coil processing machine
United Steel Supply’s goal is to have all products readily available for customers demanding JIT delivery.
Shopping Cart
Being able to quickly slit both high volumes and one-off coils brings value to consumers of coated sheet
By Corinna Petry

hen something works out well, that’s proof enough to do it again. That’s what United Steel Supply did when it installed its second complete slitting line from Braner USA Inc.

United Steel Supply (USS) furnishes Galvalume, galvanized and prepainted steel coils for metal roofing and siding applications to the agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential markets, both domestically and for export. Coatings include a polyester coating, a SMP Weather XL coating and a fluoropolymer paint coating, according to Will Waldrip, vice president of the service center.

The company first installed a Braner slitting line at its Jackson, Mississippi, service center in 2018. That line processes coated coils up to 60 inches wide, with mechanical properties to 120,000-psi in gauges from 0.010- through 0.125-inch thick.

“The reason for the Jackson slitter was to control the service,” says Waldrip. “We were using third-party toll processors. Over time, they could not keep up” with the volume of orders USS was generating. “We went into the market for equipment, and we went with Braner. [The Jackson slitter has] had no issues. It is an unbelievable piece of equipment for us. So when the time came to grow our operation in Pleasanton, Texas, we turned to Braner again.”

Waldrip explains that USS has grown significantly—“20 to 25 percent each year over 16 years.” In early 2019, Steel Dynamics Inc. acquired USS because it wanted to expand its coated steel value chain. The partnership affords the steelmaker a better opportunity to supply this material more directly to users.

“Having SDI as a partner is a big feather in our cap,” says Waldrip. “We are handling more steel than we thought we could; we might be the largest U.S. supplier of coated products.”

USS warehouse
USS installed a slitter in Pleasanton, Texas, that handles heavier gauges and strengths up to 160,000 psi.
USS is not a toll processor. “We own every pound of steel. We buy all the steel from SDI, inventory it and, when customers need processing, we process it. We are a JIT supplier. Our goal is to have everything at all times, and that has been the case,” even through COVID-19, he says. “With steel mills being tight, supply has been a challenge but 99 percent of our orders are delivered on time.”

USS carries a significant amount of inventory, primarily standard products in standard colors. In most cases, mill producers are seeking orders of “massive quantities, but our customers want one coil of Galvalume, one coil of red paint, one coil of blue paint. They want a shopping cart. We are able to support that,” Waldrip says.

USS has a dedicated sales force spread throughout the country, developing opportunities. Orders are then “handed over to our inside customer service team—no one is closer to them in the industry. Once we get the first truckload, we know it’s going to be repeat business,” Waldrip says.

A niche
“A lot of our competitors perform different types of slitting. We are focused on prepainted steel and surface condition is critical. There can be no debris, no scratching. A high-quality finish is necessary,” says Waldrip. The bulk of its processed material ends up in building products, roofing and siding for commercial, residential and industrial construction projects. “We have large customers with huge projects and others who sell to small-town contractors,” he says.

USS sells its products throughout the lower 48 states from Jackson, Mississippi; Pleasanton, Texas; Eugene, Oregon; Tontitown, Arkansas; and Jeffersonville, Indiana. “Every one of these facilities has processing lines. Our ability to grow is based on being able to source [steel], to have distribution close to the customer base and turn orders around in a very timely manner,” Waldrip says.

With prices rising over the past 18 months, companies tend to keep more capital in house to cover inventory costs, he says. “But you have to buy steel in order to serve the customer. We have been conservative on spending, so that we had the capital to pay for steel and grow the business.”

roll of sheet metal
Twenty to 25 percent growth every year has compelled United Steel Supply to invest in more capacity.
More capacity
Late last year, USS installed and started a second Braner-built slitting operation in Pleasanton. “The new line is in full production and running as smooth as we could ask for,” says Waldrip.

“It was probably 2017 when Will first reached out to us,” says Chuck Damore, president of Braner USA. “He didn’t know us but saw our equipment at his outside processors. We went down to Austin and introduced ourselves. He never did slitting before so we showed him different lines we built, different installations and he came to our factory. It took about 10 to 11 months to build and install. It went relatively quickly. Everything is custom engineered,” he notes.

After SDI bought USS, Waldrip informed Damore that SDI was building a steel mill in Sinton, Texas, and so USS bought an existing warehouse in Pleasanton, which is about an hour and 20 minutes northwest of SDI’s new melt shop and rolling mill.

USS prepared the warehouse with “a fair amount of infrastructure work. This retrofitting took longer than it normally would, due to the pandemic,” says Damore.

USS wanted a slitter that could handle heavier gauges and strengths up to 160,000 psi. The company also needed a built-in scrap handling system and other features. There are hold-down clamps at the recoiler. “We upgraded the tension system. It’s a hydrostatic roll tension stand. It has anti-skid (non-marking) tensioning. It’s HMI controlled. The gaps and back tension are automatically adjustable. The back tension is controlled through HMI screens,” Damore says.

Our customers want one coil of Galvalume, one coil of red paint, one coil of blue paint.
will waldrip, united steel supply
Although it’s built to handle master coils up to 62 inches wide, the Pleasanton line is “more robust to manage the high-strength material. [USS] is running bread-and-butter light-gauge painted product, using wider cuts. They break coils down for customers. They will load a 30,000-pound coil and make three coils of 10,000 pounds each,” he explains.

Both the Jackson and Pleasanton slitters have three quick-change heads. The lines are programmable, meaning an operator can enter the thickness and the slitter heads will rise up and down and open automatically. The line has patented quick-lock threadless nuts that to lock tooling in place. USS can apply PVC film on both lines, Damore says.

“Both lines are completely safety conscious,” he continues. “They have interlock gates that surround the line completely. We upgraded the fencing in Pleasanton to meet SDI’s own requirements. They have a particular way of doing things.”

Says Waldrip, “Our safety is of the utmost importance. We have advanced guarding and safety features. Our people are not in danger at any time. There are locks and keys and red lights and green lights,” which control access to the equipment.

USS expects to continue expanding its footprint and capabilities. “There are more warehouses and slitters in the next 24 to 36 months,” Waldrip says.

“We are a service provider, with JIT inventory, getting it slit on time. We are investing back into the company so we can help customers grow. Having more capacity, being close to the customer and handling the material precisely is what is necessary to help customers build their business.”

Braner USA Inc., Schiller Park, Illinois, 847/671-6210,

United Steel Supply, Austin, Texas, 512/263-0954,