Steel stockholding is quite simple in some ways. When you send us an email we look at the grade and thickness and see what we have in stock that meets your requirement. We then check against any detailed technical specifications and finally, review the test certificates to check that the metallurgy is correct. It can take 2 minutes or a couple of hours depending on how technical your requirements are.
The longest it takes is when we have to review MTC by MTC to find plates that meet your exact requirements – as we did for a customer a while ago who wanted some HIC plates with 0% CLR. It is hard work but rewarding.
To quote from the mill though is not that simple. The mill has to answer a number of questions before they can provide a quote.
Can we make it?
This looks at the requirement and asks whether it is technically possible to meet it given the production facilities available. Some mills can only roll 2m wide plate, others 3. Some, like Dillinger, can roll wider and thicker – but all have technical limitations. So before the mill quotes they have to do at least some preliminary design. Dillinger, like many leading engineering companies, does a lot of design before it offers a quote and this provides a lot of confidence to customers that the price and specification won’t have to change later. This is because technical issues are identified early and designed out
How do we make it?
The next question to be answered is how to make it. At Dillinger the raw steel goes through 2 sets of metallurgical analysis before being cast, and then rolled. Every part of the specification that you provide to the mill will impact on the steel making and rolling and so it is hugely important to make sure that this is correct. What temperature does the plate need to be rolled at? How, when, and how long is it cooled, and how many rolling cycles need to be undertaken? That, and many more. Then the questions that is one of the most important for customers: how long will the test cycles take? HIC and SSC tests can significantly extend the length of the production time and this needs to be taken into account.
When can we make it?
Production planning is an art in itself. Different steel grades can vary a lot in their rolling time, and the size of orders also causes variation. How do we slot this order into all the other orders that have already been booked? Can we make it from slab already produced – or does the plate need to be rolled from fresh slab?
Do we want to make it?
Finally there is the question as to whether the order fits with the mill’s business plan. Some mills, like Dillinger, focus on heavy plates and don’t tend to bid for very thin plates. Others focus on particular grades such as wear resistant or chrome moly plates. If the mill is busy it tends to focus on its strengths – if it isn’t, it will bid for a wider range of orders to keep utilisation up.
Mills also like to make sure that they only quote once for a project, so there is usually a pause for several days to allow quotes to trickle in from any other traders that you have sent the requirements to.
A mill quote is not a simple thing — for mills that focus on the commodity end of the market, pricing is more standardised and faster. For mills that focus at the higher end, quoting is more technical and takes longer.
So how long does it take?
Expect 6 – 8 working days