One of the distinctions of modern society that is easy to take for granted is the ready availability of common and specialty metals. The technology developed in this industry since the Industrial Revolution has produced near-miraculous processes and products. Every aspect of our lives is impacted in thousands of ways daily by metals of every type and characteristic. As science continues to push the envelope in the area of applications and new materials, we benefit in areas as varied as our automobiles, surgical devices and consumer electronics.
Globalization has become a major factor in the specialty metals marketplace. This was dramatically illustrated during the 2008 economic downturn. Prices for various metals and raw materials in the industry plummeted over concerns of a slowdown in demand and utilization. While the core market has rebounded nearly to pre-2008 prices, and exceeded them in some segments, producers and suppliers learned a painful lesson during this process. Just one market segment illustrates the point. The new Boeing and Airbus aircraft will consume an unprecedented amount of titanium. Anticipation of this need drove billions of investment in new mining and production capacities. However, the economic downturn affected the production and delivery dates of new airliners and, in turn, had a major impact on those producers of titanium. Forecasting in the industry is a complex process fraught with financial risks.
As a nation, globalization also represents growing strategic concerns. Obtaining sheet metal Los Angeles firms need may be easy. However, there are other metals and alloys mined or produced elsewhere in the world that are of great strategic importance. This is an industry not to be taken lightly or for granted.