man rolling sheet metal
Future Metals’ product offerings have continued to mature and grow, including through acquisitions.
Aerospace distributor strives for continuous improvement, growth, lasting relationships
By Corinna Petry

eople make all the difference in organizations. And that is especially true for companies that persevere. Future Metals is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, and it would have not braved the vicissitudes of market cycles without the right people to create, maintain and grow the company.

Founders John Porfidio, president; Charles Woodard, vice president of finance; John Ferrara, vice president of sales; and Bill Menze, vice president of warehouse operations, had all worked together at Tube Distributors before becoming entrepreneurs.

Beth Erickson was hired at the tender age of 15, working part time after school as a filing clerk and telex operator. “There were no computers back then, other than the punch card data processing equipment we used for billing,” she recalls. Erickson joined the company full time upon graduating high school in 1979.

“I worked wherever I was needed,” she says, “typing purchase orders to vendors and test reports for customers. Directing phone calls to sales personnel. Expediting deliveries, sourcing non-stock products, filling in when our leaders were out. Being the ‘grunt’ proved better than any university education I could have received.”

Erickson appreciates her colleagues, those who “have been instrumental in the success of this business. Our product offerings have continued to mature and grow,” including through acquisitions. “We now have 11 divisions worldwide serving the global aerospace industry.”

After 44 years, Erickson still wears many hats: “I am a salesperson, a customer service advocate, a program manager, a key account manager. It does not matter what title I go by—the learning never stops.”

Terry Ball, general sales manager, recalls that during his first week on the job, he went to talk with President John Porfidio. “He slipped an envelope across the desk. It was a week’s pay. I said, ‘I didn’t work last week.’ He said, ‘We backdated your employment because you have two little kids. Our insurance doesn’t kick in for 30 days.’”

That incident told Ball all he needed to know about the company leadership’s willingness to treat employees as family members.

Along the way, “I met so many good people. I was in outside sales my entire career so I got to know so many customers—from San Diego to Maine, from Florida to Montana. I became friends with many customers. I traveled and saw things I would not have been able to see,” he says.

Knowing where the material ends up, such as in a commercial airliner, helps motivate employees.
man doing paperwork in a warehouse
Knowing where the material ends up, such as in a commercial airliner, helps motivate employees.
Challenges met
Over the decades, the company saw both challenges and opportunities. In the late 1980s, “we sold a new customer 10 feet of tubing, in four sizes. No competitor would sell to them. When it became a bigger company, they wouldn’t buy from anyone but us. Those competitors all knocked on that customer’s door when it got big. That customer has been a friend of mine since that first sale,” says Ball.

One of the Future Metals team’s greatest accomplishments was landing a contract as the sole supplier of tubing for a company that bends the material for aircraft engines. “We have kept that contract for 25 years.”

Challenges have included “rising and falling nickel prices, some mills going out of business, lead times stretching to 52 weeks. Another big challenge was 9/11 when nothing was flying for a while. But that was nothing compared to COVID-19, which is a great challenge for the travel industry. When planes are sitting in the desert, they don’t need sheet and tubing,” says Ball.

International scope
Future Metals opened its first office outside of the United States in 1979, in the Netherlands, says Aart J. van der Griend, vice president for Europe & Asia. In 1988, the company opened a service center in the United Kingdom to supply subcontractors to Airbus.

Since then, Future Metals “steadily kept on building customers and contracts enabling us, in 2004, to turn the office in The Netherlands into a service center for a smooth JIT supply into Airbus facilities and subcontractors throughout Europe.”

Future Metals’ EU operations also expanded to cover the maintenance, repair and overhaul market for aircraft “by shifting required materials into the European service centers for a same-day delivery for airliners and repair centers’ aircraft-on-ground requirements.”

Future Metals was named an Elite Supplier by Lockheed Martin and applies its standards everywhere.
man working on machine in warehouse
Future Metals was named an Elite Supplier by Lockheed Martin and applies its standards everywhere.
This industry works hard to make sure the metal is always there, it’s quality, it’s always on time.
gerardo ramos
A new service center in Singapore, opened in 2004, “bridged time zones and distance for uninterrupted local supplies into the Asia-Pacific market for both OEM subcontractors and MRO,” van der Griend says. Attractive emerging markets pushed OEMs to eye different countries to partner with local companies or open their own facilities. In 2018, for example, “Future Metals opened a service center in Poland. That was followed with the opening of a service center in India in early 2019.”

Future Metals strategically brings supplies, service and added value to customers around the world, “allowing them to reduce inventory on hand and focus on their core business,” van der Griend explains.

New asset
Gerardo Ramos, division manager for Texas & Latin America, is one of the newer hires at Future Metals. He spent 20 years working directly for aerospace giants such as Boeing Satellite Systems, Safran and Lockheed Martin.

Now that Ramos is in raw material distribution, it’s a chance to “peel back the onion. It gives you a good understanding for the entire process—working with raw materials, working with mills, seeing products installed in engines and seeing an F-35 fly.”

Having been on the customer side, “I have an appreciation for the entire process and am able to demonstrate empathy [with customers]. I know what the Tier I contractors and OEMs are looking for from their suppliers. I am able to put myself in their situation and leverage that [on their behalf],” says Ramos.
Moving targets
Performance targets move frequently. Suppliers like Future Metals are measured constantly on contracts they bid on, contracts they win, on-time delivery percentage, quality score. “You must stay within a certain threshold. If on-time delivery falls below 85 percent, you must have a corrective action. We have to address it on our end,” according to Ramos.

“If we send bad material, we have to address nonconformance and provide a plan. OEMs will also ask us for performance improvements, greater efficiency, all to save the customer money. We have to show improvement and submit projects to them on a regular basis,” he says.

Future Metals HQ
Future Metals has 11 divisions worldwide serving global aerospace customers.
And Future Metals does this all the time. Ramos cites an example where a customer received five shipments a week. “We consolidated shipments to once a week by creating a production schedule that helps the customer. It saves us money, and the customer doesn’t have freight for five shipments, just one.

“These are standard asks,” he continues. “When you work with a Lockheed Martin, they are very selective about suppliers. The expectations are very high. When we were named an Elite Supplier, that means there were no quality defects, we were 100 percent on time, we acknowledged every document and submitted continuous improvement projects. You are essentially flawless for a given time period” to achieve the ranking.

Raise the bar
“In just about everything we do, we ask ourselves, ‘Does it pass the Lockheed Martin standard?’ If not, we raise the bar,” Ramos says. If the answer is yes, “we still raise the bar and get all of our operations up to that level. It makes us a better supplier and gives us a competitive advantage.”

Working on the supply side for the past year “has been eye opening,” he says. “When building an F-35, you don’t ask where this tubing comes from. You are worried about engines, wings, helmets, cockpits and fuselages. You don’t ask where the titanium is sourced. It’s just there.

“But that is the start of the process. You need to deliver raw material in a timely manner to start building an aircraft. Even if it is a small part, you need every part. The mission is so important.

“You aren’t just putting metal in a box and shipping it. It helps that our operators know where the product is going. The ownership, the pride in work is taken to the next level. This is an entire industry that works hard to make sure the metal is always there, it’s quality, it’s always on time.”

For perspective, says Ramos, “you can consider this Year 50 or Year 1. You take the lessons from the past, from a legacy organization, but you also plan for the next 50 years. Shaping that now is a big responsibility.”

Future Metals, Tamarac, Florida, 800/733-0960,