Finnish company Stalatube relies on Dachser to connect its products to the U.S. market.
The stainless steel tubing manufactured by the Finnish company Stalatube is used for a variety of applications, such as building structures and facades, machinery to manufacture food and pharmaceuticals, offshore oil rigs, bus frames, and even sculptures.
About 70 percent of the company’s annual sales of 100 million euros ($133 million) are in Europe, but nearly 20 percent are generated from the United States, where Dachser USA is its logistics provider.
The company has been doing business in the United States for over 20 years, and Sami Kaijanen, Stalatube’s logistics manager, said having sales outside Europe has been an advantage in recent years since demand has been relatively stronger in the U.S. market. Demand in the oil and gas and transport sectors, for example, have picked up.
Stalatube’s remaining 10 percent of sales is spread across a wide area that includes the Middle East, Australia, and South America. The company’s sales in the Far East are smaller due to competition from Chinese manufacturers.
A family-owned company, Stalatube makes its product in two factories located in Lahti, Finland, where it has about 130 employees.
At the main factory, coils of stainless steel are split, then shaped and welded to form square and rectangular tubes. The company makes tubes and flat bars in hundreds of sizes, with steel ranging in thicknesses from 1.2 millimeters to 12 millimeters.
A second factory for “value added” products and neighboring subcontractors do work such as polishing, picking, and cutting.
Back in the 1970s, surfers started using the word “tubular” as slang to mean excellent, and architects, engineers, and even artists find stainless steel attractive because of its corrosion resistance, strength, and ability to sustain mechanical qualities at high temperatures.
Stalatube makes products using several different types of stainless steel alloys. For example, ferritic tubes are popular among bus builders for their anti-corrosive characteristics.
All told, Stalatube makes about 5 million meters, or 25,000 metric tons, of tubing annually. It also provides value-added services, such as bending tubes or perforating them with holes.
About half of the company’s sales are from products that it keeps in stock for immediate delivery, while less common items are made to order for delivery in two to eight weeks.
The company has its own warehouses in Lahti to keep inventory for both raw materials and finished products. All transportation and forwarding work is outsourced, and the company works with DB Schenker in Europe and Dachser in the United States.
Stalatube maintains a small inventory in New Jersey for its U.S. markets, mainly customers on the East Coast. But the main volume is shipped in full containerloads directly from its mill in Finland to wholesalers. The company says products are delivered in less than three months from an order being placed.
“We sell on DDP (delivered duty paid) terms to the USA and that is why it is very important that we have a good and reliable partner there to handle the logistics,” Kaijanen said in an interview.
DDP represents maximum obligation for the seller of a product, with the Incoterms rules stating “the seller delivers the goods when the goods are placed at the disposal of the buyer, cleared for import on the arriving means of transport ready for unloading at the named place of destination. The seller bears all the costs and risks involved in bringing the goods to the place of destination and has an obligation to clear the goods not only for export but also for import, to pay any duty for both export and import and to carry out all customs formalities.”
Kaijanen said the company sells nearly all its product to wholesalers. An exception is the ferritic tubes used by bus builders, which are not stocked by wholesalers and sold directly by Stalatube to the manufacturers.
“Their logistics requirements are different; the lead time must be short because there are not such big stocks in the bus factories,” he said.
In its in-house magazine, Stalatube said Dachser USA’s Nordic route development manager, Mikko Lindroos, functions as Stalatube’s logistics contact in the U.S. markets and is a “key link to the customer interface.” Stalatube praised Lindroos for being proactive and open with customers should any problems arise.
“With thousands of kilometers between the market area and the plant, deliveries meet with all kinds of obstacles and delays along the way, from technical problems to the weather,” Lindroos said.
“Last year we shaved two weeks off a delivery going to California by ship when we picked it up already in New York and took it across country by truck,” he said. “This allowed our customer’s project to stay on schedule.”
Products in Europe are commonly delivered by truck, often moving on short-sea, roll-on/roll-off vessels for part of their transit, while steel shipped to the United States moves mostly in 40-foot containers. Stalatube ships about 200-300 containers (500 TEUs) to the United States annually.
Steel tubes are commonly stocked and sold in 20-foot lengths, which Kaijanen said is an inconvenient length for international shipping because bundles can’t be placed end-to-end in 40-foot containers without damaging the tubing. So a single bundle is put in the middle of the container.
“There is ‘air’ in every container,” Kaijanen said. “Weight of one load is normally 18-19 tons which is the maximum that can be trucked in the USA.”
He noted when companies want to minimize welds, they sometimes buy tubes in 40-foot lengths which can be shipped in 45-foot containers.
Kaijanen said the bundles of tubing are wrapped with plastic and given corner protection to prevent scratches. Tubes are then reloaded from containers to flatbed trucks at ports because distributors cannot offload bundles of tubes from containers.
“It is good if we can use the same equipment from our door to the customer door. In Europe it is best if there is no reloading,” he explained. “In the USA there is reloading and, of course, there can be problems when we do reloading, but in U.S. ports we have not had any problems with Dachser.”