(Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from C.J. Nord, C.P.M., CSCP, founder of the nonprofit Supply Chains for Good, and Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative.)
Don’t hold out hope for the U.S.’s stainless steel shortage to get better until you know of new supply coming online.
There appear to be no plans in the works to increase domestic production. Supply may tighten even more than we have seen. This is similar in scale to the chip shortage.
Stainless steel shortage factors
Like almost all factory shortages, multiple factors have led to the stainless steel shortage.
The shortage became a national concern in January 2021, when ATI Metals took 304 stainless offline and shifted production to 316 grade.
The news of that change didn’t make it downstream. Our nation is still underinformed about the shortage of this type of steel. Stainless is critical for multiple applications in a broad range of industries.
The ATI change took roughly 30% of our nation’s supply offline. Furthermore, only about 10% has come back online (these are rough numbers based on our surveys of users and distributors).
If a mill decides to bring 304 online, it could take as much as a year for supply to reach the distributor level.
This is a long-term, painful shortage.