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Thursday | 25 September, 2014 | 7:58 am

Service first and foremost

By Corinna Petry

Above: Churchill Steel Plate Ltd. installed a new Hy-Def plasma cutting machine to process plate orders for its customers.

Plate processing startup claims to be making an impact

September 2014 - “Customers were calling us immediately, asking, are you burning steel yet?” That’s the question most often asked of Churchill Steel Plate Ltd. President Jim Stevenson when the company opened its facility in Twinsburg, Ohio, in January and started cutting and shipping product in February.

In a short seven months since Stevenson— a former regional sales manager for Castle Metals—and Churchill’s two owners opened the business, they’ve more than doubled its workforce from 12 to 26 people in order to meet the growing amount of work orders coming in. 

Churchill is located in the former Oliver Steel facility, which remained in the possession of its original owners Jim Fleming and Kirk Mooney after A.M. Castle & Co. consolidated that operation into another service center in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Oliver relocated at the end of 2013 as the Twinsburg lease expired.

“The guys that sold the business to Castle in 1998 still owned the building,” says Stevenson. As they sought to rent the property, some of the employees questioned the former owners about starting a business again. After much thought, Fleming and Mooney decided to give the plate business another go.

Equipment operations

“We have seven machines up and running: 6 oxy-fuel burning machines and one high-definition plasma cutting system.” Four of the machines are new, three are rebuilt.

“We have a small annealing furnace we are using to anneal, stress relieve and normalize plate. We are in the process of installing a new furnace that will be 144 inches wide by 277 inches long,” says Stevenson.

Churchill is currently stocking around 4,000 tons of inventory. “Our sales continue to grow every month and we are well ahead of our projections,” he says.

How did success come so quickly? “Through the consolidation of small service centers into large national chains, customer service was compromised,” Stevenson contends. “We are small, customer oriented, flexible, nimble and able to do things most customers don’t get from larger competitors: Fast delivery and quick response times.”

Lead times for mill direct plate and for plate processing services have risen this year so Churchill’s entrance was well timed. “I want to provide a response to customer inquiries in hours, not days. We are burning plate in two to three days after receiving an order, which is faster than the big guys,” claims Stevenson, adding, “We have to do a better job by making it easy for customers to come our way via response time, pricing, lead time, whatever they want.” As a result, “We are picking up new customers from all over the country.” 

Churchill stocks and processes carbon and alloy steel plate through 120 inches wide and up to 15 inches thick. In addition to fresh inventory and new equipment, Churchill has three trucks on the road every day.

“I am cautiously optimistic about future plate demand. There are things going on with tanks and railcar and energy and bridgework. That is why domestic mill lead times have extended. We plan on additional growth next year, but much of that will be market share,” says Stevenson. MM 

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