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Hogan Steel Archive: Service Centers

The “Hogan Steel Archive,” representing a three-year collaborative effort of the Walsh Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections and Fordham’s Industrial Economics Research Institute, commemorates and preserves the remarkable steel legacy

Service Centers

The 14 document files on service centers contain information on such subjects as: an analysis of the steel service center industry, statistics on steel shipments to the service centers, operations and operating ratios for service centers, a census and profile of the metal service centers, their equipment and expansion plans, the cost of possession for steel, plate processing in the United States, and steel distribution and marketing projections for individual countries. The files include research and papers on the steel service centers from Edward J. Fagan, Larry D. Lewis, and Robert G. Welch, and the Archive’s reference collection contains the Roster of Members of the Steel Service Center Institute (SSCI) for 1985, 1992, and 2000. In 2002, the organization changed its name to the Metal Service Center Institute (MSCI).

Analysis: Some fifty years ago, what were known as steel warehouses started to move beyond that identity to more accurately reflect their true role as key participants in the steel industry. They adopted the new name “service centers” to signify their growing capabilities to inventory, process, and distribute steel and other metals.

Even though service centers strictly do not consume any steel, they rank among the leading steel-industry “customers” in the United States , Japan , Europe , and elsewhere. Having developed into the retail arm of the steel industry, they provide an essential link in the supply chain by distributing steel to a broad spectrum of steel consumers, usually marketing smaller orders than many steel companies prefer to handle, which in the aggregate amount to many millions of tons. It is not uncommon for the steel industries of the United States and Japan , for example, to ship 18-20 million annual tons to their steel service centers.

As a key part of marketing large tonnages in much smaller individual orders, steel service centers perform a variety of specialized processing operations, from slitting and cutting steel to customer specifications to burning steel plates into specified, often intricate shapes, many of which are the equivalent of custom-made, manufactured parts. In so doing, service centers add significant value to the steel they handle and augment their customers’ manufacturing capabilities. Further, they relieve customers of the need to carry their own steel inventories, thereby reducing the so-called “cost of possession” the customers otherwise would have to absorb.