Unstable economic conditions have made today’s metal service centers cautiously optimistic about the future -- and rightly so. While 2012 started off strong with many executives anticipating growth, service center shipments of steel products ended up almost even with 2011. Shipments in 2013 have provided even more uncertainty. According to data from the Metal Service Center Institute, service center shipments of both steel and aluminum were down at the mid-year point compared to 2012. In fact, the industry registered declines almost every single month of 2013 until July, when the industry turned a corner and shipments of both steel and aluminum increased more than 5 percent compared to 2012.
Not surprisingly, these figures, along with other external factors such as commodities pricing and consolidation, have made service center executives more than a little unsure about the market. However, instead of dwelling on aspects of the business they can’t control, industry leaders are taking a closer look at optimizing the aspects of their business they can control, starting with their operations.
This paper will discuss the top five operating challenges facing today’s metal service centers, the impact these challenges can have on operations, and best-in-class strategies for achieving operational excellence.