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Supply chain monitoring key in stainless

Keywords: Tags  MSCI, Metals Service Center Instiute, supply chain, Charles Fine, Dennis Oates, William Sales, Ralph Arthur, freight costs trucking regulations

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Stainless steel companies must maintain strong lines of communication throughout their supply chains, although this can be challenging for mills further upstream, speakers at the Metals Service Center Institute’s Specialty Metals Division Conference said.

Companies should understand where they fall in the supply chain and stay in frequent contact with clients to avoid problems, economist Charles Fine told delegates March 22.

“The relationships you have with supply chain are critical. You need to understand each other’s problems,” Fine said.

However, Dennis Oates, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Bridgeville, Pa.-based Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc., said that “as a mill guy, it can be difficult to get a finger on the pulse.”

“From a mill standpoint, you don’t have a great visibility down the supply chain,” he said. “We use our sales force very aggressively; we challenge ourselves to listen. I’m always asking our sales force what they’re hearing in the marketplace.”

“We sometimes just pick up the phone and call our customers,” William Sales, senior vice president for operations at Los Angeles-based Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., added. “We need to have those kinds of relationships. ... Otherwise, we’re going to make some bad decisions.”

And there are already enough challenges to face. For example, new trucking regulations will likely boost freight costs, Ralph Arthur, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Ruan Dedicated Contract Carriage, told delegates.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rules, which require that drivers take a 30-minute break every eight hours, go into effect July 1 (, Dec. 28).

“We’re going back to each customer to understand what this means, but it’s potentially an increase in trucks and an increase in drivers,” Arthur said. “All those costs will roll up, and we have to be careful to mitigate the effects on your business and our business as well.”

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