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Coated Coil
Monday | 12 April, 2021 | 2:28 pm

Building a brand

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Vorteq Coil Finishers has nine coating lines from California to Pennsylvania, which puts it in a position to service a wider range of customers.

Larger footprint, digital platform helps finishing expert to nimbly service national accounts

April 2021 - Through acquisitions in key geographies, upgrades of its processing lines, and the creation of an interactive platform for rapidly communicating with customers, leadership at Vorteq Coil Finishers LLC believes the company is reaching its potential as a national presence.

“We closed an acquisition at the end of 2019,” says CEO Jim Dockey, in reference to Western Metal Decorating, since rebranded as Vorteq Pacific. “It was a well-run family business that performed coil and sheet coating.” The company’s owners, a brother and sister team, wanted to retire.

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Vorteq Pacific is installing a wider slitter to slice aluminum up to 55 inches wide and up to 0.80 gauge.

Within Vorteq’s long-term strategic plan, “we wanted to add capabilities or geography or both, and this one gave us a footprint on the West Coast,” Dockey says. Western Metal Decorating was the third acquisition completed over a four-year period. “Now we have nine coating lines dotting the landscape from California to Pennsylvania. This puts us in a position to service a wider range of customers, including national accounts like those that manufacture building products. And we are able to roll out to national businesses.”MM 0421 coated image4

Since acquiring the Rancho Cucamonga producer of coated aluminum and steel products, Vorteq hired more people to operate a second shift.

It also performed some equipment upgrades. These include “the entire entry end of the [coating] line, and we increased line speed through a change to the accumulator tower and recoiler; we are wrapping bigger coils,” Dockey explains.

Vorteq Pacific is also installing a wider slitter to slice aluminum up to 55 inches wide and up to 0.80 gauge. “A lot of metal comes from offshore. We can take wide coil from the Port of Long Beach, slit it and then paint it to building products widths.”

The California shop also has a 30-inch-wide slitter with a built-in embosser, which is a requirement for patio enclosures. The newer slitter “will also be able to go down to 2-inch cuts for window screen framing.”

More generally, the largest market for the Pacific location is a range of metal building products—soffits, fascia, gutter and downspout, trim, and edge metals for windows and doors.

Because there’s been a great deal of consolidation in the residential building products market—McKinsey & Co. found that in some areas, the top five manufacturers held 80 percent of market share—Vorteq has an opportunity to bring existing customers that are based in the Midwest out to the West Coast. “It’s a trick to do so, but we are on the edge” of being able to achieve that goal and simultaneously “position ourselves as a national brand,” rather than work on a region-by-region basis only.

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Nationwide, Vorteq has an all-time record backlog and an all-time record low inventory of bare metal.

Supply disruption

The supply chain around coil coating has been affected by the pandemic, now well past its first year of infecting the whole planet.

“There is a shortage of metal in the market, and everyone wants it painted,” says Dockey.

“Demand for building products is good but there is a rat race to buy bare steel and aluminum, whether from off shore or domestic product. People are struggling to get that.”

Nationwide, Vorteq has “an all-time record backlog and all-time record low inventory of bare metal. This creates pressure on scheduling and operating efficiencies. You don’t know what coil is coming in next. We take it off a truck and put it immediately on the line. It’s been a crazy market.”

He attributes the shortfall in metal supply to several factors: tariffs, consolidation of domestic producers and a fire that shut down production at a U.S. aluminum rolling mill.

In addition, “some chemical suppliers declared force majeure, which created raw material shortages for many paint companies. Whether it’s paint, metal or coil coating time,” the supply chain has gaps, Dockey says.

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Because the shortage continued past early autumn, he believes many customers seeking metal “made decisions between Thanksgiving and Christmas to buy offshore metal in spite of the cost. The price gap between foreign and domestic narrowed. That metal should start to arrive from India, the Middle East, etc.,” says Dockey. “We hope to see that flow around April. We are anxious to see a stronger flow of bare metals.”

Even more recently, “the thing that added fuel to the fire is that so many solvents and chemicals are made in Texas and the storm [in mid-February] impacted production there.” Due to damage from ice, “manufacturing was shut down for some days.” However, he believes those chemical suppliers “will get caught up soon.”

Overall, COVID-19 “has changed the way we do business,” Dockey says. We were always face to face in our relationships. The digital platform will be more important generally.”

The company created a customer portal called Quest. “It’s interactive and allows customers access” to inventories, order status, bills of lading, production reports, automated invoicing, shipping and receiving information, etc. “We are continuing to invest in that to make it more user friendly and accessible,” Dockey says. MM

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