MRC Global has been in business for over a century, and for good reason. Having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, MRC Global is one of the most successful pipe, valve, and fitting (PVF) distributors in its space, a position that has been shaped – in large part – by its people. Stainless Steel World Americas had the pleasure of speaking with MRC Global’s Jack McCarthy, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain, and Robert Nunn, Executive Director of Stainless Steel & Alloys, to learn more about how MRC Global continues to provide excellent value to its customers, and what is yet to come.
By Sara Mathov
Background and History
In the early 1920s, humanity was recovering from a global pandemic that is estimated to have infected one-third of the world’s population. In this time of uncertainty, Jerry McJunkin set out to build something that mattered. He and his brothers-in-law were certain that if they could solve a problem for their customers and maintain high levels of integrity and service, they could provide for their families and positively impact their communities.
Numerous acquisitions and leadership changes occurred, bringing the company to the front of the supplier market. A period of rapid-fi re growth began with a bang – the addition of Transmark FCX. Practically overnight, on May 30, 2012, McJunkin Red Man, as the company was named after its merger with Red Man Pipe & Supply, was officially the Global Supplier of Choice.
Over the last decade, companies from Australia to Singapore and Norway became part of the MRC Global family, growing stainless steel, high alloy, valve, valve automation and specialty value-driven offerings for customers. The specialized capabilities of MRC Global’s expanding inter-national operations, in addition to the company’s strong, long-term relationships in North America, ultimately resulted in global valve contracts with several integrated oil companies.
McJunkin Supply Company may have been the first branch in the family tree but over the next 100 plus years, heritage companies around the world would be established and grow into what is now known as MRC Global. With Rob Saltiel serving as President and CEO since 2021, MRC Global is set to continue to expand and maintain its strong presence.
Large Product and Material Offering
“Stainless steel and alloy products are very important to us. They are an integral part of our industrial PVF offering to our broad end user base”, explained McCarthy. “MRC Global offers a full range of stainless steel PVF, with sizes from half an inch through 24 inch, from commodity grades to high alloys,” said Nunn. “We carry a variety of grades for these products, such as duplex, 317L stainless, 321 and 347 stainless grades, and Alloy 20, that our AML (approved manufacturers list) vendors produce.”
For customers in high corrosive environments, MRC Global has no shortage of materials to choose from, including Alloy 20, Hastelloy C276 and Alloy 400. “A large percentage of our custom-er base is involved in petrochemical and chemical production, so having materials for corrosive situations is essential,” said Nunn. The most common in this area is 304L and 316L, according to Nunn. “From there, we do see a progression to Alloy 20 and duplex, and then further upwards into temperature grades.”
Customer Satisfaction and Guaranteed Quality
“MRC Global has a dedicated approach when it comes to stainless steel and alloy products. We have a team of subject matter experts (SMEs) in these products, along with an extensive inventory offering. Whatever the customer requirements, our team of SMEs can provide solutions,” explained Nunn.
Carrying an extensive stainless steel pipe and fi t-ting inventory complements MRC Global’s broad product offering of stainless steel valves, and car-bon steel PVF.
“MRC Global can provide products per custom-er specifications, or we can offer an alternative solution. Anything above and beyond the standard specifications that may be required can be sourced by our team. For a vendor to be accepted onto MRC Global’s AML, it must pass an extensive audit performed by our own internal Quality Team. Quite often our end-users consult us when a problem arises because they know we perform comprehensive assessments on manufacturers. We offer additional ser-vices for stainless, like positive material identification (PMI), which we perform internally, and outside of that, we can secure third parties for any additional services required by the customer.”
Pushing Through Challenges – Staying Ahead of the Market
MRC Global has maintained its strong position and reputation despite the global challenges all sectors have faced. “Our industry has been challenged with significant market disruption, including the US International Trade Commission (ITC) announcement that levied a significant anti-dumping duty against flanges produced in India. This action has impacted flange manufacturers worldwide. In addition, there have been constant raw material price increases since the beginning of 2020. Moreover, many renewable projects have been delayed into 2022 due to lack of government approval,” explained Nunn. “I think we have already seen the largest impact as it relates to 304 and 316 stainless pipe and fittings. However, with the latest strikes in the metals industry, I do not feel we have seen the end of the recent nickel alloy price increases and extended deliveries.”
The lingering effects of COVID-19 and the recent on-set of infections from the Delta and Omicron variants have caused considerable difficulties within the global supply chain. “Substantial transportation delays are creating capacity challenges and pricing instability, affecting most PVF product costs and lead times. Labor and commodity shortages also top the list of obstacles that industries face. While we cannot control the uncertainty in the market, we can communicate and educate our customers so they can be better prepared,” said Nunn.
Along with offering top quality services and products, MRC Global performs frequent and extensive market reviews and provides periodic updates to its customers. These market updates help educate the customers on material pricing and lead times. By maintaining this transparency, customers can stay informed on supply chain disruptions, especially those caused by the ongoing global pandemic.
“At MRC Global, we recognize that our role in the supply chain is critical to our customers, and we are working diligently to meet these challenges. MRC Global’s supply chain teams are constantly monitoring the market and making strategic buying decisions to help our customers mitigate against this fluid situation. During these challenging times, we take care of our customers by making forward buys and educating customers on the obstacles that we are facing. This helps all of us remain successful,” said Nunn. “We also continue our commitment to maintain sufficient inventory levels.”
“As our customers continue to invest in energy transition, we are dedicated to supporting their green energy and decarbonization initiatives. This commitment is evidenced in the volume of stainless steel and alloy products that we inventory and our investment in subject matter experts who support those industries,” said McCarthy. “These projects require a wide range of alloys, starting with stainless steel and chrome, working all the way up to nickel alloys. We were part of this effort before the pandemic, and we will continue to be during and after,” explained Nunn.
Nunn believes that the most fascinating thing about renewables is the diversity of alloys that are used. “The corrosiveness of the application determines what alloys need to be used. Many of these projects require multiple materials, a lot of which may be used outside in storage stations. That is why this is so exciting, so many different alloys are being utilized in this sector.”
Another interesting area of focus going forward is refineries working with carbon capture ‘alloying up.’ “This is when they go from using a standard product to a higher grade with increased alloys in order to decrease issues and downtime. I think we will see this a lot going forward, especially in updating piping systems.” The two main criteria that help to determine the alloy used are temperature and corrosiveness. “The higher the plant moves up in these areas, the higher the alloy to be specified for use.”
Nunn is enthusiastic about the future of MRC Global. “There are so many exciting opportunities ahead, and we are at the center of it all, supporting our customers with a wide range of products and a deep knowledge of the business. That is who we are, and what we do. We made adjustments just like everyone else has, and we like to think that we have come out on the other side with a much stronger and focused approach to a business that we have been sustaining for 100 years and counting.”