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Recently in the news, at conferences we have attended and through conversations with our customers, there is one distinct theme popping up across all industries: the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to the World Economic Forum, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by new technology that is fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.

When thinking of the latest advancements in technology, you may think of virtual reality, self-driving cars or the latest Google product. But how are these advancements improving business processes, specifically within the steel tube supply industry? And what does it mean for the future of warehouses?

More Data Analytics
When operating inventory at the warehouse, collecting data and analytics is key for operations, purchasing and sales departments. The ability to closely analyze order history and customer data allows you to see which products are:

  • Consistently ordered by current and potential customer base
  • Ordered seasonally
  • Trending because of upticks in the market

The more you have insight into these trends, the more flexible you can be to the markets you serve. By adopting the latest data analytics technology, you can get a better idea of what products are likely to be ordered so you can have them ready to pull, cut and ship within 24 hours.

More Advanced Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
ERP is the engine that allows a company to better gather data and manage core business aspects to eventually build the foundation for data analytics. A proper ERP system, such as Epicor, allows the user to accurately and efficiently enter data, while storing it in an orderly system. After information is entered, employees in any department have access to the most up-to-date data. For example, the accounting team can see the future A/R balance for a particular account that was just entered, the purchasing group can see how one order absorbs into the sales forecast and the operations staff can see the number of saw hours required at any given time. This business management software is a technology that is advancing and improving as fast as any other technology because it is such a core aspect of running any business, but especially warehouse operations. Future technological advances can help steel tube suppliers streamline operations, save time and allow more accurate forecasting.

Increased Automation
In today’s world, there are automated cranes, saws and packaging robots that can replace certain processes within the steel industry. On one hand, automation can mean an entirely new level of accuracy and speed compared to the traditional warehouse setup. It also means that machines can take on some of the riskier roles within the warehouse to further ensure the safety of its employees. Automation can create an increase in efficiency and the idea is not to replace employees in these roles, but rather to give them better tools to complete those processes. By doing so, a supplier can remain competitive in the market and also allow employees the chance to grow and explore additional areas of expertise.

Combined with our employees’ skills and experience, we are committed to using technological advancements to serve our customers faster and more efficiently than ever before. To learn how we can help you, get in touch with us.

What are some ways your company is using technology to revolutionize your processes? Share your thoughts with us on social media @NationalTubeSupply.

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In the early 1980s, Gary Chess’ acquaintance and fellow little league baseball coach hired him as a buyer for a career in which he had no knowledge or history. Now, 37 years later, he is the President of National Tube Supply (NTS) and has been a compelling force behind ­­­­the company’s success and growing the NTS family. We recently sat down with him to learn more about his experience in the industry, where he sees NTS going and much more below.

  1. What is your role at NTS?

I’ve been with NTS for almost 18 years now. I was originally hired as Executive VP in 2000, then named President in January 2002. My daily activities include providing direction, guidance and leadership to our management team, making sure we’re all working toward making NTS as successful as possible for our shareholders, employees and customers. I love being a contributor to the growth of the company and continuing the opportunities we have given to so many employees.

  1. How long have you been in the industry? What trends have you seen evolve over the years?

I started in the steel tubing industry 37 years ago. The industry has changed dramatically over the years, really taking off in the 90’s with, for example, just-in-time delivery became more of a requirement of the manufacturing sector.

Now, we’re approaching a time of change, as much of the industry are baby boomers nearing retirement. At NTS, we’ve made a conscious effort to infuse some younger talent into the company and provide training and guidance to replace some of us aging managers as our personal clocks tick toward retirement. We want to ensure the culture and customer-centric values at NTS continue on for many years to come.

The manufacturing sector we service is also undergoing transformations. I don’t think our industry role will change as it pertains to the service we perform for manufacturing, but it will definitely adapt as manufacturing capabilities develop and more work is pushed toward distribution.

  1. What sets NTS apart from its competition?

We really preach and commit to our customer service and recognize that our existence is because of our customers’ loyalty. We don’t try to win orders, we win customers with our company-wide commitment to finding ways to differentiate ourselves from competition. We continually say that anyone can buy the tubes we sell from somewhere, but they can’t buy our service anywhere except NTS. That is thanks to some great people throughout the organization. While much of the contact with customers or suppliers is limited to a few different groups, the entire organization works together driving what we bring to our customers and suppliers behind the scenes.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of NTS.

I’m a big sports fan, so most days/nights involve watching any of the four major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). I have a room in my basement with four TVs on one wall, so I can watch four games at once. I’m also a grandfather so I enjoy spending time with my four grandchildren along with my two daughters, a son and son-in-law.  It’s so much fun watching the grandkids grow up together, while seeing my own kids become wonderful parents, aunts and uncles.

  1. Is there anything else you want people to know about your role or NTS?

I’m someone that grew up in the industry without a college degree or higher education. I had someone believe in me and give me an opportunity, then I worked hard to achieve the growth I’ve achieved over the years. At NTS, I believe in giving people this same opportunity that was once given to me.

Some of today’s students seek roles in technology or industries of greater glamour, but with this industry, a lot of hard work and dedication can provide a great career, just as it has for me for the past 37 years.

 

Want to learn more about National Tube Supply and our facilities? Browse our online inventory or get in touch with our team of experts, we’re always happy to hear from you.

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Choosing a steel tubing supplier can either be simple or complex based on your approach to the process. Some customers may simply want the cheapest product, while others may want more of a partner in the ordering process that looks at total costs.

To offer customers the best possible service, we constantly ask ourselves: what are the most important factors that customers should be considering when choosing a steel tubing supplier? We put together the following list to give you some insight into what we, as a supplier, believe are the most important questions to be asking yourself during this process.

1. Does your supplier have inventory constraints?
As a supplier ourselves, we know inventory is the most crucial aspect of the distributor you choose. To put it simply, the more inventory that a supplier stocks onsite, the quicker you will get your products and the more reliable they will be. A couple of factors that affect onsite inventory are how many times a year inventory is turned and what percentage of inventory is dedicated to the products you’re looking to source. For example, many suppliers may turn inventory five to six times a year. Look for a supplier with fewer constraints and that only turns inventory a few times per year. If a supplier’s products are not a good fit for your inventory demographic, constraints may come up at the last minute and lead to unnecessary stress during a routine order.

2. Is your supplier flexible?
Flexibility is one of the most important characteristics you should consider because your steel supplier should never dictate how you do business. Ideally, they will work with your production model and figure out how to work around it.

3. Does your supplier have the proper internal resources to service the account?
Adequate customer service is a value-added service that immensely improves the working relationship. If you need a fast turnaround on a product, you should be able to rely on your supplier to be responsive and accurately get your order processed and delivered as quickly as possible.

4. Can your supplier offer solutions in times of need?
The company you choose to work with should be knowledgeable and experienced enough to recommend solutions in times of need. Maybe your supplier recognizes another product that fits your application that you didn’t initially think of. They should be familiar with this and know your company well enough to go above and beyond for you.

5. Does your supplier have the logistical capabilities to deliver your products?
Having all of the above is a great start, but the final key to a great manufacturer is a strong distribution network. After a successful order, your supplier should have the logistical capabilities to reliably deliver your products to you. Specifically, ask if they have their own transportation fleet or if it’s outsourced, and if there are any limitations to the geographical span of the delivery network.

At National Tube Supply, we work hard to accomplish all of the above for our customers and provide a service that exceeds your expectations. If you’re looking for a steel supplier that fits all of the above, get in touch with us.

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Greg Williams has been a lead/supervisor of our Baytown warehouse for more than three years. At work, he makes sure the facility runs in an orderly and timely manner, while making sure employees are doing their job safely, correctlyand comfortably. After work, he unwinds by fixing older model cars. See what a day in his life is like as part of the NTS family:

10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Here at our Baytown facility, we have two split shifts in the warehouse to better serve our customers’ orders around the clock. Around 10 a.m., I come in and talk to everyone on the 7 a.m. shift to see how things worked out during the morning. For example, did everything cut last night? Do you know if everything is ready for the house truck? Is there anything that needs to be run tonight? Everyone in the warehouse truly works together like a round-the-clock team – I really view these guys as my second family. Once I get a handle on the status of the warehouse, I go into the office to make sure that everything has been released for that day and the day after.

12 – 3:30 p.m.

When I get through some of the office work, I go back out to the floor to see what’s being run on the machines. I help with receiving, pulling, cutting, loading and shipping material as well as releasing orders for material to be cut, pulled, weekly audits on material, warehouse monthly inspections, etc. I rotate between helping out with the machines, monitoring the pack table area to ensure the correct materials are being pulled and routinely checking the receiving area to see if we need to unload anything.

Once I’ve done my rounds, I’ll support the area that needs the most attention for a few hours. In the rare occasion that anyone falls short, I’m right there to back him or her up. I make sure to be someone they can depend on at all times.

3:30 p.m.

When 3:30 p.m. rolls around, I’ll get the ‘tonight cuts’ ready to run for the night. On any given night, anywhere from 10 to a few hundred cuts will run overnight. I’ll pick which orders are going to which saw and get the material pulled and ready for cutting.

5:30 p.m.

Around 5:30 p.m., I’ll tell the saw guys to finish up their last order for this shift. As soon as they have the ‘tonight cuts’ ready, they straighten up the warehouse and lock the building around 6:30 p.m. when we head home.

7 p.m.

After work, my favorite hobby is fixing older model cars. I feel as if I’m a doctor bringing something of age back of life. It’s a great feeling to bring nothing to something! I love it!

And one of my other favorite things to do in Baytown is the EAT THE BBQ! I can’t get enough of it!

 

When I started at NTS a few years ago, it was a growing company in Baytown. I wanted to grow along with it, as well. This turned out to be one of the best decisions that I’ve made. I’m very proud to be part of the NTS family and I feel grateful whenever I open those warehouse doors each morning.

Want to learn more about National Tube Supply or the Baytown facility? Browse our online inventory or get in touch with our team of experts, we’re always happy to hear from you.

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Debbie Keppler-SteppAfter 37 years of experience in the manufacturing industry, National Tube Supply (NTS) Area Manager Debbie Keppler-Stepp has a passion for building relationships with customers across the region. In her spare time, she also enjoys gardening and spending time outdoors with her family. Learn a little more about her and her role at NTS below.

  1. Tell us a little about your role at NTS.

I have been with NTS for 13 years now, originally starting with the company at its University Park location, in Chicago. Two years ago, I transferred to the Houston area and became the area manager for our facility in Baytown, TX. My role involves looking for new potential customers as well as working to maintain relationships with current customers in the areas of North Louisiana, East Texas, North Houston and San Antonio.

I really enjoy working with the team in Baytown because we work really well to support our growing list of customers. We truly work as a team at all levels and together, we immerse ourselves in their industries to better advise how our products can improve our customers’ businesses.

  1. Where do you see NTS in five years?   

I expect to see a lot of growth across all NTS locations, but specifically for Baytown, as it is one of the newer facilities. In Baytown, I think we will continue to see a successful increase in the number of employees, customers and warehouse shifts.

  1. What is something you wish people knew more about NTS?  

We like to provide a value-added service and part of that includes solving problems for our customers, which is why we ask a lot of questions about the way they run their businesses. We use our experience and expertise to identify and solve problems that customers may not even be aware of, and we recommend the best products for them, based on what we hear.

  1. What do you love most about your role as area manager at NTS?   

I love having the opportunity to meet new people from all over the region, as well as building relationships and finding new business for our company. I also enjoy continuously learning about our products, how they are used and where they can be applied.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m an avid reader and I love gardening! I have a great husband who also happens to be a great cook, a niece who is like a daughter to us, and a 2-year-old granddaughter. Since moving to Texas, we have enjoyed hanging out in our backyard year-round, having friends and family visit and spoiling our two dogs.

Want to learn more about National Tube Supply or the Baytown facility? Browse our online inventory or get in touch with our team of experts, we’re always happy to hear from you.

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National Tube Supply is celebrating 27 years of customer-focused service to manufacturers across North America. To learn a little more about us, our services and our facilities, we put together the infographic below, which summarizes the state of our business in 2017.

To find out how we can provide you with value-added service, contact us here.

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With so many industries playing a key role in manufacturing, it is important to stay up-to-date with the various factors that can affect supply and demand, and our customers’ projects. As we kickoff 2018, we decided to immerse ourselves in some of the upcoming forecasts for the year ahead. Below you will find three key trends that we see for the various industries we operate in, including rail, construction, agriculture and more.

1. General Optimism
The outlook looks positive across a number of different trades.

As the global population continues to rise, the agricultural industry continues to see an uptick in both demand and production. One of the causes of the hike in demand is the increased exportation of equipment to countries such as South Africa and Brazil, especially as Canada continues to represent a large volume of the U.S. export market (trade.gov).

In addition to this, lower unemployment rates and wage increases are supporting the rise in new home builds for the construction industry. With this, we expect to see a growth in equipment sales, leading to improved equipment manufacturing.

After a tough three to four years, there seems to be a change in outlook for the oil and gas industry in 2018. According to Forbes, the midstream oil and gas industry in the U.S. will boom in the upcoming months. And, with the ability to quickly onboard fracking, we expect the barrel of oil to sit between $55-65 per barrel throughout 2018. National Tube Supply’s Baytown, Texas plant is already seeing a number of new manufacturing projects.

2. Increased Commodity Prices
As global demand for commodities continues to rise, prices are forecasted to continue increasing as well. This brings a positive outlook for industries related to mining and drilling, such as water exploration, oil and gas, and precious metals like gold, silver and iron ore.

3. Natural and Political Impacts
External, sometimes unexpected, natural and political impacts play a big role in many industries. In 2017, hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused major impacts on industries in the U.S and we will continue to see these impacts well into 2018. For example, the hurricanes will increase operations in the rail industry for the first half of the year due to transportation of goods for recovery and the rebuild of affected areas. However, the build of new rail cars is expected to remain flat throughout 2018.

Also, in the steel industry, the recent developments in the Cold Drawn Trade Case will impact foreign product coming from Italy, China and Germany. Overall, steel prices rose throughout much of 2017 and this is expected to continue, especially in the first half of 2018.

In conclusion, 2018 looks positive for the majority of manufacturing trades. As a service company to all of the above industries, we are looking forward to going the extra mile to help our customers in various industries achieve their goals in 2018. This has been our New Year’s resolution for the past 27 years, and something we look forward to continuing for the years to come.

What trends are you seeing in your industry for 2018? We would love to hear from you.

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Patience Bailey is the Office Manager of our Baytown, TX facility and is the one who keeps the office up and running as smoothly and efficiently as it should be. She is an enthusiastic manager, a dedicated mom and Houston sports fan.

We recently sat down with her to ask what she enjoys about her role and where she sees the Baytown facility heading in the next couple of years. Keep reading to learn a little more about her below…

  1. Tell us a little about your role at National Tube Supply.      

I am the office manager for National Tube Supply’s Baytown facility. I have been involved with the company since May 2014 and some of my daily duties include checking orders, creating RMA’s, shipping on box trucks and doing a daily count report. I work very closely with the shipping department, the receiving department and also the warehouse.

I love everything about my job! I get to help solve problems and I collaborate with the other facilities in Illinois, California and Canada, and I really enjoy working closely with the team here in Baytown.

  1. When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing?

I have a 6-year-old son who plays baseball so most of my spare time is spent watching him play. We are big sports fans, so when I’m not watching him play, we love watching the Astros and the Texans!

  1. What do you think sets National Tube Supply apart from the competition?  

Our commitment to our customers. The whole company is committed to exceeding customer expectations and here in Baytown, we work really hard with a smaller team to make sure all our customers are happy.

  1. Anything else you want people to know about the Baytown facility?

We all work so well together and we are constantly helping each other out to ensure this service facility is the best it can be. We’re all very excited to watch this branch grow and to continue serving Texas and the surrounding states with all their tubing requirements.

  1. Where do you see National Tube Supply in five years?  

I would love to see the Baytown, TX location double its employee headcount as the company continues to grow. I’m sure in the next couple of years, we will see both the expansion of the shifts in the warehouse, as well as the numbers on the sales team, and I’m very excited to watch it happen.

Want to learn more about National Tube Supply or the Baytown facility? Browse our online inventory or get in touch with our team of experts, we’re always happy to hear from you.

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With more than 30 years of experience in the steel industry, National Tube Supply’s (NTS) Baytown Branch Manager Terry Flanary is one of the key drivers of growth for NTS, specifically for the southern region.

We got the chance to catch up with Terry and ask him a few questions, so you can learn more about the newest NTS facility and the upcoming plans for growth.

  1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I have been with NTS for 18 years now, and I’ve been in the steel industry since 1985.

I have an amazing wife, three incredible daughters and the two most beautiful grandchildren anyone could ask for: one granddaughter and one grandson. One of my favorite things to do is to spend time with my family. Together, we like to fish, boat and grill out in the backyard.

  1. Tell us a little about your role at National Tube Supply.

I’m the Branch Manager at the NTS Baytown facility, which opened in 2014. With this facility, we service the states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi.

In my role, I work closely with the National Tube Supply headquarters in University Park, Illinois to ensure offices across the country remain consistent in terms of company values and expectations. We are proud of our customer-focused service and I want that to be instilled in our Baytown employees as well.

  1. Where do you see NTS in the next five years?

I envision NTS continuing to grow its market share in the industry throughout North America. We see a lot of growth for the company, especially at the Baytown facility. In the next five years, I would like to see this facility double as we establish ourselves as a major player for mechanical tubing in the south. We will also continue to exceed customer expectations by providing quality products and striving to “wow” our customers daily with our above-and-beyond service.

  1. What do you wish more people knew about NTS?

The main thing that people should know about NTS is our value-added services to complement our massive inventory. Not only do we offer material cut-to-length, but we do it with the ability to ship orders next day as well. Our employees also work directly with our customers to ensure we’re offering the most efficient and cost-effective products for their individual requirements.

  1. What do you like most about working with National Tube Supply?

Simply put, it’s just really fun to be part of the NTS family. Our company’s commitment to our customers starts with our commitment to our employees. Our current team is great, and we are continuing to build that family by bringing in people who want to be part of something that is fun and exciting. It’s a company culture that is valuable to be a part of.

Want to learn more about National Tube Supply or the Baytown facility? Browse our online inventory or get in touch with our team of experts, we’re always happy to hear from you.

 

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National Tube Supply (NTS) has always supported and assisted employees during times of need. Hurricane Harvey, which ripped through Texas in late August, was no exception.

During the week of August 28, 2017, the Baytown, TX, facility remained closed, to ensure the safety of its employees. Luckily, the building was fortunate enough to come through the storm with minimal damage and the only damage it endured was a small roof leak.

We are pleased to report that all of our Baytown employees and their families are safe, but a few did suffer from large financial hits after losing possessions, cars and even homes. One employee, in particular, lost everything. He and his wife were stranded on the roof of his house with seven neighbors for more than 36 hours, before they were finally rescued by boat. All they had were the clothes on their backs. Every NTS facility across North America came together to collect thousands of dollars to donate to the employees who were impacted by the storm.

In addition to caring for the NTS family, our employees were also out in Baytown area assisting as much as they could. Several employees deployed with first responders and purchased supplies for areas that were hit the hardest.

National Tube Supply is a family-oriented company, so it comes as second nature to take care of family during tough times. We support many community initiatives and during this time, the Baytown community is part of the extended NTS family.

Our thoughts are with everyone impacted during this difficult time, and we look forward to doing as much as we can to help Baytown and the surrounding areas recover.