The minefield of buying stainless steel online.

Buying blind out of china
The minefield of buying in China!

 

Today’s internet has, without doubt, opened up the world with just a click of a button!

We can now sit in our living room and find out anything from anywhere on the planet without lifting more than one finger. Want to know how many teeth, on average, a monitor lizard has? Two clicks and you have it in front of you!  (Before you start looking… its 101! – 78 premaxillary teeth, 10 maxillary and 13 dentary teeth). Nothing is beyond our reach

It has also revolutionised the way we buy! You can literally buy anything on line. From a button to a Bentley! In our industry the effect has been just as dramatic!

So can you buy stainless steel online?

In the past we would have had a list of suppliers based in our own domestic market and, possibly, a few good International suppliers recognised throughout the industry. Not anymore! Now with the help of the Worldwide Web we can buy from a global supply base.

There are, clearly, some great advantages to this new found freedom of buying (and selling) but there are also many dangers! How do you really know who you’re buying from? Web sites can be very misleading! Big glossy “Buy our wonderful quality goods!” pages promising the best quality and service. Not to mention the very best prices!

But what do you know about these companies?

In the past you knew the company. Probably on first name terms with the boss (and his wife and kids). Now we talk to a company 6000 miles away via email. How can we possibly know how good or bad they are? We can buy from a supplier based on track record, reputation or recommendation.

But what about buying ‘off piste’? – WOW! THIS MUST BE A GREAT COMPANY!

Trawling the web looking for a supplier that will give you that slight price edge can result in some very hard and costly lessons! I speak from experience having once bought from a Chinese mill on the strength of their web site and a few samples before committing. The samples were very good, as were the documents…Pity about the actual pipes!

Badly damaged steel piping
Is this what I ordered?

Most pipes were bent. Many were rusty, and a large amount had no visible identification markings on them at all! The accompanying test certificates were from a different mill than the provided samples. It seemed the samples were just that! Samples NOT actuals! What can you do? Having paid on shipment my only recourse was via a very expensive and protracted law suit. I decided not to throw good money after bad and I took the hit, vowing never to buy without having first-hand knowledge of the supplier.This has resulted in a twice yearly (or more) pilgrimage out to China to visit existing suppliers and vet any potential new mills. An expense that has proven on more than one occasion to be fully justified! These trips are also a very big eye opener to the vast difference between what companies say on their web site and what they actually do (or don’t do)!

On another occasion I placed an order for some end caps based again on a glittering web site and an amazingly competitive price and delivery. It wasn’t a problem as I was visiting China before delivery and could carry out my own QA audit of the mill and inspect my order prior to shipment and payment!

A brief list of some of the non-conformities will tell you all you need to know.

1 – No goods in inspection

2 – No material segregation

3 – No production cards with orders

4 – No thermocouples on furnace

5 – No documented heat treatment hold times

6 – No regular checking of pickling solution

7 – No final inspection procedures!

I could list another 30 or 40 points of rejection but I’m guessing you’ve got the picture by now.

If you then add to this the fact that when I complained to the ISO 9001 certifying authority they were happy to tell me that this particular company were not on their records and that the ISO document I had forwarded to them was a fake! Needless to say the end caps stayed in China!!

Great web site though!

Don’t get me wrong! There are many extremely good producers in China and 9 times out of 10 you will get what you order. If you’re happy in the risk business please carry on. I’m a firm believer in the old adage “once bitten twice shy”!

So that’s a yes then?

There is also the cultural difference to contend with. I have learnt over many years that a Chinese yes may not necessarily be the yes we understand. Chinese people are very polite and don’t want to offend so it is better to say yes than no and risk upsetting you. Very annoying when you place an order only for it to come back with some very different previously agreed (“yes”) conditions!

They may be polite face to face but they can be very hardnosed when back in their comfort zone offices.  So trying to get them to back track on what you thought was previously agreed can be difficult!

Everything now has to be I dotted and T crossed before I place any business!

I’m glad we understand each other!

Language can also a very big problem. That person you thought could speak fluent English (very clear emails) turns out to be someone whose email English comes from Google translator! Chenglish is alive and kicking!

This again is where the Chinese “yes” comes in.  Better to nod your head than admit you don’t understand what this English person is talking on about.

I once had a car ride with a representative from a production company. He spent the whole time speaking to me in English…Well he was using English words but didn’t make one coherent sentence. It was just a flow of random English words. It was very funny but a completely pointless trip.

We now work with a very intelligent, Chinese girl who speaks better English than me (am prepared for the onslaught of witty comments here).  She comes with me to all of my meetings in China and has become our minesweeper! We now have no confusion, or at least manageable ‘grey areas’.

Having said that…

We have just avoided another Anti-Dumping duty, this time on Stainless Steel fittings from China. This had us all scrambling across the globe searching out new and competitive suppliers to deal with. Every country was considered (more potential cultural mine fields to address) One day another heavy duty may hit us and we may finally come full circle and buy our fittings from Italy! I look forward to that day so I can; again, enjoy the delights of Italian cuisine and a culture that clearly understands the words yes and NO!

Gangster image
“I’d like to make you an offer you can’t refuse!”

 

European UNS S31803 Fittings

Stock Services has expanded it’s product range. We are now carrying a comprehensive stock of seamless UNS S31803 fittings of European origin. This range complements, and is in addition to our existing stocks of Stainless Steel Seamless Butt Weld Fittings.

Our UNS S31803 range includes material from 1/2 NPS up to and including 6 NPS, and in Sch 10S, Sch40S, Sch80S and Sch 160. Check out our website for our full stock range. Please give us a try for all your duplex fittings requirements.

We anticipate that our initial stocks will be fully received within the next six to eight weeks, but please try us out for your enquiries as we already have some material booked in. All material comes with supporting full mill certification, has been G48 tested.

All our UNS S31803 material is manufactured to NORSOK M630 and purchased from NORSOK M650 approved mills.

UNS S31803 Fittings - Stock Services
Seamless UNS S31803 Fittings will be arriving over the next two months!

Stainless Steel Flanges

You may have noticed that the stainless steel flanges that appeared on our stock services online catalogue have now gone! We have returned all flanges after 11 months of trading, and will be re buying from a new supplier very soon. We expect to be selling ASME stainless steel flanges again later this year, and will update you nearer the time with our full range.

In the mean time please try us out for stainless steel seamless fittings in dual certified grades 316/316L and 304/304L, and DUPLEX seamless fittings.

We have a full range of european origin duplex fittings from 1/2 NB through 6 NB, in wall thicknesses Sch 10S, Sch 40S, Sch 80S and Sch 160. Check out the site for more details, and request your quotes by either phone, email, or online.

All our UNS S31803 seamless fittings come with full mill certification, including G48 testing, and are approved to NORSOK M650.

More news to follow…

Stainless Steel World 2013

Stock Services will be exhibiting at the Stainless Steel World 2013 exhibition in Maastricht the Netherlands in November. We welcome you to all visit us on our stand S549 over the three days of the exhibition. (November 12th to the 14th 2013)

We will be running a competition called ‘spot the cricket ball’,  with the winner receiving a signed cricket bat from ex England Captain, and OBE Michael Vaughan. Our stand number is S549, so make a note of it, and pop over and see us during your visit.

We are part way through receiveing our initial stocks of NORSOK M650 approved stainless steel seamless duplex fittings (Grade UNS S31803). Our duplex fittings are manufactured in the UK and will be G48 tested. We expect to have our complete stock range available for sale within the next two months, so try us out for your enquiries.

Our full stock range is shown on our website, and allows you to request quotations online. We also plan to have technical data added to each product, so you can check weights and dimensions though the website saving you time looking at data sheets.

We are also planning to re stock stainless steel ASME flanges and PN 16 Flanges later this year. More news about this stock will follow in the coming months.

World Stainless Steel Conference & Expo, Maastricht

Stock Services website relaunch!

Welcome to the newly launched blog website for Stock Services.

This new site will run in tandem with our relaunched main website, which has been revised for 2013 after 5 years in operation.

We plan to make some significant changes to the Stock Services website over the next 12 months and will keep you all updated on our progress. Some of the changes we are planning to make on the main website will include all dimensional data for stainless steel fittings and flanges that we stock. We will also be adding a log in section, that will allow you to check the orders that your company has made, and request your own mill certification online at a time to suit you!

After listening to feedback from YOU, our customers, we have made the process of requesting quotations even quicker with the addition of a log in function that means you have less data to fill in each time you visit our site. In fact, you can save your usernames and passwords, so that you log in almost instantly each time you visit our site.

Stock Services is expanding its range of products further with the incoming shipment of NORSOK M650 approved western european origin stainless steel duplex butt weld fittings (UNS S31803). More news will follow shortly about our range of duplex fittings, which is expected to be available in May 2013.

We hope you like the new site, and if you have any comments please get in contact with us at info@stockservices.co.uk and we will be happy to consider your suggestions.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Stock Services Warehouse Image - The Professionals
Stock Services UK Warehouse – Your online supplier of Stainless Steel Fittings and Flanges!