Tube & Pipe
Wednesday | 11 October, 2017 | 10:28 am

Stable supply

By Gretchen Salois

Tube suppliers join forces to create plentiful inventory and flexible high-speed production capacity

October 2017 - It’s been over a century since a single bullet pierced Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s neck while driving through Sarajevo, thrusting the world into the onslaught of World War I. Ford Motor Co. announced its eight-hour workday paying a daily wage of $5 and Charlie Chaplin made his film debut. The world has changed in countless ways, but founded in 1914, Chicago Tube & Iron has endured.

CTI is a supplier of round mechanical tubing; square, rectangular and round tubing; hydraulic tubing; hot-rolled and cold-finished bar; stainless pipe, tube and bar; aluminum pipe, tube and bar; carbon steel pipe; valves and fittings; boiler tubing; and ASME pressure parts. CTI laser cuts product to length on eight tube lasers, and provides bending, welding and production cutting services.

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Independence Tube runs two shifts a day to produce structural tube and pipe products.

“Over the years, more of our customers need high-quality products with first-, second- and third-step processing parts that meet specific tolerances,” says Bill Zielinski, executive vice president. “So we rely on our vendors to assist us with those requirements. Independence Tube has been one of our reliable go-to suppliers for years.”

Independence Tube has reliable rolling schedules that allow CTI to fulfill customer forecasts. “We need to make sure the mills we deal with are on time,” and Independence does a solid job meeting those obligations,” Zielinski says.

Prepared for the unexpected

Customer needs ebb and flow throughout the year and CTI must provide a quick and efficient response to demand. “That’s why it is important CTI maintains ample inventory at our eight service centers,” Zielinski says. The distributor places orders into Independence Tube’s rolling schedules but “we can also purchase from [floor stock] inventory when the need arises.”

As order volume increases, so too have fabrication demands. “CTI continually reinvests in our enterprise to support an ever-changing market,” Zielinski says. “Accuracy and tolerance control are key elements in today’s market and CTI has invested in tube lasers and production cutting equipment that has the capability to provide tolerances as tight as 0.005-inches.”

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Independence Tube ensures that customers like Chicago Tube & Iron can meet unexpected spikes in demand by keeping inventory on hand.

United front

Acquired by Nucor Corp. last year, Independence Tube Corp. is known for its quality products, rolling schedule and customer portal, where customers can easily look at stock, open orders and any paperwork, such as mill certifications.

Many customers turn to Independence Tube because it is easy to do business and the producer can provide odd or difficult-to-find sizes, says Jim O’Shea, inside sales manager. “We’re willing to look at odd sizes and, if we can’t provide what they need, we’ll make sure they’re taken care of through our network of suppliers.”

With four locations, Independence Tube’s headquarters is in Chicago. The producer continues to broaden its product range and recently added ASTM A53 grade B-pipe in lengths ranging from 21 feet to 42 feet. ASTM A53 covers welded black and hot-dipped galvanized electric resistance welded (ERW) steel pipe, in sizes 2 inch Schedule 10 through 8 inch Schedule 40 pipe out of its Trinity, Alabama facility.

Independence Tube seam anneals and hydrostatic tests in-line in per ASTM A53, which can be run bare or coated black and is FM/UL approved.

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CTI laser cuts product to length on eight tube lasers, and provides bending, welding and production cutting services.

Three months ago, Independence Tube added ASTM A135 and A795 fire protection sprinkler pipe to its offerings. Fire protection sprinkler pipe has a black coating for corrosion resistance. It is coated again with Independence Tube MIC Guard, a specialty water-based waxy emulsion corrosion inhibitor, and biostatic MIC Preventative for steel alone or in the presence of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC). ITC Mic is FM- and NSF-approved.

“We had some open time on the mill so it was an easy transition to get to those ASTM numbers based on sizes the Trinity facility can produce,” O’Shea says.

Nucor’s acquisition of Independence Tube has effectively streamlined the supply chain for their mutual customer base. Nucor sheet mills provide Independence Tube with coils which the pipe producer then rolls in its own mills. Along with Independence Tube, Nucor acquired Southland Tube Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, and Republic Conduit in Louisville.

Independence Tube’s structural tube group, now linked with the tubular group from Southland, has turned one-time competitors into sister companies. “Right now we’re focusing on pulling the rope in the same direction as Nucor continues to develop its tubular group,” O’Shea says.

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Acquired by Nucor Corp. last year, Independence Tube is working to streamline its supply chain for their mutual customer base.

About 85 percent of Independence Tube customers are distributors. “Like CTI, which processes and bundle breaks tubing, we help get the structural tubing out to customers so they can turn it into final products, such as racks or exercise or agricultural equipment,” O’Shea says.

Independence Tube runs two shifts a day to produce structural tube and pipe products. “We’re open at 10:30 p.m. Sundays through 10:30 p.m. Fridays, shipping 24 hours, by appointment,” O’Shea says.

Two years ago, Independence Tube began transitioning to appointment-based schedules because of truck shortages and driver hours-of-service rules. “Because the drivers are on the clock for 11 hours, having appointment times lets them gauge when they can come in for certain loads so they’re not waiting in a queue for a door to open so we can load them,” O’Shea says. “Appointment schedules have made shipping to our customers and customer pickups easier.”

Structural tube supply is a steady business for CTI. “When we have spikes in demand, Independence Tube’s on-hand inventory has allowed CTI to meet the demands of the marketplace,” Zielinski says. “They’ve turned on a dime for us when the need arose.” MM

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