What are some questions to ask a metal supplier? You can ask whether or not they’re ISO certified. If they are ISO certified, that means they’ve developed and maintained business processes (and performance) to appropriate quality standards.
What kind of industries do they supply to? For instance, do they specialize in just one industry or do they supply to several, including such industries as aerospace, military, chemical, industrial, nuclear, petrochemical, semiconductor, etc.? What is their scope? Do they supply a certain region or country or are they global in reach?
How about minimum order quantities? Do they have a policy where customers must order a certain amount? Can they support orders for quantities smaller than their minimums, and, if so, do they charge extra?
Regarding compliance to standards like DFARS, AMS or ASTM, can the metal supplier meet those requirements?
Don’t be afraid to ask a metal supplier about lead time(s). Find out how fast they operate– do they ship things out the same day things are ordered? Does delivery take a couple days or weeks or months?
Before the Internet became a dominant way to do business, many metal suppliers used to use line cards that were sent out to potential customers. Line cards detailed common stock items. You could ask a metal supplier if they still send out line cards (aka whitepapers)– some do and some don’t.
How long has a company been in business? Sometimes it helps to know whether or not the business is brand new or well-established. For instance, a company that has been around for several decades might be the better choice to work with than, say, one that’s only a month old. That’s because years of experience and connections can make a company well-respected and able to accomplish tasks that newbies just aren’t ready to tackle.
Finally, it’s a good idea to ask potential metal suppliers if they can customize orders. You might have very specific needs that require very specific options. If and when you find a metal supplier who can meet your exact needs, that’s a great thing!