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Service Centers Rate the Mills

The tariff-laden steel environment created a new dynamic for North American mills in 2018

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In 2018, the steel mill landscape changed dramatically. In the first quarter, President Donald Trump announced the completion of the Section 232 import investigation, finding that imported steel and aluminum were a threat to national security. 

To combat that situation, the president announced tariffs of 25 percent on foreign steel products, plus another 10 percent on aluminum. Immediately, prices spiked, lead times stretched and getting a hold of some specialty products became a little more troublesome. 

In conjunction with the new mill-friendly environment, U.S. producers announced a host of new investments to increase capacity, either through greenfield efforts or the restarting of idled facilities. U.S. Steel’s Granite City, Ill., operation was brought back to life, as was the newly acquired Liberty Steel facility in Georgetown, S.C. Nucor, JSW Steel USA and Big River Steel all announced plans to add capacity at facilities across the country. 

For the time being, however, the existing domestic capacity was forced to deal with a greater share of U.S. demand than in the recent past. Maintaining happy customers while trying to ramp up production was a challenge, but one that will pay long-term dividends. 
The new dynamic didn’t change the basic requirements of service centers and end users. They want quality material reliably delivered on time, preferably for the best possible price. 

So which steel mills most consistently met that challenge? 

Each year, Jacobson & Associates surveys more than 2,000 major steel customers in the United States and Canada, including service centers and end users, to measure their satisfaction with their mill suppliers. The Jacobson Survey measures customer satisfaction with quality, service, price, on-time delivery, inside sales, outside sales, e-commerce, and overall satisfaction.

The top-rated mills in overall customer satisfaction by product category are: North Star BlueScope among sheet producers, Nucor Marion in bar/structural, EVRAZ Portland in plate, Nucor Nebraska in SBQ and Nucor Berkeley in beam.

Not surprisingly, the mills with the highest overall satisfaction scores tend to have high loyalty index rankings. Delta, Ohio-based North Star BlueScope and EVRAZ Portland were also first in customer loyalty in their product categories, while SDI topped the beam list, Gerdau Sayreville led in bar/structurals and Gerdau Midlothian was first among SBQ producers.

The customer satisfaction rankings, broken down into views from service centers and end users, offers an interesting contrast. In each product category the distributors and end-user customers differed on the top-performing mill. Service center customer gave the highest overall customer satisfaction rankings to North Star BlueScope, SSAB Plate, Nucor Berkeley, CMC Texas, and Nucor Nebraska.  End-Use Customers gave the highest overall customer satisfaction rankings to SDI Butler, EVRAZ Portland, SDI Structurals, Nucor Marion, and Gerdau Special – Fort Smith.

Since Jacobson & Associates has been tracking service center and end user attitudes for decades, it can also see which mills enjoy the biggest gains in support from one year to the next. The most improved suppliers in 2018 were Nucor Berkeley among sheet producers, Gerdau Charlotte in bars/structural, Gerdau Special – Jackson in SBQ, Gerdau Cartersville in beams and Algoma in plate. 

See the complete rankings here