As Customer Base Grows, IMS Gets Larger Cut of Metal Supply Biz
By Allen, Mike
There isn’t a customer or project too small for Industrial Metal Supply Co., a supplier of just about every type of metal.
“We carry about 4,000 to 5,000 items here, everything from hobby stuff that is small enough to see with a magnifying glass to structural beams used in the construction of downtown buildings,” said Russ Sykes, general manager of IMS’ Kearny Mesa office.
Based in Sun Valley near Burbank, IMS has had a San Diego office since 1995. The company recently invested $2 million in a 3-D laser cutter that it says is the only one of its kind in the Southwest.
“Although laser cutting has been around about 20 years, this machine is something new and allows the cutting to occur in 3-D, using a tilt and swiveling mechanism that is far more efficient,” said President Eric Steinhauer, who is based in IMS’ main office.
While IMS is well-known to small machine shops, metal fabricators and small manufacturers, it’s the people seeking metal pieces for trailers or homeowners looking for swirled iron bars for banisters who find their way to its retail section and come away amazed, says Megan Humpal, IMS’ marketing director.
More and more customers are finding their way to IMS for their metal needs. This year, the company is on target to break about $148 million in sales, up from $127 million last year.
Among the items in the company’s retail outlet are circular bars of steel and aluminum at various sizes; sheets of steel, copper and other alloys; bolts, screws and even fashioned imported Italian iron pieces for home use.
Customers often put their orders in one day and have it delivered the next, but if necessary, the company can fill the order that same day, Sykes says.
Steinhauer says the metal supply business has seen changes in recent years that mirror regional trends in manufacturing.
The business boomed in the late 1990s when the regional telecommunications industry was spending like crazy and the aerospace industry was still doing OK, but a lot of that has “shriveled away,” Steinhauer said.
The San Diego office is picking up new customers within the area’s biotech industry, and other high-tech R&D activity.
Because of the skyrocketing prices for steel, copper and other metals, many of IMS’ customers are hurting, so it’s imperative that the firm find more cost-effective ways of operating. The new laser machine will make the custom cutting work much quicker and easier, saving money for the customers, and possibly jobs, Steinhauer says.
At the Kearny Mesa office, the company also invested some $1.5 million in a new racking system that holds long bars of steel and other metals.
“It increased our capacity by 40 percent as well as improved our safety and work flow,” Sykes said.
Copyright San Diego Business Journal Aug 18, 2008
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