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The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 marked the beginning of a global crisis that affected nearly every sector of the economy. One such industry that experienced significant challenges and changes was the steel industry. Despite this, due to our dedication of service to our longstanding client base, Cotswold Steel has been able to weather the storm and survive a difficult time felt by all in the industry.

Immediate Disruptions in Supply Chains

As the pandemic swept across continents, the steel industry was hit hard by disruptions in global supply chains. Lockdowns, movement restrictions, and border closures aimed at curbing the virus’s spread led to a sudden drop in demand for steel products, affecting both production and transportation. Where jobs were able to go ahead, certain section sizes were nearly impossible to source. Those that were, had increased in price so significantly that jobs previously deemed affordable were put on hold indefinitely. Some after effects of this supply bottleneck are still felt today.

Demand Fluctuations & Market Uncertainty

An initial drop in demand saw the closure of a large number of big steel suppliers/manufacturers (with staff put on to the furlough scheme). Whilst Cotswold Steel had an uncertain start to the pandemic, their decision to stay open and provide continued service across the South West proved a fruitful one. With other suppliers choosing to shut up shop, Cotswold Steel was left as one of the few suppliers still delivering a service to the industry in their area for a period of time.

The combination of disrupted supply chains and fluctuating demand led to significant price volatility in the steel market. Many steel producers found themselves grappling with rapid increase in prices across the board. From reinforcing to structural steelwork, price increases quickly got out of hand. With increases coming as regularly as once a week and rising as much as 500% per item in some cases! Of course this put additional strain on the already struggling construction industry. As material prices continued to rise and options became fewer, some projects had to be abandoned all together.

At Cotswold Steel a decision was made to try and keep prices as affordable as possible by reducing margins in order to allow work to continue. Whilst this put a strain on the bottom line for Cotswold Steel, it meant that their customers in many cases were still able to get jobs across the line. This helped Cotswold Steel garner support from loyal customers all the way through to the end of the pandemic.

Operational Challenges & Workforce Safety

Adapting to new health and safety protocols proved to be another obstacle for the steel industry. Manufacturers had to implement stringent safety measures to protect their workforce from COVID-19 transmission. This often meant operating with reduced capacity, adjusting shifts to ensure physical distancing, and investing in personal protective equipment (PPE). These changes affected every industry and steel was no different. But Cotswold Steel saw this as a necessity in order to keep staff and customers safe. 

Looking Ahead: Recovery & Sustainability

As the world still continues to gradually emerge from the grips of the pandemic, the steel industry faces the task of building a resilient future. Recovery will require a delicate balance between addressing immediate challenges and adopting sustainable practices. The lessons learned from the pandemic will likely shape how the industry approaches supply chain diversification, risk management, and the implementation of digital technologies.

COVID-19 thrust the global steel industry into an unexpected and arduous journey. The challenges faced underscored the industry’s capacity to adapt, innovate, and collaborate to overcome adversity. As recovery efforts gain momentum, the steel industry’s commitment to sustainability, technological advancement, and its role in supporting global economic growth will undoubtedly lead the way towards a brighter and more resilient future.

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