Dec 11, 2023

Masters of distribution: Energy Metals

John Drewryand Mike Priesmeyer had a simple reason for founding Houston-based master distributor Energy Metals eight years ago.

"We felt there was a need for a new distributor in the industry with a background and expertise in special-grade stainless and nickel alloys," says Drewry, whose career in the industrial PVF industry spans three decades and includes extensive experience with special-grade metals. "More significantly, we felt our niche company could provide more personalized service in a large marketplace than many of our competitors offered."

The marketplace agreed. So did industrial PVF master distributor Texas Pipe & Supply, the 94-year-old family-owned and -operated company that acquired Energy Metals in 2010. "Energy Metals shares our company's core values," Texas Pipe & Supply President Keith Rubenstein says. "In our industry there has been a lot of consolidation where service has been compromised. Energy Metals is family-operated, nimble, customer-focused and complements our product line for a great synergetic relationship."

Joining the Texas Pipe & Supply family has fed an impressive growth spurt for Energy Metals. In the last 16 months the company has expanded twice, moving in October 2011 to larger headquarters in southwest Houston and then doubling that location's square footage less than a year later. Energy Metals currently has a 65,000-sq.-ft. warehouse for fittings and flanges and a 10-acre pipe yard.

Energy Metals President Dennis Fikes notes the company has more than tripled its inventory in the last two years and now stocks 15 grades of special-grade stainless and nickel alloy pipe, fitting and flanges.

That inventory includes: Alloy 20, Duplex 2205, Super Duplex 2507, 317L, 310S/310H, 321/321H, 347/347H, 304/304H, Nickel 200/201, Monel alloy 400, Inconel alloy 600, Inconel alloy 625, Incoloy alloy 800H/HT, Incoloy alloy 825 and Hastelloy alloy C276. Seamless and welded pipe sizes are available from ½-in. through 24 in. and can be cut to length onsite.

"It demonstrates our solid commitment to customers and a global market," Fikes says. "Our inventory is one of the largest in the country."

As a master distributor, Energy Metals generally deals in standard sizes, but Fikes explains the company does delve into specialty pipe sizes and heavy wall thicknesses. He has seen duplex gain more acceptance in the United States, while super duplex and nickel alloys also are increasing in popularity throughout the world.

To better serve its global market, Energy Metals is in the process of adding distribution locations to other parts of the country and exploring expansion opportunities outside the United States.

Wide-ranging inventory and distribution is only one benefit Energy Metals offers to customers. Breadth of specialized industry experience among the company's staff is of equal value. Fikes joined Energy Metals in 2011 and is on the board of directors of the PVF Roundtable. He's spent the last 13 years of his 38-year industrial PVF career working in specialty stainless and nickel alloys.

Priesmeyer, the company's purchasing manager, entered the industry in 1979 and is a 24-year veteran of special-grade stainless and nickel alloys. Drewry, Energy Metals’ sales manager, boasts 25 years in the special metals field. Quality and Safety Manager John Hunter brings 30 years of industry experience to the table. Perhaps even more advantageous to customers is the company's veteran sales force. Six of the seven individuals on the sales staff have worked 20 or more years in the industry.

"That depth on the bench translates to superior service," Fikes says. "We trust our staff's knowledge and authorize them to act. In other words, our customers don't have to wade through six layers of management to get a time-sensitive answer or decision. That means after normal business hours as well. A call at night goes straight to a person who can help instead of to a voicemail box."

When Texas Pipe & Supply acquired Energy Metals, the parent company shared use of its state-of-the-art delivery system. Customers of both companies are the primary beneficiary of 20 years of progressive development.

"Texas Pipe has invested millions in software and hardware for the sole purpose of improving quality of product and customer service," Rubenstein says. "Paperwork has always been a challenge in this industry. We’ve simplified and sped up the process electronically to offer secure ordering and reliable delivery."

Energy Metals’ new and improved website allows customers to receive detailed reports including packing lists, invoices, tallies and materials testing results. Paperwork is prepared and sent electronically to customers before product is shipped (one-day shipping is available), affording purchasers the opportunity to make efficient changes. Rubenstein and Fikes state it's a level of detail and responsiveness not provided anywhere else in the industry.

Quality measures begin the moment material comes off the truck. Wireless computers mounted on forklifts enable operators to key in tallies and immediately validate heat numbers. "When we make an entry, it's been crosschecked for accuracy and becomes instantly accessible across the country," Fikes says.

In addition to maintaining precise inventory records, Energy Metals also exercises strict quality control. Storage racks are covered with a special coating to prevent carbon contamination, while poly rollers instead of steel rollers are used on saws. Forklifts are fitted with special adapters so blades don't touch material. During onsite machining, poly clamps rather than steel ones are used to avoid contamination.

Every effort is made to protect product integrity for the customer, including performing onsite positive material identification. A costly, nondestructive testing device permits Energy Metals to verify the percentage of key elements in the material. "It's provides a product birth certificate. It's an important service to our customers," Fikes says.

Drewry adds: "Onsite PMI speeds up delivery to our customers. If you contract out these types of services, you can wait a long time for results. We do it here and ship verified material much faster."

Executives at both companies make it abundantly clear the customer rules. Rubenstein acknowledges that creed served Energy Metals and Texas Pipe & Supply well during the recent economic downturn.

"We have a loyal customer base that chose to continue to use both Energy Metals and Texas Pipe through hard times. For that we are very grateful," he says. "We wouldn't have made it without them. Both companies exist to serve the customers’ needs. If there's a problem, we will fix it. If a customer has a suggestion on how we can do something better, we will listen. Many of the best ideas we’ve implemented have come from customers."

As industrial PVF master distribution continues to flourish, Rubenstein predicts parallel success for both companies. "We allow our customers to spend more time focused on their customers rather than inventory," he says. "Let us be the inventory. It's what we do best."

Mike Miazga is vice president of sales and membership at the American Supply Association and former longtime chief editor of Supply House Times and group editorial director of BNP Media's Plumbing Group. Reach him at [email protected]