SMU Data and Models

Steel Mill Lead Times: Shortest of the Year

Written by Tim Triplett

Lead times for most flat rolled steel products are at or near their shortest of the year. Lead times for steel delivery are a measure of demand at the mill level—the shorter the lead time, the less busy the mill. The less busy the mill, the more likely they are to negotiate on price. Responses to SMU’s latest flat rolled and plate market trends questionnaire show that lead times for hot rolled now average four weeks, cold rolled less than six weeks, galvanized about six weeks, Galvalume about six and a half weeks, and plate about seven and a half weeks.

Demand continues to exceed supply in the plate segment, as mills still have customers on allocation. The current average lead time for spot orders of plate is 7.44 weeks, up from 7.00 weeks early in November.

Hot rolled lead times now average 4.00 weeks, essentially unchanged in the past six weeks and near the shortest of 2018. This year’s longest lead time for hot rolled delivery was 5.73 weeks in April.

Cold rolled orders currently have a slightly shorter lead time averaging 5.73 weeks, down from 6.06 weeks in mid-October. CR lead times peaked this year at 8.19 weeks in May.

The current lead time for galvanized steel is 6.09 weeks, down from 6.66 weeks a month ago. Lead times on galvanized orders extended as far as 8.46 weeks earlier this summer.

At 6.44 weeks, Galvalume lead times have been under seven weeks for the past month, which hasn’t happened at any other point this year. AZ lead times topped out this year at 8.40 weeks in June.

Shorter lead times near the end of the year may reflect some seasonal weakness in demand.

Note: These lead times are based on the average from manufacturers and steel service centers who participated in this week’s SMU market trends analysis. Our lead times do not predict what any individual may get from any specific mill supplier. Look to your mill rep for actual lead times. Our lead times are meant only to identify trends and changes in the marketplace. To see an interactive history of our Steel Mill Lead Times data, visit our website here.

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