SMU Data and Models

Steel Mill Lead Times: Getting Longer

Written by Tim Triplett

Lead times for spot orders of flat rolled steel are stretching out as demand improves and the mills get busier. Lead times for hot rolled and plate steels have extended past four weeks, while lead times for cold rolled and coated are now longer than six weeks. Lead times are an indicator of steel demand—longer lead times indicate the mills have more orders to process and are likely less inclined to negotiate on prices.

According to Steel Market Update’s check of the market this week, hot rolled lead times now average 4.21 weeks, up from 3.67 weeks in early August. HR lead times are nearly a week longer than in the trough of the pandemic in late April at 3.25 weeks.

Cold rolled lead times have extended to 6.17 weeks from 5.72 weeks in SMU’s last check of the market. CR lead times dipped to 5.04 weeks in April.

Galvanized lead times have extended to 6.53 weeks, up over a week from the April low point of 5.34. The current average Galvalume lead time is 6.71 weeks. Lead times for coated steel products are about the same as this time last year, pre-pandemic.

Plate lead times bottomed at 3.20 weeks in mid-May and ranged from 4.0 to 4.5 weeks for most of June and July. The latest reading, at 4.22 weeks, is up from 3.88 registered two weeks ago.

Looking at three-month moving averages, which smooth out the variability in the biweekly readings, lead times for flat rolled and plate have continued inching upward for the past six weeks. The current 3MMA for hot rolled is 3.76 weeks, cold rolled is 5.82 weeks, galvanized is 6.05 weeks, Galvalume is 6.33 weeks and plate is 4.19 weeks.

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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