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A year ago, it was product quality. This year, it's product availability. In a year when demand sagged while transaction prices spiked up, lowest price wasn't a primary criterion for choosing or rating steel suppliers anyway. But what has surprised buyers has been inconsistent availability--and erratic delivery--of needed mill products from mills or service centers. Product quality, they say, isn't the issue this year.
For two years now, various surveys have found buyers pressing their steel mill suppliers and processing distributors to upgrade inventory management systems. They felt that would insure needed steel products would be available, and they had believed their domestic suppliers had been listening. Apparently, that hasn't happened, buyers report. But it may happen soon since the manufacturing economy is in disarray and steel purchasing is in decline, warehouse inventories are accumulating, market prices are accelerating their slide and mills are reported to be begging for orders.
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