Century Metals has expanded from its South Florida base, with an eye toward further penetration in the Sunshine State.
From its headquarters in Miami, Century Metals & Supplies Inc. has grown to serve parts north of its location. And, surprisingly, its market also extends south of its South Florida location.
But perhaps the most shocking development for the distributor is its most recent one, the ability to grow the business at home.
This year, Century Metals began receiving material at its primary facility via rail, a proposition that required a lot of time, patience and some digging.
Years earlier, the company had made a small move within the Miami market, venturing 10 miles south to its current location at 1251 NW 165th St. At the time, they were just looking for more space.
Yet, upon assumption of the property, owner Misael Rosario discovered a rail spur, overgrown by grass and weeds after years out of commission. Century executives quickly wondered if the spur could be revived, allowing for an additional method for the company to receive material in busy Miami.
Thus set off a years-long process, one that involved assistance from CSX and a domestic mill, plus regular battles with Florida Power and Light, the local utility company, and others. “It took six months to move an electrical box,” Rosario recalls of the lengthy process, one that COVID only helped to drag out further.
But in 2022, years after beginning the push to revive the line, the company received its first material on railcars. The spur, which ends at the back of their property, can hold up to six cars. “We don’t give up,” Rosario says of the determination it took to see it through.
The spur was an immediate success. Not only will it aid the company in its effort to secure material, Century has already been receiving calls from others in the metals supply chain, asking if they may be able to transload some material for them. It’s an idea worth considering, though finding room for storage is currently the biggest impediment to that idea.
Adding rail to the mix is just the latest development for the 32-year-old full-line service center business. Founded in 1988, the company experienced its greatest year yet in 2021 with $110 million in sales and new shipment records.
Since its launch, Century has steadily grown serving the South Florida market, a construction-heavy sector short on OEMs. Over time, its sales reach started to stretch north, demanding Century look at a second location to better serve its customers in Central Florida. Thus, in 2015, the company opened a warehouse in Orlando, initially an 8,000-square-foot facility, which it replaced with a 25,000-square-foot building.
The current facility in Orlando serves exclusively as a distribution site. All processing takes place at the 110,000-square-foot headquarters property. Century’s equipment in Miami includes a Chicago slitter with three injection heads, a machine installed within the last five years. Century also leans heavily on a Red Bud cut-to-length line with corrective leveler. Shearing and sawing are also done in-house.
The most recent capital expenditure at the facility was the installation of a racking system with sideloader, which aided in two ways. It eased some of the congestion inside the facility, while also improving efficiencies. Rosario estimates the company has seen productivity climb by 16 percent since the system was put in place.
All but five percent of the material the company sells undergoes some processing. On the other hand, the company only does a little outside processing, preferring to keep the lines free for their customers to meet their just-in-time requirements.
The company’s customer base tilts heavily toward construction markets and small job shops, which is common to the region. For customers that don’t have the ability to offload at their own facilities, the facility has a dedicated area of its yard for small businesses to come in and pick up material.
Century runs material up to Orlando from Miami, typically making up to four trips per week to the facility. Century operates a fleet of trucks, supplementing its trucks with outside carriers.
Its metals are a mix of domestic and imported product. “The heavier gauges we get from the domestic mills. We import a lot of the lighter gauges, the material the mills don’t want to produce,” says Henry Valdivia, general manager. The lighter gauge stuff is used in a lot of the construction products, including HVAC.
In addition to its chief product, carbon steel products, Century also sells aluminum, stainless and copper in limited quantities. Aluminum sales are particularly strong in the Orlando market, not as much in Miami. Much of its stainless is going into elevator manufacturing.
It processes its material on the same lines, running daily from the cleanest material to the dirtiest, then using its galvanized product as a cleaning agent at day’s end. This allows the operators to maximize run time compared with running the carbon steel products first.
The company was running a single shift in the spring, constrained less by demand and more by the inability to secure a reliable workforce to expand. Management would love to be able to run a second shift. “The biggest problem in the industry is finding operators. It’s a challenge,” Rosario says.
Now that it’s established in Central Florida, the company has begun to set its sights even farther north. The next stop will likely be either in Jacksonville or even into South Georgia. When that happens, Century will almost certainly add processing capacity at the new site, rather than also ship it from South Florida, a five-to six-hour trip one way.
“We would like to have another cut-to-length line. We can’t do it here, so that would be in the next expansion,” Rosario says.
While Florida is the hub of the operation, Century’s sales also extend south into the Caribbean. The company exports to the islands as well as Panama and other Central American countries.
To accommodate this, the rear of the building has been set aside as a Foreign Trade Zone. Material brought in that is earmarked for overseas sales will be segregated in the FTZ, as it must be kept away from domestic purchases for tax and legal purposes.
“The FTZ is in its third year. We’re fairly new to it,” Rosario says. “We’re still getting used to it, such as what are the items you want to bring in? All of it needs to be exported completely. Others you can bring in and pay what tariffs apply.”
The exported material tends to be more niche products, such as roof coil. “Most people can’t buy a truckload of it. We can buy a truckload, so it gives us that flexibility where they can come to us and still be competitive,” Rosario says.
All of its exported material is handled through freight forwarders and shipped from the Port of Miami or the Port of Everglades. Obviously, both material in and out of those facilities became more complicated earlier in the year with the port congestion all over the country. The various factors have slowed down some of the company’s export activities.
“Drivers didn’t want to pick things up, waiting for one container. Containers would arrive but were inaccessible. Rates went through the roof. It was a mess,” Valdivia says.
But Century will keep pursuing the foreign material, just as it explores other areas to grow and serve its customer base.
“These are new times. Everybody is learning how to navigate them,” Rosario says. Caption:
This Red Bud cut-to-length line is Century Metals’ “workhorse.”
(Photo by Dan Markham