Mark Schach, assistant division sales manager for AMERICAN Steel Pipe, a division of AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, headquartered in Birmingham, AL, recently talked with P&GJ about the $55 million expansion the company is undertaking on its steel pipe operations.
P&GJ: What can you tell us about the expansion and changes it will make to your existing facilities?
Schach: This expansion is aimed at increasing our manufacturing capacity. In the end, these upgrades will make us a larger, more efficient domestic pipe producer.
P&GJ: What are some of the physical details of the expansion, and when do you anticipate it being fully operational?
Schach: We are adding a 150,000-square-foot facility to our North Mill that will employ state-of-the-art testing equipment, including two hydrotesters, two ultrasonic testing machines and a new end-facing system to bevel the ends of the pipe. Our current processing facility will be decoupled from the North Mill and adjoined to the South Mill, doubling its processing capability. In addition, we are making other upgrades that include a new marking system, steel coil leveler, weld stand, flying cutoff, and seam annealers. Construction of the new facility will begin before the end of this year and will be completed in late 2014.
P&GJ: Long lead times for pipe have created problems in the past. How much will this expansion improve your company’s lead times for electric-resistance-welded (ERW) steel pipe?
Schach: Our customers look to us to meet their project delivery requirements. When the lead times extend out too far, it creates problems for the project management and supply chain teams that count on us. We embarked on this project to make us a more efficient U.S manufacturing facility. As a result, we will be able to produce more quality pipe in less time.
P&GJ: What do you see as a major stumbling block for U.S. line pipe manufacturers in the future?
Schach: AMERICAN Steel Pipe – along with other U.S. pipe and tube producers – is encountering unfairly traded pipe shipped into our country. The U.S. line pipe manufacturers continue to invest in domestic manufacturing to serve our customers and keep American workers employed.
P&GJ: What opportunities do you see opening up for AMERICAN Steel Pipe in the near-term? What about long-term?
Schach: Our country is embracing the increasing benefits of natural gas, and we plan to provide the steel pipe products that help us meet that demand. Longer term, we would hope to see more pipeline projects aimed at promoting domestic crude transport.
P&GJ: Several new pipe mills have recently opened and five or six are scheduled to begin operations between 2014 and 2016. Do you think too many mills are being built?
Schach: We hope demand will match that optimism. Those announced mills are aimed at various markets: line pipe, OCTG and structural. So, the market will determine whether too many or the right kind were built. AMERICAN has been producing line pipe since 1963, and we’ve earned our reputation and place in the market.
P&GJ: What plans do you have to garner market share when these new mills come online?
Schach: The energy sector has ever increasing quality expectations and traceability demands for its line pipe projects. We have been and will continue to be committed to this market and continue to invest in our people and facilities. That commitment to producing a quality product – efficiently and delivered when promised – will keep our customers coming back to AMERICAN.
Mark Schach is assistant division sales manager for AMERICAN Steel Pipe. He graduated from Morehead State University in 1980 with his bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing. Schach joined AMERICAN in 2001 with 22 years of service in steel coil manufacturing.