Projects and Features
Supplying the sector
Steel stockholders play a vital part in the steel construction supply chain, ensuring the market is supplied with what it needs when it is needed.
From an extensive national network of depots, steel stockholders serve all parts of the UK and Ireland, and construction is their biggest client. As well as heavy structural sections they supply plate, tubular sections, light sections, cladding materials, flats and angles – all the elements needed to create a steel building.
In this article NSC looks at the steel stockholding sector; the services and support they provide to the structural steel supply chain.
Over 65% of structural steel in UK construction projects is supplied via a steel stockholder. One of the major benefits to steelwork contractors from the UK’s large stockholding sector is their ability to ‘break bulk’. Stockholders buy in large volumes and stock a wide range of steel so they can respond to the demands of customers for the hundreds of steel sections sizes and grades available.
This means steelwork contractors don’t have to tie up working capital holding stocks of steel on the off chance that it may be demanded soon, or incur the cost of storing the steel itself. Stockholders can do this much more economically as, having a lot of steelwork contractors to supply, they are turning their stock over much more quickly.
Steelmakers produce steel in accordance with pre-planned rolling cycles. While these rolling schedules can vary and are influenced by product and market requirements, they need to be planned in advance. When buying directly from a steelmaker, orders must be for minimum quantities of steel in terms of weight or bundles (number of pieces) rather than matching the specific and immediate requirements of a project.
Steel stockholding and Brexit
98% of the UK’s structural steelwork is fabricated in the UK. The key input to this process is of course steel, and the risk to the availability and delivery of hot rolled structural sections is low. This is largely due to a joined-up supply chain that includes a UK producer, European producers, and a well-established network of distributors and stockholders who keep sufficient levels of stock to support just-in-time deliveries to steelwork contractors.
The effect Brexit could have on the industry is clearly unknown at this stage, it is likely for steel stockholders that administrative tasks may increase and potentially the costs to import material too. Additionally, lead time could be slightly affected but it not anticipated to have a significant impact. The the effects are expected to be minimal.
Supporting the fabrication process
On an average contract, the lead-in time before the steel is required on site may be 10 working weeks. In these 10 weeks the steelwork contractor needs to resolve any design queries, model the steelwork, design and detail the connections, order and receive the steel, fabricate the steel and deliver the steel to the construction site.
“As well as offering a one-stop shop, bespoke service to customers, stockholders also help mitigate risk in the supply chain. Whether it is Brexit, Steel safeguarding quotas, or changes to mill programmes, stockholders can provide a robust just-in-time delivery service”
Barrett Steel LimitedThe steel stockholder plays a significant part in ensuring these tight timescales are met and has processes in place to support this. For example the advancement of online services eases the process for steelwork contractors; simplifying the ordering process, providing quick and easy access to certification details and providing in time updates on deliveries.
A number of stockholders will have sites across the UK and Ireland which supports ease of transportation and stock availability.
Supporting just-in-time delivery
Stockholders also provide a just-in-time service to steelwork contractors, many of whom want daily steel deliveries to increase their production efficiency and reduce the handling of steel in their own yard. These regular deliveries also assist when last minute changes are made to a design, or when there are changes to the steel products to be fabricated for that particular project.
They also ensure continuity of supply, whether a particular steel product is needed in large or small quantities, thereby eliminating any supply risk to customers.
Other services offered by stockholders
Steel stockholders have invested heavily in productivity and service enhancing equipment. A number have invested in the latest laser cutting, sawing, shot blasting and priming equipment. Offering these additional services can help steelwork contractors to manage their workloads and meet shorter lead-times while keeping control of their output.
Knowledge of steel stockholders
Due to their integral role within the supply chain, steel stockholders can provide up-to-the-minute insight on the steel construction industry and have access to a wide range of information, such as pricing trends, availability issues, backlogs and activity levels.
Requirements and Certification
Most stockholders are now accredited to ISO 9001 – Quality Management. Other certifications stockholders might hold include;
- BS EN 1090-1 – Factory Production Control
- BS EN ISO 14001 – Environmental Management
- BS OHSAS 18001 – Health & Safety Management.
A new requirement for stockholders who are involved in stocking structural steel products for highways work is National Highways Sector Scheme 3B – Stocking and distribution activities for structural steel products.
Since 15 September 2018, NHSS 3B has been a mandatory requirement for all companies involved in the stocking and distribution of structural steel products for all Highways England projects, as well as other public bodies adopting the Highways England Series 1800 specification for structural steelwork.
NHSS 3B does not apply to manufacturing activities, only to stocking and distribution activities.