As a metal buyer, finding the right metal for your project can be one of the primary decisions that you need to make. However, once you have identified your material, finding the right metal supplier is a different ball game.
Many factors play a role in determining the right source to buy your metal from, both at the material level and the supplier level.
How can you choose the right metal supplier that you can trust? What is the optimal supplier search process? And what factors should you consider in your selection?
I will answer these questions in this guide.
The typical online search process for a metal supplier
Typically, searching online for a metal supplier starts with a search engine like Google. You simply input your search query and begin browsing the results page. There, you see supplier company websites, distributor websites, or marketplaces.
More often than not, you would click on one of the top three search results as Google has deemed them the most relevant to your search. This would be based on your location, the details of your search query, and the guess that Google makes about your search intent.
In other words, Google tries to find out what you intend to search for based on its large database of search queries and clicks made by people like you. It identifies patterns and tries to improve its guess accordingly so it can give you the best possible results.
However, one search query does not cover the whole picture when you are searching for the right metal supplier. Many factors come into play. Google search results may limit your options. In fact, there is a high chance that you get the most well-marketed options rather than the most suitable ones. So, what are the factors that you need to consider?
Factors to consider when selecting a metal supplier
By the time you start searching for the right supplier, you most likely have already had a material in mind. This could be a specific metal grade like AISI 304 or a material category like stainless steel. But that’s not enough, is it?
If you type in “stainless steel suppliers” on Google, it might give you relevant options, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You need to then choose one of the results and begin looking for indications that tell you that this is the most convenient supplier to buy your material from. And that’s much easier said than done.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a metal supplier.
At the material level, some of the most important features that shape your search include:
- Material type or material name
- Material shape or form (bar, plate, sheet, coil, strip, etc…)
- Material properties (mechanical, thermal, electrical, corrosion, etc…)
- Sustainability properties (recyclability, carbon footprint, recycled content, etc…)
- Available quantity
- Material’s cost
- Use cases
At the supplier level, features become even more challenging to identify. This is because most of them are not easily searchable features on search engines.
Alongside the supplier’s product line (i.e., your desired material is part of their product portfolio), supplier location (local or overseas), and their contact information (email, address, or phone number), you need to consider the following factors to make the right supplier selection:
1. Supplier reliability
Your supplier must be reliable enough to provide you with your needed materials consistently and in a timely manner. It would be extremely difficult to meet production deadlines when you rely on suppliers who cannot deliver on time constantly.
So, you need to check their past record. Did they meet their customer’s deadlines and requirements? Is there a clear average waiting time to complete an order? How low or high is their rejection rate? Do they have an automated delivery system or at least a consistent one?
2. Supplier’s ISO certifications
ISO certifications are another way to determine a supplier’s reliability and product quality, and it’s probably the easiest way to do so. Simply, an ISO-certified supplier would display their current certifications on their website and elsewhere. If not, you need to see why that is. They may have not applied for an ISO certification yet or they have not been able to meet the required standards.
Even though ISO certifications might not guarantee top quality singlehandedly, they do present an indication of the company’s intent, its consistent process, product quality, sustainability, and deliverability.
3. Supplier’s processing tools
A supplier with the right equipment would be able to consistently meet your requirements for both quality and quantity, not to mention your production tolerances.
So, keep an eye out for whether the supplier’s processing equipment is up-to-date and suitable for your demands.
4. Supplier reputation
Reputation is a highly critical matter, especially when you choose your supplier, as you will be associated with them.
For example, where the supplier company stands on sustainability matters like climate change or whether it has any affiliation with a political controversy may have a negative effect on its reputation, and eventually, on yours, if you choose to be their customer.
On the other hand, a positive supplier reputation can enhance your credit and that of your products or services.
5. Customer service
Having a metal supplier is often a long-term relationship as you would want a consistent, high-quality supply of your required materials for a relatively long period of time. The hassle of continuously changing suppliers is neither efficient nor cheap.
So, look for a supplier who values you and who you can build constructive relationships with on a constant basis and that only works if their customer service is good enough.
6. The most important factor of all: Trust
The factors I mentioned above are all important to take into account. But ultimately, this whole process is based on one core element, and that is trust.
Without trust, no relationship can be built, and no transaction can be made. In order to have trust, you need a reliable and reputable supplier that can deliver high-quality materials consistently and maintain a good relationship with you as their customer.
But how can you find a supplier you can trust?
A good way to find a trusted metal supplier? Digital marketplace.
If you reached this point, then you’ve learned all the factors you need to consider when searching for your metal supplier. So, next is how to find them.
If you start from a typical Google search, you will need to perform a due diligence process on every supplier or distributor you find. That is doable, but it would require a relatively long process with high costs and high effort. If you are not willing to do that, you have other options.
Digital marketplaces with validated users, for example, can offer secure interactions between those users and build trust based on their verification process. In other words, only suppliers and buyers who meet the marketplace’s verification requirements can buy and sell within that marketplace. That would minimize your due diligence process significantly and help build trust much more effectively.
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