TW Metals enjoys special relationships with worldwide sources. By Eric C. Peterson.
“The past two years have been an exciting time of rapid change and significant growth. The heavy lifting is behind us — and we’re ready for the challenges ahead,” states Dennis M. Oates, president and CEO of TW Metals, a leading metals distributor and processor with over 50 locations around the globe.
TW Metals was formed in 1998 by the merger of Tubesales (founded in 1946) and Williams & Company (founded in 1907). Head-quartered in Exton, Pa., TW Metals is a wholly own subsidiary of Superior Group, Inc., a private holding company located in Radnor, Pa.
Shortly after the merger, TW Metals acquired TD Materials, Inc., one of the largest aircraft extrusion distributors in the world, with locations in Los Angeles, Wichita, Buffalo and Seattle. Still later that year, TW Metals, Ltd., of Southampton, U.K. acquired the Philip Cornes Group, a U.K.-based processor and distributor of nickel and super alloys — further extending the company’s worldwide reach into Belgium and Singapore.
No Mere “Distributor”
What exactly does TW Metals do? In the simplest terms, it processes and distributes specialty metal products — everything from bar, to tubing, pipe, plate, sheet, coil, fittings and extrusions. The company’s long-standing relationship with leading worldwide metal manufacturers means that its ever-expanding customer base receives the highest-quality product.
Yet, the word “distributor” belies the complexity of the company’s role within today’s marketplace. “We are no longer a mere inventory depot,” states Patrick A. Able, director – marketing services. “In many cases, we have become an extension of our customers’ manufacturing processes, helping them sustain or sharpen their competitive edge.
“Our role involves analyzing each customer’s specific business, looking at cost drivers, product flow and process improvements. It means interfacing with their engineering, production, finance and procurement professionals,” explains Able. Through this partnership, TW Metals provides a “total service”—from materials management and electronic automation, to process improvements and semifinished parts.
Investing in Capital Equipment
Due to the company’s commitment to capital equipment, TW Metals’ extensive list of processing capabilities continues to expand and strengthen. It currently offers customers a multitude of processing options, including abrasive sawing, shearing, automated deburring, contour sawing, leveling, edge conditioning, laser cutting, lathe tube cutting, high-definition plasma cutting, precision plate cutting and waterjet cutting.
Waterjet cutting is hot news at TW Metals. Last year, the company expanded its waterjet shapecutting capabilities by installing Flow International Shape-
cutting Systems at their San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Charlotte, N.C., plants. These remarkable systems cut any type of metal — from aluminum and stainless steel to nickel and titanium — up to six inches thick using a high-pressure mixture of water and garnet sand at 55,0000 PSI. Leonard Eaton, vice-president – operations, comments, “This system enables us to provide customers with net or near- net parts and intricate interior cutouts that are free of any heat-affected zones.” An additional waterjet system will be installed at a strategic location early this year.
In addition to investments in capital equipment, TW Metals has been busy upgrading its service centers, from Minneapolis to Southampton, England. Most recently, the company’s Houston Branch moved into a new 32,000 square-foot, crane-enhanced facility. “This move improves our ability to serve Houston-area customers with flat-rolled products and demonstrates our commitment to this challenging market,” explains Oates. Additional service center improvements are planned for this year.
Serving a Range of Industries
TW Metals services a wide array of industries, including aerospace, agricultural equipment, automotive, chemical processing, communications, food processing, instrumentation, lawn and garden, marine, military, motor sports, oil production and refining, pharmaceutical, steel production and utilities.
“We assume responsibility for supplier qualification, order placement and delivery schedules, and we coordinate manufacturers to ensure on-time delivery,” Oates ex-plains. Moreover, the company offers comprehensive contract arrangements that include dedicated inventories and even pricing stability. It also works to retain the flexibility necessary to respond to new developments and emerging markets.
Embracing Technology and the Challenge of Quality
TW Metals is ISO-9002 certified and driven by a belief that current and future success is linked to a commitment to quality. This quality focus is reflected in the company’s products, systems and personnel. “Quality is really a state of mind,” explains Oates. “Our personnel understand that quality must be an integral part of every business transaction and operating process and each individual’s approach to his or her daily responsibilities.”
As an example of the company’s focus on quality, in-house inspectors perform incoming and outgoing inspection using state of the art equipment, including optical comparators and surface plates. Through a focus on quality and technology, TW Metals improves customer service, drives costs out of the system and ensures profitable growth.
Achieving the Symbols of Success
An example of the company’s ongoing success arrived early in 1999 in the form of an award: TW Metals’ Los Angeles Branch won a President’s Award for Excellence from Boeing Commercial Airplanes. According to Steve Pohl, director of Boeing’s Long Beach, Calif., division, “The President’s Award is presented to suppliers who have demonstrated world-class practices that benefit our airline customers.”
World-class quality can also result in “Preferred Vendor Status.” In 1999, TW Metals received this good news from Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of custom-specified trailers at five state-of-the-art factories. “For 14 years, TW Metals has consistently provided us with high quality stainless,” comments Jack Foate, director of purchasing for Utility Trailer. “Their attention to detail and outstanding serviceability contributed to their selection as preferred vendor.”
Supporting the Department of Defense
Satisfied customers mean more business. Last year TW Metals’ Government Business unit received three contracts from the Defense Supply Center (DSCP) in Philadelphia, Pa. The first award involves supplying products that range from high-strength carbon plate for the Navy’s scheduled fleet maintenance and repair, to stainless aircraft sheet for Air Force bases located west of the Mississippi.
The second contract required TW Metals’ participation as a supply integrator for commercial bulk metals to the central region of the United States, involving approximately 330 installations. These customers order material via the Internet using the company’s electronic order entry (EOE) system. Most recently, the company received the DSCP’s “National Contract for Heat Treatable Aluminum Sheet.”
Always Looking Ahead
TW Metals is a dynamic and customer-focused company committed to “total service” by increasing value for its broad base of customers. In just two short years, this newly formed company has successfully positioned itself for success in the new millennium. TW Metals will surely continue to succeed in the months ahead as it builds upon its reputation for service, quality and innovation.