Afternoon Coffee: US faces steel shortage; Covid-19 vaccine production to ramp up; Valtatech and Centsoft announce partnership for AP automation

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In a fresh round of supply chain disruption, steel is facing a shortage in the United States and leading to higher prices, according to Reuters.

Unfilled orders for steel last quarter sat at the highest level in five years, with inventories remaining near a 3½-year low. Domestic steel mills that idled last year amid fears of a Covid-19 pandemic-induced economic downturn have been slow to ramp up production even though there has been recovery in demand for cars and trucks, appliances and other steel products.

Capacity utilization rates at steel mills — the measure of how full production capacity is being used — moved up to 75% after falling to 56% in the second quarter of 2020. It remains below the 82% number from last February though, the article reported. Steel shipment is up but sits below last year’s levels.

“Our members have been reporting that they have never seen such chaos in the steel market,” Paul Nathanson, executive director at Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users, told Reuters.

Spend Matters’ sister site MetalMiner tracks the prices for steel and other metals. On Tuesday, MetalMiner's Fouad Egbaria reports that steel types like US hot rolled coil price reached $1,168/st, up 8.25% from the previous month and the cold rolled coil price increased 13.25% to $1,342/st.

Most metal prices have broken through resistance levels, the top price in MetalMiner's Monthly Metal Outlook report that forecasts prices, looks at trends and offers metals buying strategies. The next MMO report comes out Monday for subscribers.

Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers expect to double production capacity in March

Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers said they are drastically ramping up production of doses next month, according to CNBC. Some of the biggest manufacturers said they plan on doubling the pace of production.

Pfizer said it expects to produce more than 13 million doses of its two-shot vaccine per week for the US in mid-March, marking more than double the pace of earlier this month.

Moderna hopes to deliver 40 million doses of its two-shot vaccine per month by April, again double the current pace, the article said.

The US supply might also be helped by new manufacturers entering the mix. The Food and Drug Administration is set to review a new Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine this week. Taken together, the plans indicate the US will be on track to have received 240 million doses of the vaccine by the end of March, enough to vaccine 130 million people, the article reported.

“Since the end of 2020, we have doubled our monthly deliveries to the US government, and we are working to double them again by April to more than 40 million doses per month,” Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna's president, told CNBC. “As we work to meet these goals, we are continually learning and working closely with our partners and the federal government to identify ways to address bottlenecks and accelerate our production.”

Valtatech, Centsoft announce partnership for AP automation

Melbourne-based Valta Technology Group (Valtatech), a financial process automation provider, announced on Tuesday that it partnered with accounts payable (AP) automation provider Centsoft. The partnership will focus on driving back-office digital transformation among small and medium-sized businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.

In a press release announcing the partnership, Valtatech said this will bring Centsoft’s e-invoicing solutions to the region for the first time. It will help power Valtatech’s AP Cloud, which automates the business processes for mid-market organizations.

“Our AP Cloud service gives businesses the ability to run their accounts payable processes completely digitally, minimizing manual effort and maximizing operational efficiency,” Jussi Karjalainen, founder and managing partner of Valtatech, said in the press release. “Providing a cost-effective way for small to medium-sized businesses to realize the benefits of accounts payable digitization and automation. Our partnership with Centsoft will ensure APAC businesses have access to, and can leverage, the right processes, skills and technology to transform a critical element of their AP process and make a simple transition to paperless invoicing.”

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