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Starting fab shop.

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  • Starting fab shop.

    For you guys with welding / fab shops how much steel do you keep on hand? When a customer comes in wanting a little job done (small railing job in my case) its not worth it to put in a order from the steel supplier and pay the delivery fee. Do you guys keep a selection of the more common stuff on hand? I'd like to do that but money's so tight right now that to order a couple thousand bucks of steel to keep on hand doesn't seem feasible right now. Also with steel price what it is right now a couple grand probably doesn't get you very much. Luckily I just called a shop near by that will sell my steel and there price doesn't seem like its marked up too bad so I'll probably just use them for now.

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  • #2
    I don't, there's no guarantee that the material will be used, let each job pay for your material, you'll typically have left over stock that may be used on other work.
    Not sure how you're quoting, but whatever the material cost, including delivery, plus a markup, should be included in the quote.
    West coast of Florida


    • #3
      I follow my buddy Gary's business model. Make money, spend it, make more.
      Thinking out loud, you mention doing a small railing job in one breath, and a couple grand of steel stock in the second? Hmm? I don't buy one roll of toilet paper I usually by a 24 pack? Guess that suggests a hopefulness of using them?

      Is there a difference between having a welder sit unused or steel in a rack? Not much. Thinking about it...Do you really need a welder at all until the need for one arises?

      My garage/shop holds a steel rack of assorted materials. I don't however keep much inventory because, I don't do much anymore, local supply is good, and I tend to run things in my operation quite lean.
      One day you will find, you'll use this instead of that because it's around, handy and available. I'm sure a cheap screw will worry about losing a buck on one end with out seeing the couple bucks made or saved on the other? Business is making money just the same.

      If you have a shop close by that will supply, cut to size/length, sell to you at a price you can afford...the smart business will take advantage of that, because it's profitable to do so.

      Just saying, if the money to be made in handling material exceeds the money to be made in working with them... could be a better business to be in?


      • #4
        I agree with Ltbadd. I have a small shop myself, so I can't store a lot of material either. I built a little scrap bin, made a deal with myself that if the drop fits in the scrap bin, in goes in the scrap bin...doesn't mean I can't fish pieces out for this or that, but it helps me keep from keeping every little straight piece of metal I cut off.

        I also plan my jobs accordingly, meaning, I get the materials I need as I need them so I don't clutter up the place. I also built a storage loft and put the longer pieces not used up in the overhead to get it out of the way. Space is a premium in my shop and I need the floor left open to move materials, equipment and the occasional full sheet of heavy plate.

        My customer pays for the material, it's built in the price. Now if you were rolling out "R" panels or something like that, it may pay to buy in bulk when the price drops, but for what you're doing, don't let the details bog you down.

        If a job has a ton of like size pieces, I'll order it cut. Generally it'll be packaged up and ready for you at the steel yard, so it's easy that way. I pass the cost along to my customer. Besides, it's worth it to not have so much saw time. That's time better spent on beer drinking...I mean...fab work.


        • #5
          It depends on your situation. When I was doing repairs it was largely for farmers. I was 35 miles each way from my steel supplier and if I was to order a small amount it might take a week or more before they were "in the area". In the middle of cropping my customers wanted it fixed yesterday so I kept a moderate supply on hand and learned to make do with what was readily available on hand even if it was overkill.
          Over time you will find what is moving and what is not and what can be substituted where and when. So my opinion is I keep some common stock, but there are limits. I would call the financing of it overhead and charge for it in my shop rate. If you have someone close by that can supply you it can reduce the inventory you need to keep but I'd expect to pay the overhead costs in his inventory in the price of what I purchase from him.



          • #6
            I am a hobbyist but when something does come through the door I make a bill of materials and quote, order, mark it up usually 10-15%. What ever is left over from the job I send with the completed project as the customer paid for it. It keeps the shop cleaner and presentable for the next guy that comes through the door. Most of my stuff is repair work tho. "This broke. Can you weld it?" Type stuff. But then again I wax my welding equipment and polish my torches too lmao.
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            • #7
              If you get bored, you can come wax my machines....

              Something else I do....I have a really good relationship with a big fab shop nearby, they are always willing to sell me little bits of this and that when I need. For example, yesterday I needed four pieces of .125 thou 3" wide strips of flat bar 6061. I called them up, not only did they sell it to me, they also sheared it perfectly and had it ready for when I got there a while later. Didn't cost much at all and was able to stay on time and budget.


              • #8
                Thanks for the replies fellas. Pretty much sums up what I'm thinking, not worth it to carry a bunch of material in stock. Eventually like you guys say I'll end up with various crops that can be used on small jobs. I like your thinking Ryan, use one of the bigger shop to cut your material. They are probably a lot more efficient at it and helps build a relationship with them. Never know if they get too busy they may pass some jobs on to you. How big is your shop Ryan?

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                • #9
                  24x40. Lean and mean. Loft storage in both ends and around the sides, gantry in the middle and well ventilated.


                  • #10
                    original post question 1 -- It fluctuates, probably anywhere from 1500# to 3000# of steel at any given time. Stainless and aluminum I buy as needed and just have leftovers from jobs except for something I know I will use. For instance I repair aluminum railings for an apartment complex so I always keep that stuff on hand. Question 2 -- Yes.

                    I usually always keep at least 1/2 sheet of 16 gauge, 1/8", and 1/4" steel plus some 3/8" and 1/2" plate. Then a variety of flat stock, angle, sq and rnd tube plus solid round. When I would buy steel for a job I would always get extra and throw it on the rack. For instance, you need 10 ft angle for a job buy 20ft., need a few lengths of flat buy 1 or 2 extra. (don't charge the customer for the extra though) This is a way to build up material stock a little at a time. Only you know what kind of stuff you use on a regular basis though so that means it's up to you to buy accordingly.

                    A few lengths of different size angle and flat won't break the bank and it actually saves you money if you can fix something by just pulling off your rack vs. having to source it and go pick it up. Remember your time is valuable.

                    I should also note that my supplier is only 10 miles from my shop so it's easy to go grab something. If it was further I would stock more stuff. And while talking about this and building a relationship with a supplier always go out of your way to treat them better than you expect to be treated. If they cut, bend, shear something for you give them a cash tip once in awhile. If they need a hand loading somebody else help them out. It goes a long way down the road. Most important of all pay your bill always and on time!
                    Last edited by MMW; 01-20-2019, 12:27 PM.
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