What are typical prices for a kilogram of structural steel? What are the cost factors and what influence does the manufacturing location have on the prices of welded steel structures and steel components?

These questions are essential for buyers of mechanical and plant engineering companies when setting up their supply chain. The answer is, however, highly individual and depends on many different factors.

Here, we will show you when low-cost country sourcing is worthwhile in order to benefit from geographical advantages and how to achieve a meaningful price comparison for structural steelwork.

The most important cost factors for structural steel

In simplified terms, producer prices for steel construction ex-works are mainly composed of four cost factors:

  • Labor costs (labor costs for cutting, welding, fitting, preservation and assembly of parts)
  • Material costs (costs for raw materials such as plates, beams, steel profiles or pipes, as well as auxiliary materials such as welding electrodes or grinding wheels)
  • Administration costs and profit(building costs, quality assurance, distribution, payroll accounting, distribution costs, levies, etc.)
  • External costs (galvanizing, powder coating, other surface or heat treatment)

In addition, purchasing must also take into account the internal expenses for on-site supplier support, as well as the delivery costs, in order to arrive at a meaningful overall cost comparison.

Steel prices and material costs

Due to the open markets in Europe, steel prices are relatively homogeneous and do not differ significantly. At most, transport costs have an influence here so that manufacturing companies in the vicinity of favorable steel producers or distributors have slight cost advantages. In the case of heavy steel construction with high wall thicknesses and few processing steps, material costs do have an influence, but due to the small differences, no major location advantages can be distinguished here. In the case of lighter steel construction with thin sheet thicknesses and more complex structures, the significance of material prices is lower. Component weight plays a smaller role here and contributes less to overall costs. The less standardized the semi-finished products used, such as sheets, profiles, or tubes, the more the suppliers’ sources of supply matter.

Even if there are local cost differences for the raw products such as steel beams or sheets, these are offset by the fact that suppliers can source the goods from other EU countries in this case. Favorable countries of origin in the EU include Bulgaria for structural steel and Italy for stainless steel.

Worldwide prices have also differed only slightly in the past, so there has been little potential for savings here due to the long transport routes. In November 2017, for example, a ton of hot-rolled steel cost €574 in the USA, €536 in Europe, and €451 in China, with approx. 20% customs duty being added for steel from China, so that a balance again prevails. (source).

Hot-rolled steel is traded internationally on commodity exchanges and is therefore an indicator of steel prices. However, prices for semi-finished products such as profiles, sheets and tubes are generally higher.

During the Corona pandemic, material prices rose sharply and are currently at a high level and very volatile. Although they have stabilized in recent weeks, there is still no sign of stable prices.

What is the steel price per ton in 2022?

As of January 2022, steel prices of around €1,200 per ton (average purchase price of suppliers) are to be expected in Europe for standard sheets and profiles.

The high volatility of the steel prices is causing challenges for many companies. They can hedge against market risks with price escalation clauses or derivatives.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, price differences have also widened. As of January 2022, prices for hot-rolled steel on the exchanges in China are significantly lower than in Europe (approx. US $1,000 per ton) and the USA (approx. US $1250 per ton) at around US $750 per ton. At the same time, however, transportation costs in international container shipping have increased significantly.

Energy and auxiliary materials

Energy prices for industry in Europe vary by up to 100%. However, unlike steel production and processing, energy costs have little impact on the production of steel structures. According to Eurostat, the lowest electricity prices for industrial customers can be found in Serbia (0.05 €/kWh) and the highest in Italy (0.15 €/kWh). Industrial customers in Poland or Hungary pay only slightly more than half as much as industrial customers in Germany.

Auxiliary materials such as technical gases or welding electrodes are available in all industrial nations at similar prices and have little effect on the final price of a steel structure.

Labor costs

On the other hand, the situation is quite different for labor costs. Labor costs are the decisive cost factor in the production of steel components such as weldments. Especially for complex lightweight steel components with many processing steps, labor costs contribute disproportionately to the final price. However, this statement only applies to components with many manual work steps. For orders with a high level of value added by machines, such as the serial production of stamped parts, cuttings or CNC bending, the labor costs lose influence and other costs, especially transport costs gain more weight.

According to Eurostat, the cost for one working hour in the industry in 2019 was €41,20 (€33,00) in Germany, compared with only €6,90 (5,50) in Romania. The other labour costs of some major EU industrial locations can be found in the table below:

Country€/h
Germany41,20 (33,00)
Austria38,90 (32,70)
Italy28,80 (27,80)
EU (28 countries)28,20 (25,40)
Slovenia19,20 (16,20)
Slovakia13,10 (10,40)
Czech Republic13,60 (10,20)
Croatia10,50 (10,00)
Poland10,50 (8,60)
Hungary10,80 (8,30)
Romania6,90 (5,50)
Bulgaria5,70 (4,40)

These figures are average wages in the industry. Key workers such as certified welders are in high demand internationally and are therefore significantly more expensive even in low-wage countries.

Switzerland is not mentioned in this table. In 2012 the industrial labor costs were according to the swiss statistical lexicon already exceeded €50 per hour. For this reason, labor costs in Switzerland have an above-average impact on steel construction prices.

Administration costs and profit

In addition to company profit, these costs include expenses for buildings and machinery as well as personnel that cannot be directly allocated to an order.

When calculating costs in steel construction companies, all direct costs, mainly material and working time, are usually recorded first and then multiplied by a factor for the administration costs and the company profit.

External costs for structural steel

Depending on the requirements, external costs may also influence the calculation. The most common of these is the cost of galvanizing the steel structures. Painting is carried out internally by most steel construction suppliers, but some deliberately outsource it. Unlike galvanizing, the cost of painting is highly dependent on labor costs. While painting is significantly cheaper in low-wage countries, there are no significant differences between countries for galvanizing.

Very often, external costs for stress-relief annealing are also incurred for welded structures. In addition to the actual costs for the external service, there are also the costs for transport.

Depending on the type of steel components, the EU-wide average cost split for steel components can be divided into approximately 35% labor costs, 40% material costs and 25% administrative and other costs.

Indirect costs for structural steel

Costs that are not directly visible on the project invoice (hidden costs) are very difficult to record. However, these are very important, especially in the case of steel components. In contrast to purchased parts, there is more need for clarification in the case of order-related production parts. The longer a customer works with a supplier, the easier it is to handle the projects.

In addition, there are other costs to consider especially with steel fabrication:

  • Transportation costs
  • When importing from non-EU countries, there are fees for the customs clearance of the goods. While there are no customs duties when importing steel construction from EUR1 countries,  the import must be reported to customs. Details on importing steel construction from EUR1 countries can be found in this article.
  • Internal costs for supplier support
    • Quality assurance
    • If applicable, costs for translation of design documents, contracts and acceptance protocols
    • Travel and telecommunication costs
  • Rework costs
  • Costs for parts required at short notice
  • Costs due to delays (penalties, subsequent deliveries, etc.)

Cost distribution for structural steel components

The allocation of these costs depends to a large extent on the complexity and type of steel components, as well as the production site.

In the EU average, depending on the type of steel components, we can assume a breakdown of approx. 30% labor costs, 50% material costs and 20% administration and other costs.

Attention: This cost breakdown depends very much on the respective products or the type of steel structures. For simple, rough structures, the material cost proportion is higher and the labor cost proportion is lower. For complex components in one-off production, the labor cost share is higher. For companies with a high degree of automation, labor costs also decrease in favor of other costs in the form of depreciation for machinery.

The cost breakdown also depends on the manufacturing location. In high-wage countries, the share of material costs is lower and the share of labor costs is higher.

Example: Cost of an unpainted welded steel structure

For an average construction steel structure made of commercial steel plates and steel profiles (plate thickness 5-10mm, cutting, folding, welding) the following costs per kg result in the EU average:

  • Material costs including waste and delivery costs: € 1.50/kg
  • Labor costs: € 0.90/kg
  • Administration and profit: € 0.60/kg

This results in a total price of approx. € 3.00 per kg of welded structural steel on an EU average.

Cost comparison by producer country

If, instead of the EU average, the labor costs for other manufacturing sites are taken as a yardstick, the following cost comparison for steel structures is as follows:

EU-28GermanyPolandHungaryRomania
Wage costs per hour worked

€/h

25,4041,2010,5010,80

6,90

Material costs incl. Delivery and 20% blend

€/kg

1,501,501,501,50

1,50

Wage costs

€/kg

0,901,460,370,38

0,24

Administration

€/kg

0,600,800,450,45

0,40

 Total €/kg3,003,762,322,33

2,14

If Poland is chosen as the production location instead of Germany, a saving of €1.44 per kg of steel structure can be realized. The manufacturing costs for steel construction from Poland are thus approx. 40% cheaper than in Germany. Even higher savings would be possible in Romania.

Highly favorable manufacturing locations also include the Western Balkan countries, above all Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Serbia and Kosovo. They are closely linked to the European economy and are geographically very close. The import of steel construction from the Western Balkan countries is duty-free, but the import of the goods must be declared. The effort and costs for this are, however, very low.

Cost per kilogram for steel fabrication in 2022

The costs for structural steelwork are often based on weight. Especially in the case of structural steel for halls and buildings or steel construction for plant engineering, prices are usually quoted per kilogram. For larger projects, the buyer has calculated a theoretical weight for the respective component at the time of ordering. Based on this, the steel construction supplier then prepares a quotation. After fabrication, the structure is weighed and invoiced according to the actual weight.

The costs per kg of steel structure are also often used for cost comparisons and framework agreements. However, for these to be comparable, the complexity of the steel structure, the surface coating, and the purchased quantity must be very similar.

Price examples for steel construction per kilogram 2022

The following prices are empirical values from the B2B environment and serve only as guidelines. The prices for project-related steel components are always to be determined individually. We would be happy to arrange a free, non-binding quote for your steel construction.

Type of steel structurePrices per kg steel structure (€/kg)
Steel construction for buildings and halls made of profiles, painted, from 10t1,60 – 2,50
Steel construction for buildings and halls made of profiles, galvanized, from 10t2,10 – 3,00
Steel construction for working and maintenance platforms with railings and grates1,95 – 4,50
Machine frames without milling painted2,50 – 4,00
Machine frames with milling painted2,50 – 10,00
Casings made of heavy plates painted2,50 – 5,00

When is low-cost country sourcing for steel components worthwhile?

Whether or not low-cost country sourcing of steel components is worthwhile for the purchasing department in an individual case cannot be assessed in general terms, but depends, among other factors, on the following factors, among others:

Characteristics of the steel components

The more complex a component is, the more difficult it is to develop the supplier at a long distance. After labor costs are the decisive factor, the ideal component involves a great deal of manual labor. If the mechanical part is very large, there are also fewer price advantages to be expected. In this case, price differences are more likely to occur due to subsidies or the different financing of production facilities.

Supply duration and order volume

For one-time requirements, it is comparatively costly to develop a new supplier. Unless very simple components or large individual projects are involved, low-cost country sourcing is often too complicated in this case. In the case of recurring orders and corresponding purchasing volume, the step abroad is then also worthwhile for more complex orders.

Prerequisites for successful low-cost country sourcing

In order for low-cost country sourcing to be successful, the course must also be set internally within the company and it must be clarified whether the company meets the necessary requirements.

Does the company have the appropriate resources and expertise to find and develop the right supplier? There are countless steel construction companies, but which one can truly meet the requirements? The search for the right steel construction supplier is frequently like looking for a needle in a haystack and often consumes more time than expected.

Many times you simply wait in vain for offers. When you do receive them, the price, delivery time, or availability often do not match your original expectations. Many projects are unique and also the many steel construction suppliers have individual strengths and weaknesses. Jactio.com has set itself the goal of determining these along with finding the right partner for the right request.