As executive vice president of flat-rolled products at Nucor Corp., Ladd R. Hall finds the company’s size – as the largest U.S. steel producer – to be advantageous, and it can also create challenges.
But, as Hall helps orchestrate Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor’s multibillion-dollar annual freight spend, he is always confident in the value of the company’s 23,000 employees.
Hall, a 35-year Nucor veteran who is slated to provide the keynote address for the Critical Commodities Conference, to be held April 12-14 in New Orleans, offers American Journal of Transportation readers a glimpse into Nucor’s supply chain and corporate culture, as well as his personal priorities.
Do you have any surprises in store for those attending the Critical Commodities Conference?
It all depends on what they expect. I don’t have any idea what their expectations are or what they think the market’s doing or not doing.
I would assume that they’re pretty up-to-date on the matters that are important in our industry and around the world, so I would not expect to surprise them a whole lot.
As the largest U.S. steel producer, operating 23 mills, how does Nucor leverage its supply chain in ensuring profitability?
Being the largest has its advantages. It also has its challenges.
In some cases, depending on the supply-and-demand scenario and whatever you’re looking at – whether it’s ferroalloys, iron units, energy – sometimes size really helps in leveraging programs.
It depends on what the market is. A good example may be you take raw material, you take scrap, for instance. In an abundant scrap market, size matters, because these guys who have excess material will come to somebody they know can consume it and will buy it, so you have the opportunity to do some different things from a pricing standpoint.
When scrap’s in short supply and they know you need it, they have all the leverage in the world because they know you have to buy scrap.
So size helps and hurts depending on what market you’re in, and that’s probably true with any product, whether it’s alloy, raw materials or energy.
With most electric arc furnaces, not just at Nucor, another great example is the electricity. Most of the time, we have the ability to bargain with these big cooperatives or electric companies, saying, ‘We can take X amount of energy from you and we need a good deal to do that,’ and sometimes you can get a better rate than others could. But then, at the same time, you realize that when all air conditioners are running, they have the right to shut that mill down automatically, so your size hurts you there.
When you talk about leveraging your supply chain, that works both ways. You’re trying to take advantage of it where and if you can, and, in some cases, we don’t use our size at all to leverage.
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