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Service Centers Rate the Mills

Producing In a Pandemic

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There’s never a time where a producer’s quality services is unappreciated by its customers. However, under the unprecedented conditions that faced the steel supply chain in 2020, working with a dependable source of material took on an entirely new meaning.

As mills idled capacity in response to the coronavirus pandemic, making material hard to come by, customers prized even more those mills who maintained higher service levels through the crisis. In their comments to Jacobson & Associates, both end-users and service centers expressed their appreciation for those producers who rose to this most unusual of challenges.

Comments regarding mill performance during the pandemic indicate growing concerns with delivery and availability.  Customers are also increasing their dependence on mill portals and other online tools for communication and information.

Service center operators were generally positive about the mills’ performance during the pandemic. “Managing volatility is where mills need the most improvement, but I give them a lot of credit for them responding during all of this,” one respondent said. “Mills have handled the COVID situation to the best of their abilities and they deserve credit,” echoed another. 

And several respondents noted the increasing importance of online ordering. “The more we can use mills’ e-comm the better. Mills need to just keep up with customer needs during weird times,” one service center respondent said. 

For 28 years, Jacobson & Associates has conducted a continuous survey of more than 2,000 major steel customers in the United States and Canada, including service centers and end-users. Jacobson measures overall customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction with quality, service, price, on-time delivery, inside sales, outside sales, and e-commerce.

Service centers singled out six mills as the top performers in terms of overall customer satisfaction for the 12 months ending September 30, 2020: Nucor Decatur among sheet producers, Nucor Longview in plate, Nucor Berkeley in beam; Nucor Jackson in bar/structurals, SDI Engineered Bar in SBQ and Searing Industries in tube. This is the first year tube producers have been included in the Jacobson Survey for MCN.
 
Nucor Berkeley is the only repeater from the 2019 list, though that’s no surprise. The South Carolina mill has been the top choice for beam production every year since 2012. 
In the highly competitive sheet field, Nucor Decatur unseated North Star BlueScope atop the rankings, the first time in five years the Ohio company has not been the preferred choice among the service center customers.

As is often the case, service centers and end-user rankings were different. Only Berkeley and Jackson were listed first by both groups. End users chose Nucor Crawfordsville in sheet, Nucor Tuscaloosa in plate, Nucor Memphis in SBQ and Atlas Tube in the newly added tube category. 

As the survey is conducted on a continuous basis, Jacobson can also determine which mills are making the greatest leaps forward in terms of customer service. This year, the most improved producers were USS Gary in sheet, CMC Florida in bar/structurals, Gerdau Special – Fort Smith in SBQ, SDI Structurals in beams, Nucor Longview in plate and Bull Moose Tube in tube products. 

The respondents are also queried on their level of loyalty to their mill suppliers, and that list has some different names at the top, including CMC Arizona in bar/structurals, Gerdau Midlothian in SBQ and Welded Tube of Canada heading up the tube list.  North Star BlueScope, Berkeley and Jackson were also atop their respective loyalty lists. 

Looking at the comments relating to top-rated mills, several themes emerge as qualities customers are looking for: ease of doing business, communication, responsiveness, consistency and availability. 

Click here to download charts.

John E. Jacobson is president of Jacobson & Associates, Greensboro, N.C. 
The Jacobson Survey has been measuring steel customer satisfaction for the past 28 years. 
Mr. Jacobson may be reached at (847) 735-7250 or via e-mail at jej@jacobsonsteel.com.





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