SMU Data and Models

SMU survey: Lead times sideways to down on sheet and plate

Written by Brett Linton

Lead times on most steel products tracked by SMU held steady or contracted this week compared to two weeks earlier, according to our latest market survey.

This week we saw steady lead times on hot rolled and plate products, while production times on cold rolled, galvanized, and Galvalume all shortened.

Table 1 below details current lead times.

Survey results

This week, 17% of survey respondents thought lead times will be contracting two months from now (down from 22% in early-May), 69% believed they will be flat (vs 62% previously), and 14% expect them to contract (vs 16% previously).

Here’s what respondents are saying:

“After summer vacation demand will pick up.”

“Mills would push lead times if they could.”

“Spring outages are done, summer doldrums have arrived early, and the market is as soft as it’s been in a while – a bad combination of factors!”

“Lead times will remain shorter than normal.”

“I would think near term is tough and lead times decrease and then extend as prices run back up.”

Figure 1 below tracks lead times for each product over the past two years.

3MMA lead times

Looking at the three-month moving averages (3MMA) of lead times can smooth out the variability seen in our biweekly readings.

On a 3MMA basis, lead times contracted slightly for all products SMU surveys, a trend seen since February. The hot rolled 3MMA is now at 5.07 weeks, cold rolled at 7.42 weeks, galvanized at 7.31 weeks, Galvalume at 7.44 weeks, and plate at 5.61 weeks.

Figure 2 highlights how lead times have been trending over the past four years.

Note: These lead times are based on the average from manufacturers and steel service centers participating in this week’s SMU market trends analysis survey. SMU measures lead times as the time it takes from when an order is placed with the mill to when it is processed and ready for shipping, not including delivery time to the buyer. 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. To see an interactive history of our steel mill lead times data, visit our website. If you’d like to participate in our survey, contact us at

Brett Linton

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