Avoiding the pitfalls of prioritising cost over quality

The importance of having new technologies available while at the same time keeping costs down was one of the key outcomes of a survey undertaken by Sandvik.  In recent years, since the global economy has been challenging, those responsible for sourcing stainless steel may have been tempted to try and make budget savings by purchasing cheaper materials. Inevitably this will often prove to be a false economy in the long run and could result in costly operational failure in some cases. Here Hans Boudewijn, Regional Sales Director for Sandvik, discusses the survey findings and gives his advice on the key areas to consider when purchasing stainless steel.

Towards the end of 2017, Sandvik was keen to find out more about current industry trends, what the key factors are affecting customers today and what is most likely to influence their purchasing decisions. This led to the survey being undertaken at the Stainless Steel World Exhibition, where customers from leading blue chip companies responded to questions on a range of topics including investment in infrastructure, cost cutting, plant upgrades and maintenance, safety and security and the adoption of new technologies.

The results revealed that the adoption of new technologies and the importance of innovation were very much at the top of the list with 65% of those questioned.  In addition, it was no surprise that keeping costs down also came out as being highly important (62%) to customers, indicating that market conditions continue to be challenging and budgets are still being squeezed.

However, despite the desire to keep a tight rein on costs, key decision makers are not forgetting the safety and security of their staff and operations with more than half of those polled believing this to be a key priority for their businesses.

Overall the conclusions drawn from the survey demonstrate that although budgets are still extremely tight, investment in infrastructure was rated as important in conjunction with the adoption of new technology and purchasers have indicated that improving techniques and processes is critical to business improvement and growth.

Manufacturing is just one sector where market conditions have been difficult in the last decade and those responsible for sourcing and purchase of all types of materials and have been increasingly under pressure to keep their spend to a minimum. It can be tempting to seek cheaper alternatives, but this can come at a price and may cause failure during an operation or process.  This in turn could result in downtime of the equipment, and in some cases costly loss of production.  Ultimately, there is no substitute for going for the experienced and reputable original equipment manufacturer every time to make sure a consistent and reliable performance is delivered, while at the same time using the latest and best technology.

Selecting inferior, cheap stainless steel products can present a number of problems for customers.  An area that many may not think of in the first instance is the life cycle cost.  Aside from failure in operation, purchasing inferior stainless steel will inevitably shorten the overall life cycle of the equipment.  This in turn will lead to the need for premature replacement and result in unnecessary and additional costs for the user.

One of the main reasons people work with stainless steel is due to its resistance to aggressive liquids or elements and its ability to operate continuously despite the effects of such products. This is another area where inferior steel will ultimately provide a poor level of performance and will cause a range of problems for the customers’ operation.

In general, using inferior products in expensive and state-of-the-art plants and facilities also has the potential to cause problems with the rest of the equipment or system.  For example, chemical and oil & gas facilities involve highly technical and finely balanced processes and any problems with the quality of materials in the equipment used will have a ‘knock-on’ detrimental effect with operations.  A catastrophic failure could result in production being held up for weeks or even months in the worst possible scenario.

Products that are tested thoroughly and correctly will ensure the customers’ confidence in the products they are buying.  For example, quality manufacturers such as Sandvik have their own in-house facilities where products are extensively tested so customers can be supremely confident in the quality of the steel they are purchasing.

So what should the specifier look for when selecting their steel products?  Many would say that the most important consideration is the experience of the manufacturer.  Working with established companies who have an excellent reputation and proven track record with their customers is something that cannot be underestimated. Good business relationships are usually built on trust in the product and service received.

Close examination of the material specification and consideration of how it will perform to meet expectations is vitally important.  In some situations, if the wrong product is selected for the required application, it will not perform correctly, so care should be taken with specification.  This is where the product manufacturer can provide invaluable help.

Leading manufacturers will always avoid making a product that will simply meet the required industry standard.  Instead, adopting an innovative approach and embracing real technical creativity will always ensure the relevant specification is actually exceeded.  Equipment designers will always build in a safety factor of plus one or two and in turn material manufacturers will adopt the same principle.  The result being that customers will have total confidence in the performance and reliability of what they are buying.

When purchasing stainless steel products, the customer needs to be confident that the product they are buying is offering them the best possible performance, quality and consistency.  When specifying steel grade for a particular application, working with the manufacturer which possesses the required knowledge and expertise to help will ultimately provide the best result.  Avoiding cutting corners on quality and not basing the purchasing decision on cost will always deliver the best and most technically innovative solution in the long run.

Inevitably cost and keeping a firm grip on the budget is important to those responsible for purchasing stainless steel, but their desire for quality products that will deliver the best solution and the right level of support is clearly demonstrated in these survey results.

View full report of survey results CLICK HERE

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