Planning Ahead- Now More than Ever
How long can it take?
I have had to deliver some displeasing news to a number of customers of late. Metal lead times have gone crazy: phos bronze-40 weeks; 321 stainless 22 weeks; a variety of copper alloys are running 10-20 weeks. We used to be able to get custom rolled strip in 6-8 weeks; but now the re-rollers can't get the feed stock. I have been begging and pleading with customers to get on the ball and get stuff ordered so we can--at least-- get in the queue for metal. And, don't think that a "rated" order is going to help you. The mills have all of the "rated" orders already. Yours is just another in a long line.
What's really available?
To the extent possible, we are encouraging customers to consider--at least in the short term--using alternative alloys that are more available. Here's the stock list from a very reputable distributor of stainless alloys. And, this company does a really good job with many copper alloys. For great selection and quick turn on small quantities, we think these guys do a great job, too.
And, of course, you can always just ask us.
How do we get ahead of this?
One of the logical consequences of having to deal with such a protracted raw material supply situation is that it makes a compelling argument for establishing LTAs/blanket orders ( or whatever you might call them). This helps us help you.
The benefits of long term programs include:
- cost stability
- more reliable delivery
- lower overall cost
- greater ability to respond to changes in demand
- preferential position in the production queue
When will this be over?
It is going to take some time--likely measured in years-- for the supply chain to be replenished. And, it will likely be more "rationalized" than it was before. The diversity of alloys and gauges stocked in distribution will probably decline again, as it did after the 2008 recession. So, it becomes even more important for designers, engineers and other specifiers to talk to their suppliers about what materials are really available....the rest of them simply will be "unobtainium."
Gotta run...I have to let a customer know that the .009" C194 copper he wants is 40 weeks and $10,000 away....