This guide was written to simplify the metal purchasing process, focusing on how purchasing managers can navigate the middle ground between suppliers and your customers.
In a career that is valuable but rarely easy, you’re accustomed to accomplishing what needs to be done. And in this guide, we’re sharing some information and advice you can apply to your work as a purchasing manager.
We’ll begin with an overview of common uses for a variety of metals. Then, we’ll cover a few tips and tricks for busy purchasing managers. These will include:
Finally, we finish out the guide with something I wish I’d had access to at the beginning of my career: a glossary of industry terms. Instead of having to search all over, it’s great to have all the definitions in one place.
So, feel welcome to move freely throughout this guide, navigating to whatever section is most useful to you. It’s my hope that what’s contained in these pages will help your processes and give you more time to do what you do best.
Director of Sales
Mead Metals, Inc.
ASTM B194 | Alloy 172
BeCu, Alloy 25, Copper Beryllium
ASTM A240/A666 | AISI 301 | AISI 302/204
Tempered Stainless Steel
ASTM B103 | Alloy 510
ASTM B36 | Alloy 260
ASTM B152 | Alloy 110
Electrolytic Tough Pitch (ETP)
CRS, Mild Steel
Strip Steel, Cold Rolled Strip
ASTM A684 | AISI 1050 | AISI 1074 AISI 1075 | AISI 1095
Annealed Spring Steel
1075 Scaleless Blue Tempered Spring Steel
1095 Blue Tempered Spring Steel
When a customer places an order but they call out the wrong material for their application, who loses? Obviously the customer loses time and money, and you might as well. But even if the customer has to deal with the fallout, a lot of soft costs land on your shoulders.
The time spent resourcing, certifying, and rescheduling to get the right material usually becomes your problem, and seldom does the customer understand that you have other priorities. When you have a good understanding of metal, along with its common applications, properties, and general traits, you are more able to advise your customer and save both of you plenty of headaches.
The best way to avoid quality concerns is by sourcing through a known supplier, but what about when your go-to guy doesn’t have the material you need? If you are considering a new supplier, be sure they have their qualifications and credentials front and center. Then, rely on reviews and testimonials to figure out how other purchasing managers have fared with this supplier.
Finally, check out their response time. If a supplier answers your question or quote request quickly, it’s a sign of great customer service.
Reliable delivery is essential in today’s “just in time” environment. Even if your order leaves the supplier’s facility in perfect condition, every step of the shipping process provides an opportunity for material damage. Some suppliers guarantee your order if it goes through their preferred shippers.
If this is an option, I recommend taking it. After all, if a material supplier has already built up a relationship with a freight provider in their area, it’s likely your best bet.
When your customer needs a dozen pieces of sheet metal and your regular supplier only sells them by the hundred, what do you do? Do you order the surplus and inventory the rest? While a lot of suppliers apply minimum order quantities to material shipments, there are a growing number of suppliers who specialize in providing high-quality metals in smaller quantities.
Whether your top concerns have more to do with quality or compliance, sourcing from a material supplier who meets current government regulations is a must. You shouldn’t have to search too hard to find out if a supplier is qualified or compliant. Instead, work with a company that posts their certifications on their website. This way, you can place your purchase order with the peace-of-mind knowing the materials you receive meet regulations.
The standard certification you need to look for is ISO 9000 and 9001. And depending on your customer’s industry, you should make sure the supplier provides material that is RoHS and/or DFARS compliant.
Stands for American Iron and Steel Institute. The institute serves as the voice of the North American steel industry. AISI numbers are used to categorize metals by alloy type and carbon content, and they do it with four digits. The first two digits of an AISI number refer to the alloy type, and the second two digits refer to carbon content.
A metal made by combining two or more metallic elements. An alloy typically possesses qualities different from those of the components used to create it.
Stands for American Society for Metals. ASM International is the world’s largest association of metal material engineers and scientists. The association engages and connects materials professionals and their organizations to the resources necessary to solve problems, improve outcomes, and advance society.
Stands for American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM International is a not-for-profit organization that develops standards for materials, products, systems, and services. Metal with an ASTM designation meets the international standards for quality and regulations.
This process levels coil into a flat sheet or blank. The service provides better length and width tolerances than sheared product, and it can improve diagonal tolerances as well.
Cutting metals can leave behind burrs, which are unwanted pieces of material. Deburring is the process of removing these burrs with a tool.
Drawing is a metalworking process that uses tensile forces to stretch metal. As the metal is drawn, it stretches thinner, into a desired shape and thickness.
Drawing is usually done at room temperature, classifying it as a cold working process. However, it may be performed at elevated temperatures during special applications like on large wires, rods, or hollow sections in order to reduce forces.
A metal fabricating term that refers to the degree to which a material can be bent, stretched, or compressed before rupturing. A metal’s elongation is a point between tensile strength and yield strength, and it is typically expressed as a percentage of the original length.
The thickness of sheet metal in the USA is commonly specified by a traditional, non-linear measure known as its gauge. The larger the gauge number, the thinner the metal.
A heat number is an identification number that is stamped on a material plate to prove it meets industry quality standards which require materials to be tested by the manufacturer. The heat lot or heat number is used to identify production runs for quality control purposes.
Edge rolling is the process of adding finishing edges to metal. It forms the edge of a strip to the desired shape beyond that of a standard slit edge.
Stands for Military Standard. This classification establishes uniform engineering and technical requirements for military-unique or substantially modified commercial processes, procedures, practices, and methods. In order to qualify, materials have undergone rugged, exact testing, equal to the exigencies of combat use.
Normalization is a heat treatment that relieves stress on steel to improve ductility and toughness in steels that may harden after the cold working process. During normalization, steel is warmed to a temperature just above its upper critical point. Normalized heat treatment facilitates later heat treatment operations and produces a more uniform final product.
The Rockwell Scale indicates the hardness of materials. Rockwell hardness numbers are most often used to describe the hardness of metals, although they are also used for some plastics. The Rockwell scale is based on measuring the depth of the indentation made by pressing a diamond point into a material.
Stands for Society of Automotive Engineers. SAE International is a global association of engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries. Materials meeting SAE standards are internationally recognized for safety, quality, and effectiveness.
Slitting is a precise shearing process, but instead of making cuts at the end of a workpiece like shearing, slitting cuts a wide coil of metal into a number of narrower coils as the main coil is moved through the slitter. During the slitting process, the metal coil passes lengthwise through the slitter’s circular blades.
Temper refers to reheating hardened, normalized, or mechanically worked steel to a temperature below the critical range to soften it and improve impact strength. Tempering results in greater toughness by decreasing an alloy’s hardness.
The maximum stress a material will withstand before fracturing or breaking. The ultimate tensile strength is calculated from the maximum load applied during the test, divided by the original cross-sectional area.
Stands for the Unified Numbering System for Metals and Alloys. UNS designation provides a means of correlating internationally used metal and alloy numbering systems currently administered by societies, trade associations, and those individual users and producers of metals and alloys. This system is meant to avoid the confusion caused by using more than one identification number for the same metal or alloy, and the opposite situation of having the same number assigned to two or more different metals or alloys.
The amount of stress a material can withstand before causing permanent deformity.
Founded in 1961, Mead Metals began operations in North Minneapolis supplying brass, steel, and other metals to defense contractors, fabricators, and stamping companies.
Today, Mead Metals is the nation’s third largest distributor of Beryllium Copper. By specializing in high-quality, low-volume specialty metals, Mead Metals serves an ever-growing customer base all across the United States.
When you work with Mead Metals, you can count on receiving the right quantity at the right time. At the right price, every time.