A Steel Merchant imports steel for use in the construction industry. Such companies must have extensive warehousing facilities to carry a large inventory. This is necessary to meet the various needs of the industry and avoid delays.
Often the steel merchant holds stock that the Fabricator wants supplied on a Just-In-Time basis. This calls for forward planning and good communications. The steel merchant must monitor the demand from fabricators and place orders on his suppliers.
There are two distinct categories of steel products: long and flat. Long products are typically obtained from electric arc furnaces that use scrap as the raw material. The main long products are:
- Structural beams, channels and columns
- These are used in commercial and domestic construction and are often referred to as I & C sections.
- Merchant bar (flat, round, square, angle)
- These are used in construction and most other steel applications.
- Reinforcing round bar
- Used primarily in concrete construction.
- Hollow sections
- (pipe as well as square and rectangular).
Flat products are usually produced by blast furnace mills, which use iron ore as the raw material. Plate refers to flat products that are more than 3mm thick, up to a maximum 250mm. Because of cost considerations, customers tend to order pieces cut to size.
This requires modern plasma and oxy cutting machines, complementary plate processing equipment and materials handling to ensure efficient throughput.
Flat steel under 3mm is generally referred to as coil. In earlier times, the steel mills provided processing, but as service demands have increased, this function has moved into distribution. Customers are typically major manufacturers who require the supplier to perform as an integrated part of their business.
- The National Certificate in Materials Management (Level 3) is the basic qualification for people working in materials management. The qualification covers the following compulsory skills and knowledge:
- Basic knowledge of storage and materials handling at manufacturing and other industrial sites
- Receiving and processing Inwards goods and materials
- Storing, issuing, dispatching and returning goods and materials
- Monitoring inventory
- Application of safety practices in materials management
- In addition, there is a choice of elective standards to allow for various work situations:
- Communications and listening skills
- Managing First Aid in emergencies, including resuscitation
- Forklift truck license
- Distribution of goods and materials
- Developing and maintaining quality assurance procedures for materials management
In addition to warehousing, distribution and administration, steel merchants also need a sales team. To join such a team and participate in a structured cadetship, the employee is required to have good senior secondary school results in Mathematics and English, usually with a technical background or interest. Industry experience quickly surpasses the value of formal qualifications. Career path options include internal sales, but a likely path for the best and the brightest would be sales representative, sales manager, branch manager and general manager sales.