For over twenty years Reddifast Steels Ltd has been one of the UK’s leading steel stockists, and a major player in the steel strip and wire supply sectors.
However, managing director Rod Laight admits the challenges which the steel industry has faced over the past eighteen months has heralded the most difficult trading climate he’s ever experienced. Escalating prices for raw materials, increased costs on steel imports, freight shortages and a world-wide shortage of steel in all forms and specifications have created a very difficult situation for UK manufacturers, especially those reliant on high-carbon steel with a very high yield strength – which Rod refers to as the ‘crème de la crème of rolled and drawn steel’ – required for the manufacture of springs.
The fact that Reddifast Steels has managed to operate successfully during such a turbulent period is largely due to the strong relationships formed with suppliers and customers over the past two decades, particularly the close-knit manufacturing community in the UK spring sector.
Reddifast Steels is based in Cradley Heath, at the heart of the Black Country – where metalworking took place as early as the 16th century, due to the vast amounts of iron ore that was mined there. Over time industrial activity has shifted from iron-making to metal-using plants and Rod says it is the resilience of the spring sector across the regions which is helping the industry weather the storm.
Rod Laight said: “The importance of strong business relationships has never been so important! We have successfully maintained a good supply of steel from Europe, mainly due to having established a long-term loyal relationship with one particular Mill and having not succumbed to the temptation to shop around in the past.”
This has not protected Reddifast Steels from price increases but has ensured a good allocation of steel from the Mill at a time when many other businesses are struggling with supply problems. This has allowed Reddifast Steels to support customer demands.
Rod Laight said: “Business owners don’t have a crystal ball and no one could have foreseen the pandemic and its consequences or the effects of Brexit. It is a relief that we can still fulfil orders and whilst we have had to increase prices since April 2021, because the percentage rise in materials is too big to absorb internally, we are doing all we can to help customers. We are trying to minimise the financial impact for them but the most important thing is that we can supply what they need. When the supply chain fails, sadly businesses can follow suit!”
Rod added that when the lorries arrive with steel at his Cradley Heath factory his team are ready and willing to work the extra time needed to fulfil the orders.
Rod concludes: “There are around 1,100 business in the UK steel industry and the industry supports over 33,000 jobs. These figures are low since the decline of UK steel production but every job and every business is important and we are proud to be one of those businesses.”