Above: Karay Metals offers customers tubing in 20- to 24-foot lengths with each bundle containing tubes of equal, not varied, lengths.
An understanding of changing needs can offer better supply chain solutions
May 2014 - Change can be difficult. Companies that adjust to industry needs and difficulties survive and thrive through the years—like Karay Metals Inc. As it celebrates its 50th year as a service center supplying cold drawn steel tubes and other products, it is looking toward the future, maintaining its strengths while carefully planning expansion.
Established in 1946 by E.A. Karay as a trading company exporting agricultural equipment, steel products, powdered milk and rubber tires, Karay Metals has come a long way. While the service center’s offerings have changed through the years, its emphasis on the customer has remained steadfast.
It may seem like common sense to look after the customer but some companies approach this notion half-heartedly. “Some people will sell you a bill of goods and tell you to contact them if you run into any problems. [But] when that time comes, they respond with excuses instead,” says Demetrios Karayannides, president at Karay Metals, Woodstock, New York. “The way I was brought up, you look after customers, above everything else.”
No stranger to orders with special requirements, Karay Metals works with reputable manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad, stocking inventory in its Chicago warehouse in specific lengths, tolerances and bundle quantities. Karay Metals has developed close relationships with mills, going back 40 to 45 years.
Karay Metals’ inventory allows it to help customers with quick turnover requests, as Bedford Park, Illinois-based Dial Tube and Steel Co., has experienced firsthand on more than one occasion. “We’ve been working with them since 1990 and they’ve stood the test of time,” says Bob Stenzel, president of Dial Tube and Steel. “They’re not a fly-by-night, put-up-a-shingle-and-then-be-gone operation. They have always been highly ethical and competitive in the marketplace.”
Making an extra effort to consider what obstacles a customer might encounter is both sensible as well as helpful. Drawn over mandrel tubing typically comes in certain standard lengths, usually anywhere from 17 feet to 24 feet.
According to Karayannides, that standard range means each tube is a random length within that range. “A number of importers provide only 17 feet to 18.5 feet random lengths, which is in the acceptable range but not as useful as it only covers 22 percent of the standard size range,” he says. “Karay Metals supplies 20 feet to 24 feet, where each bundle contains tubes of equal length. The market prefers this size range.”
Dial Tube and Steel receives bundles that fall into Karay Metals’ 20- to 24-foot range but has also taken delivery of bundles in other ranges. “If the bundle is 22 feet, all the pieces in the bundle are 22 feet long and if it’s 24 feet, then all the pieces in that bundle are 24 feet long,” Stenzel explains, adding this convenience takes any guesswork out of what pieces measure in each bundle. “Most of the bundles we receive from [Karay] have fallen into the 20 feet to 24 feet random range.
Having bundles of uniform sizes is helpful to Dial Tube and Steel because while it may not seem like a large range, those variances can add up.
“A 4-foot or 7-foot spread can affect our productivity and instead, Karay Metals gives us bundles that range from 20 feet to 22 feet [for example]—a much more manageable range for us,” Stenzel says. “Most import mills tend not to be concerned with convenience for the customer where bundle lengths are concerned, but having consistent length bundles is extremely helpful.”
A master distributor, Dial Tube and Steel supplies other service centers serving a wide range of industries, including automotive, construction, agriculture, hydraulic and pneumatic cylinder applications.
Like many other service centers, it found that gauging inventory needs accurately after the recession hit can be tricky.
“Karay Metals has a warehouse in the Chicago area so during the difficult or slower times, we used that ready-inventory quite extensively,” Stenzel says. “If there was something we needed as soon as possible, we were able to do it because Karay Metals was able to supply us with the needed material. Whether the material was on a ship on the water or at the mill, we knew when we were receiving inventory and could rely on it.”
Quantity with quality
Through the years, Karay Metals has come across a number of situations facing customers and has developed strategies to help meet customer needs. “We know the bottlenecks in this business, where the problems can occur,” Karayannides says. “Karay Metals is all about the ease of
conducting business—a competitive convenience that should be considered prior to making a buying decision. [We] believe in operating with purpose and principle,” he continues. “As a result, we remain a healthy company experiencing rapid expansion through our supply chain partners and growing customer base.”
For example, Karay Metals only supplies DOM and hydraulic fluid line tubing in cut lengths. Though it costs Karay more, it removes the guesswork, saving customers time and costs. “Our clients expect the highest standards,” Karayannides says. “Product that leaves our Chicago facility undergoes rigorous inspection, resulting in less than a half-percent return rate.”
As the industry evolves, so too has Karay Metals, adding additional product to its offerings as well as increasing its DOM size range up to 0.438 inch wall thickness and bringing in HSS jumbo sizes. “Such changes stem in large part from customer feedback,” Karayannides adds, noting Karay Metals stays tuned into what customers need in order to keep current with demand.
Price and reliability on orders are expected but when it comes to integrity, Karay Metals is another reason why Dial Tube stays with the provider.
“When we have material on order and lead time is eight weeks but we get the opportunity for a bundle quantity [order]—say for 5,000 feet or 5,000 pounds worth of material—we can scramble and look at Karay Metals’ list and see if they have it,” Stenzel says. “We contact them and get it in the window we need—those can be crucial times when we’re caught between incoming and immediate need. Karay Metals can fill that hole.”
The marketplace has changed and the approach to inventory management, such a critical component of the supply chain, is vastly different from even 10 years ago, says Stenzel.
“Our customer base no longer wants to hold inventory, it’s just not cost effective for them in a lot of cases,” Stenzel says. “But when they come to us, they expect that inventory order fast. We play that role, filling in stock-outs and supporting customers with sizes that they do not want to purchase or carry at the mill level. And Karay Metals helps us meet those needs by making their inventory available to customers like us.” MM