The Complete Guide

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:

  • Avoiding quality issues with metal products
  • Overcoming shipping concerns
  • Sourcing minimum quantities
  • Meeting government regulations
  • Ensuring domestic sourcing

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.

Know Your Metals

Sometimes getting the right metal for the right job takes a little digging. There are times when your customers know exactly what they need, and other times they may have a good idea but are unsure when it comes to variables like temper, alloy, and physical properties. You may encounter customers who know the intended application but are unsure which metal will get them the desired result.

Knowing a metal’s trade names, traits, and common uses is your best bet for getting your customers the materials they need - in the quantities they request - while keeping communication between yourself and your suppliers clear.

Beryllium Copper stacked coils

Beryllium Copper

ASTM B194 | Alloy 172

Also Known As

BeCu, Alloy 25, Copper Beryllium

  • High electrical and thermal conductivity and high ductility
  • Can be stamped into complex shapes with tight tolerances
  • Good corrosion and oxidation resistance
  • Excellent metalworking, forming, and machining qualities
Common Uses
  • Electronic connector contacts
  • Non-sparking applications
  • Small springs
  • Computer components
  • Telecommunications products
  • Precision measurement devices
  • Aerospace applications
Stainless Steel stacked coils

Stainless Steel

ASTM A240/A666 | AISI 301 | AISI 302/204

Also Known As

Tempered Stainless Steel


AISI 301

  • Hardens through the cold working process more quickly than other grades
  • Excellent corrosion and heat resistance
  • Especially well-suited for applications requiring drawing, stamping, or forming

AISI 302/304

  • Austenitic
  • Delivers even greater corrosion and heat resistance than 301 stainless steel
  • Ideal for applications which employ laser and etching processes
Common Uses
  • Automotive industry applications
  • Food processing and handling
  • Medical applications
Phosphor Bronze stacked coils

Phosphor Bronze

ASTM B103 | Alloy 510


Phos Bronze

  • Very good resistance to corrosion and fatigue
  • Good electrical conductivity
  • Very good product for strength performance and spring applications
  • Low coefficient of friction
  • Fine grain
  • Springs
  • Switch parts
  • Fuse clips
  • Electrical connectors
  • Lock washers
  • Welding rods
  • Ship propellers
  • Dental bridges
Brass Coils on Shelf


ASTM B36 | Alloy 260

  • An alloy of copper and zinc. The proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties
  • Popular in low-friction applications
  • Highest ductility of yellow brass products
  • Very good resistance to weathering and can be used in corrosive environments
  • Electrical components
  • Appliance parts
  • Fasteners
  • Connectors
  • Ammunition components
  • Gears
  • Bearings
Copper Coil Stacked


ASTM B152 | Alloy 110


Electrolytic Tough Pitch (ETP)

  • Good ductility with good electrical and thermal conductivity
  • 100% IACS minimum electrical conductivity (annealed only)
  • Very good resistance to weathering and soil corrosion
  • Soft and malleable
  • 100% recyclable
  • Electrical conductors
  • Switches
  • Transformers
  • Roofing and plumbing applications
  • Industrial machinery
  • Telecommunications
Cold Rolled Steel Coils Stacked

Cold Rolled Steel

ASTM A1008/A1010


CRS, Mild Steel

  • Formable for moderate draw applications
  • High resistance to soil corrosion
  • Extremely ductile
  • Non-shrinking and non-creeping at ambient temperatures
  • Home appliances
  • Furniture
  • Automotive bodies
  • Electrical Boxes
  • Vending Machines
  • Highway products
Cold Rolled Strip Steel Coils on a

Cold Rolled Strip Steel



Strip Steel, Cold Rolled Strip

  • Formability needs determine temper needed
  • Tighter thickness tolerances than cold rolled steel
  • Body panels
  • Automotive components
  • Tubes
  • Building materials
  • Electrical components
  • Appliances (refrigerators, washer, dryers, etc.)
Spring Steel Coils Stacked

Spring Steel

ASTM A684 | AISI 1050 | AISI 1074 AISI 1075 | AISI 1095


Annealed Spring Steel

  • High yield strength
  • Resilient and pliable
  • “General use” steel
  • Differing AISI designations refer to carbon content and spheroidization
  • Springs
  • Automotive suspension applications
  • Antennas
  • Metal sword manufacturing
  • Lock picks
Tempered Spring Steel Coils on Shelf

Tempered Spring Steel


  • High Carbon Steel
  • Black Oil Tempered Spring Steel Strip (1075)
  • Blue Clock Steel (1095)

1075 Scaleless Blue Tempered Spring Steel

  • Medium carbon content
  • High yield strength
  • Softer than 1095
  • Has more bend prior to fracture with a lesser degree of spring back

1095 Blue Tempered Spring Steel

  • High carbon content
  • Polished finish
  • High yield strength
  • Harder than 1075
  • Has less bend prior to fracture with a higher degree of spring
  • Vehicle coil springs
  • Spring clamps
  • Antennas
  • S-tines
  • Lockpicks
  • Clock hands
  • Sword manufacturing
  • Knives
  • Binder clips

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Procurement Tips for the Busy Purchasing Manager

While there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete everything that needs to be done, there are some ways you can accomplish your tasks in ways that require less time. Following these tips will help you get the job done faster without sacrificing the really important stuff: quality, order turn times, budgets, and established relationships.

Round Edge Flat-Wire on shelf


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.

Mead Metals employee at work


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.

Mead Metals shelving with inventory


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.

Steel, Brass, and Copper coils stacked on the floor


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.


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Steel being slit


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.


Knowing the terminology is your best bet at getting the right materials for your customer’s project. For some, this might be old news. But, if you need to learn or would like a refresher, we’ve created a glossary that will help just about anybody get up to speed in the metal materials industry.


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.

Two warehouse employees - one on fork lift and another walking alongside talking

About Mead Metals Inc.

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.