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Thursday | 19 March, 2009 | 5:25 am

An opportunistic opening

By Andy Barks

March 2009 - If location is a measure of business success, then the people at Friedman Industries Inc., Houston, have the right idea. A wholesale manufacturer and distributor of steel coil, plate, sheet and tubing products, Friedman recently expanded into a strategically placed new facility.

The steel coil processing plant in Decatur, Ala., allowed Friedman to capitalize on the site's proximity to a Nucor Corp. mill, which sits on the adjacent lot.

Tempering costs with temper-passing
Friedman's facility, which began operation in August 2008, was built specifically for temper-passing and leveling equipment--most often used to remove distortions from coiled steel. And although sitting on the same 47-acre plot as Nucor certainly makes for a pleasant neighborhood, it's always been Friedman's preference to situate itself by a major steel mill.

"When it comes to costs, there's no way around it," says Robert Sparkman, Friedman's vice president of sales. "Costs are cut through the accessibility of the materials, as well as the production increase. That's primarily a result of the immediate supply that's consistently on hand."

Consistency is also enhanced through the temper-passing process, which aims to flatten steel and diminish its blemishes. The method is especially effective on higher-strength steels. Temper-passing is a time-, space- and money-saver, eliminating slower and older machinery that consistently runs up costs and creates backlogs.

An expanding network
Decatur wasn't chosen as Friedman's newest site solely because of its proximity to Nucor. Rather, it was a hand-picked location based on the processing network Friedman is establishing in the Deep South. A coil processing site is in Hickman, Ark., and the Texas Tubular Products division forms the third point on the distribution triangle in Lone Star, Texas.

Theoretically, that network will establish Friedman as a premier distributor in the region, and the growing relationship with Nucor certainly helps. But the proximity also allows the company to watch its own back.

"Each location can pick the others up," says Sparkman. "If we need something in Hickman or in Texas, we can get it there from [Decatur] without much problem."

It's an intelligent approach--and a necessary one for a company that advertises its reliability and inventory. Selling primarily to distributors and fabricators, Friedman can potentially create a ring around its region of influence with some sustained success. MM

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