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Year in Review

Well, That Was Unexpected

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The metals supply chain followed up the pandemic-dominated 2020 with a 12-month span that was even more unpredictable. 

Entering 2021, metals executives likely anticipated a return to more normal business conditions than was experienced in COVID-ravaged 2020. Those expectations were decidedly not realized. 

A year after the coronavirus upended all aspects of life, the metals sector experienced one of its most bizarre 12 months in recent history. Massive supply shortages, logistics nightmares and skyrocketing prices characterized the nearly unprecedented year that was 2021. 

Steel prices began to escalate at the end of 2020, and held firm throughout the year. Other commodity metals did not follow the exact same timeline, but generally tracked that progression.

Service centers and end users scrambled to find material, with mills hard pressed to keep up. And supply issues with other items – most notably represented by the microchip shortage that paralyzed the automotive industry – continued to put pressure on stretched-thin supply chains. 

The situation was magnified by transportation challenges, whether that was trucks without drivers or cargo ships without ports. And the crunch was further exacerbated by the difficulty finding employees to man warehouses or run lines. 

All of this resulted in a year of record profits for many enterprises in the metals supply chain, but one that produced an equal number of headaches and sleepless nights. 

Perhaps 2022 finally portends a return to a slightly more normal environment. 

Here’s a look back at the news of 2021: 

First Quarter
Cleveland-based Olympic Steel acquired Action Stainless & Alloys, a distributor in the Southwest. The deal marked the company’s fourth acquisition in the last three years.  
   
Stephen Eisenberg became chairman and CEO of Kenwal Steel. He assumed the leadership role from his father, Kenneth Eisenberg, who led the company for the previous 50 years.

Allegheny Technologies Inc., Pittsburgh, announced plans to exit production of standard stainless sheet. The company intends to concentrate on higher value end markets.

SPS Companies Inc. acquired the assets of US Wholesale Pipe & Tube Inc., Holiday, Fla. USW is a distributor of galvanized mechanical steel pipe and tube products. 

U.S. Steel Corporation exercised its option to acquire the remaining equity of Big River Steel for approximately $774 million. The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker had previously acquired nearly half the shares of the Arkansas flex mill. 

Kaiser Aluminum Corp., acquired the Alcoa Warrick rolling mill near Evansville, Ind. The purchase price was $670 million.  

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. completed the acquisition of substantially all of the operations of ArcelorMittal USA LLC and its subsidiaries, forming the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. 
 
Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Specialty Metals unveiled a new 20-high rolling mill at its Wallingford, Conn., facility. Ulbrich cold-rolls precision strip and foil of more than 160 alloys of stainless steel and specialty metals at the location.

American Industrial Partners completed its purchase of the former Aleris North American automotive and common alloy aluminum rolled products business, which conducted its principal operations out of Lewisport, Ky.  Under AIP ownership the business was renamed Commonwealth Rolled Products.

Wieland Metal Services, Warwick, R.I., acquired Wrisco Industries, a leading distributor of aluminum products. The company is headquartered in Florida with distribution centers in Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Edison, N.J.

Karla Lewis was promoted to president and appointed to the board of directors at Reliance Steel & Aluminum Inc., Los Angeles. The move was consistent with the board’s executive leadership succession plan. 

Norfolk Iron & Metal, Co., completed the acquisition of Cd’A Metals from The Coeur d’Alenes Company. The acquisition complements NIM’s market coverage, adding three new locations in the Northwest, and further expanding NIM’s product lines and processing capabilities, executives claim.  

Russel Metals Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, acquired Sanborn Tube Sales of Wisconsin. The service center business was founded in 1957.

Michael J. Carroll retired as president and CEO of Steel Technologies as part of a strategic succession plan. Thad Solomon replaced Carroll as president and CEO and Jun Ozone joined the company as CCO.

Nippon Steel and ArcelorMittal announced plans to move ahead on plans to build an electric arc furnace at the companies’ venture in Calvert, Ala. AM/NS Calvert is a 50-50 joint venture. 

Bull Moose Tube Company completed major capital investment projects at its two largest tubular facilities in Elkhart, Ind., and Trenton, Ga. The multi-million dollar investments in new high-performance equipment optimize both facilities’ operational capabilities, the company claims.

Cleveland-Cliffs set a 2030 target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent. The goal represents combined direct and indirect greenhouse gas emission reductions on a metric-tons-per-year basis compared with 2017 baseline levels.  

Jack Biegalski was appointed president and chief operating officer of American Heavy Plates. AHP is an integrated heavy steel plate rolling mill and plate processing center based in Clarington, Ohio. 

Harbor Steel & Supply Co. announced plans to invest nearly $2 million to expand its facility in Holland, Mich. The company is building a 34,000-square-foot expansion. 

For the second straight year, the Copper and Brass Servicenter Association canceled its annual convention due to COVID-19. The meeting, which would have been the 70th annual, had been scheduled for San Diego in April.

Alro Steel completed the expansion of its Toledo, Ohio, facility. The expansion increased the warehouse and office space to 123,000 square feet. 

TimkenSteel idled its Harrison melt and cast assets in Canton, Ohio, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Future melting and casting activities will take place at the company’s Faircrest location, also located in Canton.

HE&M Saw Founder Gerald R. Harris passed away. He was 89. 

Second Quarter
Ryerson reached a deal with Amazon to sell its Central Steel & Wire facility to be developed as the online retailer’s newest storage and distribution space. The deal is for a reported $45 million.

Bill Kotcher was promoted to president of Tioga Pipe Inc. He had been serving as COO since joining the company in 2016. 

American Piping Products Inc., St. Louis, promoted Matt Danis to CEO. Danis has worked at APP since 2009 and served in various capacities over the past 12 years, including president, CFO and COO.

Algoma Steel, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, celebrated the first arc at its second ladle metallurgy facility, a development that will allow the company to expand its capacity by 100,000 tons. The company expects to use the new capacity to deliver advanced grades of steel.

Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C., announced plans to build a 250,000-ton tube mill in the Midwest. Products from the new tube mill will capitalize on investments Nucor already made in the Midwest including a plate mill, galvanizing line and hot-roll expansion, the company claims.

NLMK Pennsylvania, NLMK Group US Division Company and The United Steelworkers agreed to a new four-year contract for their employees. The contract ends a work stoppage that dated back more than six months. 

Russel Metals Inc. and Marubeni-Itochu Tubulars America Inc. announced plans to combine their respective Canadian OCTG/line pipe businesses.  

Mill Steel, Grand Rapids, Mich., expanded its reach into prepainted and coated products with the acquisition of Prassas Metal Products, a Los Angeles-based steel trading and stocking distributor. The acquisition strengthens Mill Steel’s geographic footprint, with additional sourcing opportunities and greater reach.

Steel Dynamics announced plans to construct two new coating lines in the Southern United States in conjunction with its new flat-rolled mill in Sinton, Texas. The lines had been planned by SDI, but the company moved up the timetable on their construction. 

Nucor Corporation chose its Nucor Steel Gallatin sheet mill site as the location for its new tube mill.  The $164 million investment project is expected to be in operation by the middle of 2023.

Eastern Metal Supply, a nationwide value-added service distributor of aluminum extrusions and sheet products, expanded its operations with a new facility in Hammond, La. The new location opened its doors in early June, providing improved service just in time for the hurricane season. 

Steel distributor Livingston Pipe & Tube, Inc. expanded operations in Southern Illinois by acquiring a new plant in Staunton, Ill. The 24-acre industrial site was built in 1965 and features a 132,000-square-foot warehousing facility.  

Specialty Steel Works Inc. acquired Tulsa Centerless Bar Processing Inc. The Oklahoma-based company uses advanced methods to process various steel grades, red metals, nickel products and exotic metals to exacting specifications and requirements. 

Nucor Corp., Charlotte, announced plans to upgrade its engineered bar mill in Nebraska to better serve the automotive market and meet customers’ needs for higher quality products. The modernization project includes a new reheat furnace, new intermediate mill, and coil inspection and trimming station.

U.S. Steel decided to set aside the casting and rolling and cogeneration plant at Mon Valley Works. The decision is part of the company’s efforts to find decarbonization solutions.

JSW Steel USA Ohio Inc. signed a long-term agreement to supply slabs to Allegheny Technologies Inc. JSW converts carbon steel slabs manufactured at the company’s Mingo Junction, Ohio, facility into hot-rolled coils for ATI’s Hot Rolling and Processing facility in Brackenridge, Pa. 

A group of more than 300 businesses involved in manufacturing, including several service centers, called on President Joe Biden to terminate the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs immediately. The tariffs were enacted in 2018 by former President Donald Trump. 

The Copper and Brass Servicenter Association announced plans to host its first Red Metals Summit in September in Tampa, Fla. The event would be the first in-person meeting for the trade group since 2019. 

Third Quarter
David Samrick, retired CEO and chairman of Mill Steel Co. and 2014 recipient of the Service Center Executive of the Year honor, passed away at the age of 77. Earlier in the year he turned over leadership of the company to his niece, Pam Heglund. 

Friedman Industries announced plans to construct a new coil processing facility in Sinton, Texas. Steel Dynamics invited Friedman to locate the facility on the campus of the new 3-million-ton flat-rolled mill. 

Triple-S Steel Holdings Inc., Houston, acquired Los Angeles-based Rolled Steel Products and E&E Steel. The two companies, founded in 1956 and under the ownership of the Alperson family since 1973, supply precision strip and flat-rolled products to a diverse range of customers in Southern California.

Paragon Steel, Butler, Ind., acquired Ohio steel distributor Buckeye Metals Industries, a growing distributor of carbon steel with an extensive network of suppliers and processing partners. Buckeye Metals is located in Cleveland. 
 
Chesterfield, Mo.-based Bull Moose Tube Company, a Caparo Bull Moose subsidiary, began construction of a 350,000-ton-per-year HSS and sprinkler pipe mill on Steel Dynamics’ new Sinton, Texas, flat-rolled campus. 

Steel production began at Tenaris’s first melt shop in the United States in Koppel, Pa. The facility supplies steel bars for its seamless pipe mills in the U.S. and Canada.

JSW Steel (USA) Inc. and JSW USA Steel Ohio Inc. filed a federal court lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas against Nucor, U.S. Steel Corp. and Cleveland-Cliffs. The companies allege the defendants conspired to boycott and refused to supply JSW with slabs beginning in 2018 and continuing through the present.

Global red metals company Wieland acquired the Miller Company, a Meriden, Conn.-based distributor of a range of copper-based alloy strip products across the U.S. The agreement was concluded through an asset purchase transaction. 

Alro Metals opened a new Alro Metals Outlet at 5119 Executive Blvd. in Fort Wayne, Ind. The 10,600-square-foot store carries a broad range of metals and plastics in a convenient retail setting. 

Steel Dynamics Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., announced a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 for its EAF steel mill operations. 

Members of the United Steelworkers ratified a new four-year contract with specialty steel maker Allegheny Technologies Inc. The new deal raises wages, provides lump-sum payments and protects affordable, high-quality health care for current and future workers, the USW claims.

U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Equinor US to study the potential for carbon capture and storage and hydrogen development in the tri-state region of Ohio.

Cleveland-Cliffs opted to demolish the Ashland Works facility that accompanied its 2020 acquisition of AK Steel. The facility was idled in 2019. 

Algoma Steel Inc. announced its intent to transition to electric arc furnace steelmaking as part of its commitment to becoming Canada’s “greenest” flat-rolled steel producer. The company received a commitment of up to $420 million from the Canadian federal government to support the shift. 

Hummock Industries, Reading, Pa., acquired Roseville, Mich.-based National Bronze Manufacturing. National Bronze has expertise in precision machined bronze bearings, bushings and wear plates, as well as copper alloy bar and tube distribution.

Evraz North America broke ground in Pueblo, Colo. on a $500 million long rail mill, the Pueblo Chieftan reported. The mill will have the capacity to make 1/4-mile long sections of rail.  

Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co., Los Angeles, acquired Merfish United, a master distributor of tubular building products. Merfish United is held by One Equity Partners, a middle market private equity firm.  

Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp. acquired Rebel Steel. Founded in 1981 in Nashville, Tenn., Rebel Steel is a service center specializing in slitting of cold-rolled and coated steels. The company also does toll processing of other customers’ materials.

Copper and Brass Sales, a thyssenKrupp Materials NA company, introduced a new eCommerce website to customers. Previously, customers had been able to request quotes online through the company’s customer portal.  

Global copper producer Aurubis AG announced its plans to divest several of its coil processing facilities in Europe. The company will sell its processing plant in Zutphen  in The Netherlands as well as the slitting centers in Birmingham, UK, Dolny Kubin, Slovakia and Mortara, Italy.
  
ArcelorMittal and the government of Canada announced the investment of $1.4 billion as part of the steelmaker’s decarbonization efforts. As part of the plan, ArcelorMittal will install new DRI and EAF plants at its Dofasco facility in Hamilton, Ontario, designed to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent. 

Fourth Quarter
Ryerson Holding Corp., Chicago, acquired Specialty Metals Processing, a toll processor based in Stow, Ohio. SMP processes stainless steel, aluminum, titanium and nickel alloy products in a variety of industries, including aerospace.

Majestic Steel, Cleveland, acquired the assets of Merit Steel USA. Merit is a West Coast-based steel service center headquartered in Pittsburgh, Calif., with additional locations in Fontana, Calif., and Longview, Wash.

Alro Steel, Jackson, Mich., acquired Metal Stock, a Philadelphia-based master distributor. The acquisition allows Alro to grow its customer base, while providing improved service for cut-to-size metals and plastics.

Samuel, Son & Co., Limited, announced plans for a new automotive processing facility in Querétaro, Mexico. Full ramp up of production was expected this month.  

SAF, a global metals distributor, fabricator, and finisher, expanded its capacity and capabilities with the opening of a new manufacturing location in Temple, Texas. 

Steel Dynamics Inc. acquired 45 percent of the service center company New Process Steel. The Houston-based New Process Steel is a metals solutions and distribution supply-chain management company headquartered with a focus toward growing its value-added manufacturing applications.

Olympic Steel, Cleveland, sold all its Detroit assets and operations to Canada’s Venture Steel Inc.  The business operates from a 250,000-square-foot facility in Detroit and services customers throughout the Midwest. 

Cleveland-based Olympic Steel Inc. acquired the assets of Shaw Stainless & Alloy, Inc. Terms were not disclosed. Shaw, based in Powder Springs, Ga., is a full-line distributor of stainless steel sheet, pipe, tube, bar and angles.  

Kloeckner Metals Corp. broke ground on a new service center facility in Parque Industrial O’Donnell Fase V, Aeropuerto in Queretaro, Mexico. The new 84,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in spring 2022. 

Triple-S Steel Supply Co., Houston, acquired BMG Metals from Descours and Cabaud. BMG is an established distributor serving the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Ryerson signed a lease for a build-to-suit 900,000-square-foot service center facility in University Park, Ill. The site serves as the new headquarters and operational hub for Central Steel & Wire.
 
United States Steel Corporation began an exploratory site selection process to locate a new minimill in the United States. The company’s board authorized the process to locate a new 3-million-ton flat-rolled facility. 

Specialty materials producer ATI started up a new electric arc furnace at its Latrobe, Pa., facility.  

Commercial Metals Company announced plans to sell the land under its former Steel California and Rebar Etiwanda operations, located in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. The company’s Steel California operations ceased in December 2020. 

JD Fields & Company acquired the steel piling products line of business from L.B. Foster Company. The transaction was for an estimated $24 million. 

Nucor Corp. announced plans to build a new 3-million-ton sheet mill. The company is evaluating locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Owen Industries, Inc., Carter Lake, Iowa, acquired the assets of Omaha Steel in Wahoo, Neb. The acquisition provides OII an opportunity to acquire a newly built facility, considered one of the strongest and most capable steel foundries in the U.S.

Canada’s Russel Metals acquired Boyd Metals, Fort Smith, Ark. Boyd Metals operates five service centers in Fort Smith and Little Rock in Arkansas, Joplin, Mo., Oklahoma City and Tyler, Texas. 

Target Steel, Flat Rock, Mich., opened an additional 70,000-square-foot metals processing and warehousing facility in Gibraltar, Mich. This facility marks the sixth processing location in the Target family of companies. 

Jack Bernstein of Sioux City, Iowa-based State Steel was the recipient of the 2021 Metal Center News’ Service Center Executive of the Year. 

The merger of Canada’s Algoma Steel Inc. and acquisitions company Legato Merger Corp. was completed. The deal resulted in Algoma becoming a public company. 

Worthington Industries, Columbus, Ohio, acquired Tempel Steel Company, a leading manufacturer of precision motor and transformer laminations for the electrical steel market. Tempel is included in the company’s Steel Processing segment.
 
Red Bud Industries announced plans to expand its manufacturing facility in Red Bud, Ill., by approximately 55,000 square feet, bringing the facility’s total space to over 250,000 square feet.  

President Joe Biden signed the long-awaited $1 trillion infrastructure bill following passage by both houses of Congress. The deal was applauded by several trade groups in the metals industry. 

The United States Commerce Department announced plans to replace the existing Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum with new tariff-rate quotas. The new deals went into effect Jan. 1. 

The World Steel Association projected steel demand will grow an additional 2.2 percent this year to 1.9 billion tons. This follows a 4.5 percent growth in demand in 2021, the Brussels-based group projects. 

Caption:
Low stock levels were the rules for most metals warehouses.  (Photo by Dan Markham)