Marlin Steel was named the top medium-sized “Technology Implementer” in the 2013 VOLTAGE awards presented in the Greater Baltimore region by SmartCEO magazine.
Marlin was one of nine winners from among 29 finalists, who generate a total of about $50 billion in annual revenue and employ more than 177,000 people. The annual awards spotlight business success in leveraging technology. The finalists are recognized, the organization said, “for their creative vision, leadership philosophies, innovative strategizing and undeniable work ethic.”
“Technology is a big driver of our transformation at Marlin Steel,” said company President Drew Greenblatt. “We’ve invested $3.5 million in state-of-the-art automation to maximize our precision and speed in building material-handling containers for many industries. Continue reading →
Letter to the editor May 5 in the Baltimore Sun from Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt:
When I bought Marlin Steel in 1998, the extent of its technology was an old fax machine. Today, our factory is full of industrial robots that are fed computer-aided designs and churn out steel containers for industry 60 times faster than before. We’re winning jobs that used to go to China and elsewhere. My employees, who once made $6 an hour, average $26 an hour now.
This isn’t your grandfather’s small factory: We depend on the Internet, cloud computing and other new technologies, just like thousands of other manufacturers our size. We operate in high-tech ways that only the largest plants could afford years ago. Yet we’re vulnerable to our operations being exploited or disrupted by hackers with bad intent.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in one of the most bipartisan votes of the past couple of years. Ninety-two Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the House bill, while 29 Republicans opposed it. That two-thirds majority veto-proofed the bill should it clear the Senate and reach the President Barack Obama’s desk.
The Senate, however, is indicating it might not take up the bill, and the White House has already vowed a veto should it pass the Senate. They say they are concerned about the threat to business, but talk is cheap. Continue reading →
An article this week in Automotive Sales magazine — “Auto industry fuels record [North American] robot sales” – quotes Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt on the subject of automation and job creation:
Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products of Baltimore, which sells to automotive customers and several other industries, says the robots in his factory are adding jobs. Although Greenblatt only has about 30 workers in his plant — which he says is about double the size of an average factory — robot technology makes those employees what he calls “hyperproductive.” A human worker operating a robot at Marlin can produce more steel products than a human working alone could. This added productivity generates more business for Greenblatt, and in turn, requires him to hire more workers to operate the robots.
In addition to creating higher-paying jobs, automation helps workers keep their current jobs, Greenblatt says. If Marlin couldn’t compete technologically and keep up with other steel-wire manufacturers, he wouldn’t be able to keep his workers employed.
“I suppose conventional wisdom says if you buy more robots, you’ll eliminate jobs,” he says. “And that’s an easier-to-explain story, but it’s not necessarily accurate.”
Automakers in North America bought 8,445 robots last year, an increase of 47 percent from a year earlier, according to the article which cited figures from the Robotic Industries Association. That eclipsed the previous record of 7,715 in 2005, the association said.
As John Bernaden, a Rockwell spokesman and vice-chairman of the coalition, recounted, the group expected some anxiety about robotics and their impact on jobs based on focus groups they held prior to conducting the national survey. Still, they were surprised by the level of negativity about robotic advances in manufacturing.
Two-thirds of more than 1,000 people surveyed said that automation made no difference or hurt the economy. Even higher-income respondents, who weren’t expected to be as threatened by automation, seemed to feel that way: One-third of people surveyed with incomes over $100,000 had a negative view as did one-quarter of college graduates. ORC International of Princeton, N.J. polled 1,009 adults. Continue reading →
Interesting story from the Associated Press about the U.S. being on target with the five-year goal President Obama set in January 2010 to double American exports by the start of 2015. Experts doubt the goal will be met in two years but there are five big reasons for optimism about “insourcing” for American manufacturing after a decade of “outsourcing” production elsewhere.
Cheap U.S. natural gas and other increased energy production are helping to power U.S. factories more efficiently.
Higher wages in China are making U.S. outsourcing there less attractive.
Congressional approval in 2011 of trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and other agreements being negotiated with Asia and Europe are opening markets and leveling the playing field for U.S. goods. Those agreements, by the way, have helped Marlin Steel export material handling containers of steel wire and sheet metal to 36 countries.
U.S. wage increases have been held down by unemployment.
Technology advances have boosted efficiency and productivity and made automation more accessible and affordable to smaller manufacturers, such as here at Marlin Steel where we’ve invested $3.5 million in automation.
President Obama’s starting point was 2009 exports of $1.57 trillion. They reached a record $2.19 trillion in 2012. The 2015 goal: $3.14 trillion.
“Some of the headwinds we faced last year have started to improve,” Chad Moutay, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, as quoted as saying by the AP. “And I think energy is a game-changer. We definitely have increased the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.”
Our basketball pool? Umm, we wish. No, we’re talking about the large order for sheet-metal brackets we won from a big Midwest supplier not too long ago. The brackets used to be made in China by workers who earned $2.50 an hour and who produced about 50 brackets an hour. Our sheet-metal operator earns 10 times that rate, but sets up a robot that produces 2,000 brackets an hour with identical, precision-quality.
Our speed to fill the order enabled us to win that job away from China and enables us to pay a livable American wage. Our brackets aren’t about rebounding. They are about reshoring.