We live in a global economy: American companies manufacturing overseas and European and Asian companies manufacturing in the United States. It’s been going on so long that it is easy to forget that inconsistencies persist in how business is done – whether people shake hands or bow, meet in offices or the wilderness.
One consistent difference remains: those following imperial system measurement and those following the metric system. Since this is a global economy, U.S. companies often use metric parts, leading to time-consuming measuring, converting, and cutting of larger metal components to make them fit specifications from a European design engineer. Twenty-six years ago, Paul Goldner saw this happening and set a plan to solve it.
Founded in 1955 by Paul Goldner’s father, Leo Goldner, in Toledo, Ohio, Parker Steel always sold structural steel and bars in inch sizes. The company enjoyed decades of success, but in 1991, the metal industry experienced a downturn, and Paul decided to focus on a part of the business few other suppliers were serving: metric sizes.
Paul began sourcing metric-sized metals of all types and sizes, storing them in the basement below his office and handling everything from purchasing to loading trucks. According to Jerry Hidalgo, president of Parker Steel, Paul sent flyers to manufacturers asking for feedback on different kinds of metric products and whether they needed them. He recorded the positive responses and focused on the most in-demand material.
Today, Parker Steel’s large supply of metric parts is warehoused in two facilities in Toledo. Approximately 5,900 different components are available off-the-shelf with access to thousands more through its worldwide supplier network.
Most of Parker’s customers are companies with machinery or equipment built or designed to metric specifications. If a part breaks, they need a piece of metric-dimension metal to fix it.“Because of our quick turnaround, we can get them the part they need within a day and they can get their machine fixed,” Hidalgo says. “There are also customers who are building special products and structures of European design, so they need metric metal to manufacture those parts.”
Orders range from a minimum of $85 to multi-truckload quantities, reflecting differing customer needs. If the material isn’t in stock, the goal is to find out whether it is obtainable within 48 hours.
“The majority of material that people buy from us stays in the United States, it doesn’t get exported,” Hidalgo says. “Industries range from medical to aerospace, nuclear, and wind energy to basic fabrication. One customer specifies components for a mobile Botox machine.”
The Great Recession of 2008 hit manufacturing hard, and Parker Steel was not immune to its effects. The company kept inventory levels the same, maintaining product availability for the customers who were still buying. When customers began either purchasing again or in larger quantities, they were able to fulfill orders quickly.
“We did not go into a slashing of inventory program. We made a conscious decision to maintain our inventory levels so that when things turned up, we’d be in a position to fill the needs of the customer and it worked out very well for us,” Hidalgo says.
In recent years, Parker Steel has had to figure out the ever-changing landscape of doing business across borders – shipping to Canada and Mexico. As part of its commitment to ship product the day the order is received, the company works with brokers who help expedite shipments by having paperwork on file and staying well-versed in customs requirements. But sometimes this isn’t enough, especially when customs agents and shipyards need to look closer at what is crossing borders.
Parker Steel is Custom-Trade Partners Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)-certified, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) certification indicating the company has security measures in place to minimize the risk of terrorist activity with its shipments. Established in 2001, there are 11,400 C-TPAT certified companies with security profiles and action plans.
“We are very diligent and put a lot of effort into making sure that we do maintain the proper security measures. It’s not a guarantee, but when there are issues – if we end up with very serious issues where the borders get shut down because of terrorism fears – we will be high on the list for our material coming in again when things open up,” Hidalgo says.
The company is ISO 9001-certified.
Disruption within the company itself is also rare. “Our delivery performance during the last three years has run from 99.6% to 99.9% for on-time delivery,” says Hidalgo, who has been with the company for 14 years after working with auto parts suppliers and consulting with CEO Paul Goldner. “Key to our success is the strength and dedication of our team, throughout the organization.”
Staffing was also a consideration when making the move from Parker Steel’s headquarters in Toledo to a larger facility in nearby Maumee, Ohio. According to Hidalgo there was no way to add more people without significantly redesigning the space, and he expects steady growth as they continue to search for new ways to improve customer service and adapt to changing ways of doing business.
“We have continual improvement meetings with our people, listening to suggestions from them. ‘What can we do to make your job easier? What can we do to make it better for our customers?’ We ask for those ideas, review them, and then implement most of them. That’s one piece. We certainly look at software. We’re always trying to improve our software to help us be more efficient. We look at the warehouse. What are the things we can change there to make us more effective,” Hildago says.
Just like Paul 26 years before, the employees at Parker Steel are still surveying customers to find out how to best meet their needs. The commitment has never wavered through good times or bad, and companies needing unusual metric parts and shapes know exactly where to go when imperial just won’t do.