Copper & Brass
Monday | 06 December, 2010 | 4:32 am

Fast and flexible

By Lauren Duensing

December 2010 - The flexibility to change and adapt quickly to business demands has helped Christy Metals, Northbrook, Ill., succeed since 1965 as a family-run business among many large, multinational companies in the metals industry.

Christy Metals manufactures standard and custom nonferrous sheet metal products in a variety of forms, including strips, sheets, wires, tubes, coils and bars. Its metal inventory includes brass alloys, copper, phosphor bronze alloys, stainless steel, nickel alloys, cupro nickel, nickel silvers and zinc strip alloys. The company works in a variety of markets and is able to provide multiple services, such as cut-to-length, electroplating, traverse winding and slitting.

Being one of the few family-run businesses left in the industry is an advantage, says Christy Helms, company president. "Whether it means having people stay until midnight to make sure the trucks are loaded or deliveries are met or working weekends...we are quick to react," he says, noting some large companies are not able to be as flexible. "If somebody is in trouble and they haven't foreseen that an order was going to come through to their customer, so they will be shut down, we will make arrangements so that the truck will literally be in Texas by the next morning."

As market needs changed throughout the recession, the company's flexibility was an asset, says Lance Shelton, vice president of sales with Christy Metals. Customers have shorter lead times, and they are running smaller quantities. "They don't want to buy a large amount in one quick shot and then hold it. They would much rather have it be there on a certain time on a certain day, run it through the machine and then have the next load show up as soon as that one is getting ready to finish up," he says.

Indeed, many companies have smaller orders but they are requesting material more frequently, says Helms. "We have a lot of people now that don't forecast what they will be running at a weekly or monthly basis, so we do a lot of last-minute, hot-rush orders," he says.

Christy Metals also has an in-house tin line, which enables it to electroplate and hot-tin at its facility. While other companies without in-house tin lines may have lead times of two to three weeks, Christy Metals can provide hot-tin dip and electro tin in a week or less, says Shelton.

Close relationships
Healthy relationships with its employees, clients and mill partners also has helped Christy Metals succeed. The expertise of the company's employees helps keep projects moving quickly, says Helms. Many employees have been with the company for more than 20 years, he notes.

Additionally, "we are very close to our customer base, so we are working hand in hand," says Helms. "We are making sure that the partnership is working both ways so that as they have been growing over the years, we have been growing along with them."

Christy Metals has worked to develop strong relationships with its mills as well, says Shelton, noting the company has worked with some of the same mills for 30 to 40 years. "We are dealing with the same suppliers we have been partnering with since the beginning," he says.

Shelton and Helms anticipate growth and continued success for the company in the future. "We are looking at some new equipment in the future so we will be able to increase capacity. We are looking at opening another warehouse," says Helms.

"I think that at the end of the day, the longevity of Christy Metals and the future is definitely that we are going to continue to grow," says Shelton. MM

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