowdown hasnt been severe enough to impact mill lead times, sources said.
Lead times for 2000- and 7000- aerospace alloys are still between three and five months, depending on the mill, largely unchanged from earlier this fall and down just slightly from the six months reported earlier this year.
The recent slowdown in demand comes as service centers look to end the year with lean inventories, sources said.
"The market is definitely slower. Everyone is worried about year-end. Its almost like they want to glide for the next 60 days," one service center source told AMM.
A second service center source agreed. "No one wants inventory on their floor the last few months of the year," he said.
Sources said lead times havent come in despite the slower demand because a number of mills typically perform maintenance during the slower periods. Kaiser Aluminum Corp., for example, has said it plans to perform maintenance across its facilities as it anticipates fewer orders from service centers for the next two months (amm.com, Oct. 26).
"I dont believe lead times will shorten. Mills will do maintenance and slow down production as workers are on vacation," the second service center source said.
"They have shortened, but I dont know if theyll shorten further," a third service center source agreed.
As demand for aerospace alloys slows, production of the more common 6000-series alloysused in a variety of industries, including general engineeringtypically increases, sources said.
The first service center source said he has already seen an uptick in 6000-series domestic production.
"When (aerospace) demand starts to slow, (producers) tend to make more standard items (like the 6000 series) and put them in mill stock. In the last few weeks, we can see more material available," he said. "Its typical for this part of the cycle. I dont see these as game-changing moves."
Meanwhile, distributors expect aerospace demand to pick up next year, which could push aerospace alloy lead times back out, they said.
Foothill Ranch, Calif.-based Kaiser has said it expects backlogs for Airbus ASA and Boeing Co., now at eight years, to expand every year until 2020 (amm.com, Oct. 17).
"I agree (with Kaiser)," the first service center source said. "Backlogs are increasing. And I dont know if theres a limit to how far they could go. There is a lot of expansion going on and there are a lot of older fleets in the world."
But the first service center source said he doesnt expect lead times to push out beyond six months, even with the expected rebound in demand.
"Lead times wont come in much more, but theyre going to stop getting longer (and producers) will start holding more and more (metal)," he said.