1981 - real per-tonne price but lower overall cost

As an independent steel producer, how can an independent customer - say a forgemaster in Birmingham - benefit from steel at a lower overall cost despite paying the real per-tonne price for steel? Where subsidised steel from Government-owned nationalised producers is available?

There's two overall explanations

"Time value of money" was predominantly represented by

Literally, a lorry driving out of the gate with a load of steel was taking it to a customer who had phoned in that order only two weeks previously; this being in the manufacturing of a vast range of alloy steel grades.
This saved customers an enormous amount of money on stocking and planning. In being able to always immediately fulfil their customers' requirements without needing to hold enormous precautionary stock levels which a six-month delivery time requires.

"Specific requirements" was a very wide disparate range of details each important to that individual customer.
Most were apparently entirely simple; however only an independent Company with a lean effective leadership structure can mobilise the detailed interventions when-and-where required to meet these ad hoc requirements.

(R. Smith, 12Dec2017, 10Feb2018)