• Alison Folwell

Startup Steel - the new steel distributor taking the Midlands (and the rest of the UK) by storm

When British Steel was bought out by the Chinese multi-industry Jingye Group back in March 2020, it underwent a big restructure which combined two Birmingham based sites into one. A group of five employees from one of those sites decided to go it alone and form a new, independent steel business: Midland Steel Distribution.

What started as an idea for a simple steel trading company has escalated fast, and 2021 is looking very exciting indeed for the new venture.

Setting up from scratch

Work began in earnest to get set up almost immediately, despite the then-emerging threat of Covid-19. The team – Ian, Marc, Dan, Sue and Fran, with experience in steel ranging from three to 30 years - worked throughout lockdown to prepare for the launch.

MSD officially started trading on 3rd August 2020, with an initial plan to spend the first few years trading steel direct from supplier to customer, without a stockholding of its own, before looking to take on premises. But those plans have accelerated much faster than expected.

Within just a couple of months, MSD took over the management of a new site, and have already begun to develop their own stockholding. Director Ian Knowles says, “We are delighted at how fast the business is growing. We had a lot of contacts in the industry already from our previous experience, but it has been amazing to see the support and loyalty we’re getting from customers. Lockdown has been challenging of course, but business is going well and we are extremely busy! We really can't thank all our customers and suppliers enough for the amazing support we have received inside our first few months.”

Planning for future growth

When founding the company, the directors knew they needed to get the infrastructure right. They needed a trading system simple and affordable enough to allow them to process trading transactions, but which also had the scope to develop and evolve into a more sophisticated stock management platform and eventually, a complete end-to-end ERP system.

They looked into a few different options and eventually settled on the new cloud-based Merchanter ERP system from - yes, you guessed it - Ten-25 Software.

“What we needed to do at that point in time was fairly basic,” explains Dan Need, who looks after IT at MSD. “But three things swayed us towards the Ten-25 system. Firstly, it was simple to use. It does exactly what it says on the tin so we knew we would get the functionality we need now, with the flexibility to add a lot more functions as we expand. Ten-25 works with other steel stockholders so we knew they would be able to cater to our needs.

Secondly, we wanted to work with a supplier who would work with us as a real partnership, and take an interest in what we do. We didn’t want to be “just another customer."

And lastly, the flexibility of the pricing system was a big benefit for us, as we only need to pay for the elements we need, so we can spread the costs as we’re in these early days!”

“From go ahead to go live in just 4 weeks!”

Responsiveness and flexibility were important criteria for MSD, as growth is always unpredictable. They wanted a supplier with a system flexible enough to add functions and features as required; and having a cloud-based platform accessible 24/7 from any smart device made that even easier, as all updates, installations and training can be done remotely.

“We’ve worked with server-based systems before, so being cloud-based was a big pull for us,” says Dan. “If anyone needs to work from home they can, without a complicated logging-on process - but it also makes it easier to update the system from the ground as well, when we’re in the warehouse or doing deliveries. The stock features will be more and more useful as we continue to grow and the volumes increase. We had a record-breaking November, and it’s looking busy right through to January and beyond.”

We were able to speed up the traditional timelines of ERP implementation to match the accelerated growth of MSD. Additional functionality will be added as the business develops but the initial system was implemented in a very short space of time, going from go ahead to go live in a record-breaking four weeks.

Our own Managing Director Ian Oldrey said, “It’s been brilliant seeing Midland Steel developing so quickly and bringing their three year plan down to under six months. It’s a really exciting time for them, and we are proud to be a part of their story and their development. The flexibility of a system like Merchanter really comes into its own in situations like this, and it can evolve with them as they grow.”

If you would like to try Merchanter for yourself, just register for login details here to use the online demo system.