Service Centers

ASD’s Rebounding with Support of FMA

Written by Tim Triplett

The Association of Steel Distributors appears to be positioned for a turnaround that will give new life to the 75-year-old service center organization. ASD has found renewed purpose and direction under the auspices of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International, Elgin, Ill.

ASD’s steel distributor members—mostly small to midsized family firms—have been gathering to swap war stories, and inventory, since 1943. Like many trade groups, ASD’s membership has suffered from industry consolidation, demographic changes and Internet-age communications that place a higher value on electronic relationships than personal ones. With its ranks dwindling to around 32 companies, ASD’s future was uncertain until its board decided last year to become part of FMA, a much larger organization whose members range from small fabricating job shops to major manufacturers. ASD’s current membership is in the mid-50s and rising.

“Remaining relevant is the key,” said Ed Youdell, FMA president and CEO. “Every trade association is dealing with disintermediation due to the Internet, the changing age of people coming into the industry, how people communicate. We can now share what we’ve learned with ASD to help them keep relevant. And their new relationship with us brings them a connection to the end customer that they have not had in the past.”

Throughout it’s history, ASD has been largely a peer-to-peer group, with regional meetings that provide a forum for members to share best practices, as well as secondary and excess inventory. As an affiliate within FMA, there is a new business reason for ASD. “We have the connection to the fabricator, the job shop and the OEM. It helps them get closer to customers,” Youdell said.

Andy Gross, president of Alliance Steel, Bedford Park, Ill., and current ASD president, said “hitching our wagon to FMA gives us strength in numbers.” Its large diverse membership opens new opportunities. “The synergies between ASD members who sell steel and FMA members who use steel are great,” he said. “Our value proposition as ASD is much improved from what it was. It has completely rejuvenated the members.”

FMA membership offers other benefits to ASD members, such as valuable research and timely publications, educational and training programs, and help with workforce development, among other perks. And at a lower cost.

As new members come into FMA, they can select the groups they want to affiliate with, and some are picking ASD. In turn, interest in ASD is helping FMA to grow. The benefits run both ways, Youdell noted. “They are a good group of people, and we are really happy to have them with us. They make us a better organization, having that additional supply chain perspective.”

ASD’s June regional meeting is set for 5 to 9 p.m. June 7 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

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