About Drew Greenblatt

President of Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC. Executive board member of National Association of Manufacturers. Chairman of the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland. Chairman of the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation. Vice Chairman of the Governor's International Advisory Council. Maryland State Manufacturing Commission Member. Most proud of 2030+ days without a safety incident.

Top Reasons Medium Frequency Direct Current Welding is Superior to AC Welding

Ideal Welding Machine - Marlin SteelAs a part of our company’s dedication to providing top-quality manufacturing solutions to our customers, we’ve added a new automated welding machine to Marlin Steel’s manufacturing floor: the CSR102-1230-3-MFDC NC Jig Welding System from Ideal Welding Systems.

The MFDC in the name of the welder indicates that it uses Medium Frequency Direct Current for welding instead of alternating current when making welds. Using a medium frequency controller with direct current (DC) welding provides numerous benefits over alternating current (AC) welding, such as:

#1: Energy Efficiency

Aside from proper maintenance, one of the biggest costs associated with using automated welding machines is their power demands. Machines need power to run, and electrical welding devices are no exception to this rule.

However, when compared to an AC welder, an MFDC welder uses less power. Why? Because, as an MF inverter draws balanced line current during all phases of a weld, MF-based welding is less demanding on your power supply than an AC welder is.

According to “Why Medium Frequency Welding”, an MFDC welder provides “power saving of up to 35%” compared to AC-based welding techniques.

#2: Reliability

On top of using less power overall, because an MFDC welder uses a power inverter to supply power to the welding heads, a machine that uses MFDC welding is less likely to be adversely affected by a short disturbance in the power mains. With an AC welder, any disturbance in electrical flow to the machine instantly affects the welding heads.

When using an MF inverter, some electricity is stored in the inverter, so a minor power hiccup doesn’t immediately take down the welder.

Another factor that makes MFDC welding more reliable and even versatile than AC welding is that a DC welding system does not have to overcome inherent resistance in the welding circuit. What does this mean for the welder? Different circuit lengths and tip characteristics can be employed without affecting the time it takes for a weld to be completed.

Also, the life of welding tips is longer with MFDC welding than with AC welding, meaning less money spent on replacements.

#3: Weld Speed

Because power fluctuations don’t impact an MF welder as adversely as a standard AC welder, weld times are actually shorter with an MF welder. To top this off, the 1,000Hz output of the MF inverter means that the waveform of its electrical currents is shorter than an AC system’s would be.

The shorter wavelength of the MF inverter allows weld times to be controlled to the millisecond, allowing for 20 or 30 times the timing accuracy of an AC welding system.

#4: Weld Quality

By completing welds quicker, MFDC welding prevents much of the heat deformation and spatter typically associated with AC welding. The fact that the peak voltage of an MFDC weld is almost the same as RMS voltage further contributes to a reduction in sparks and spatter that are a given with AC welding.

Since welds can be completed in 2/1,000 of a second as opposed to 60/1,000 of a second, as well as less pressure being exerted during the weld, there is less damage caused to the metal pieces being joined by MFDC welds than to ones joined by AC welds. This allows for a superior level of structural integrity in the final product, enhancing its overall durability and useful life.

Beyond the structural superiority of an MFDC weld, the “weld nuggets” left behind by MFDC welding are typically smaller and smoother than the ones left by AC welding. This makes the final product safer to handle by hand, as reduces the amount of sharp edges left after the welding is done. In products that have to be clear of burrs and other sharp edges, this can massively reduce the time spent on getting parts ready to ship, as there will be fewer sharps to clean up.

Learn More

Contact Marlin Steel directly to learn more about MFDC welding and the new welding system from Ideal.

 

Sheet Metal Racks with Casters to Hold Shelves

Sheet metal racks marlin steelHere on the Marlin Steel blog, we often discuss our custom-made wire baskets and their applications. Using wire bending robots, Marlin Steel’s engineers can design and build wire baskets to fit an incredible variety of parts and wash/finish processes. However, there is more to Marlin Steel than just wire baskets. Here at Marlin Steel, we can craft a variety of other custom metal forms for your needs, including metal racks with casters to hold the wire and sheet metal baskets that hold your parts and products.

What Would Sheet Metal Racks Be Useful for?

sheet metal rack marlin steelAs you may have seen in an earlier blog, sheet metal racks with casters are useful for holding wire baskets through a drying process. With the ability to be hand pushed from one part of the process to another quite easily thanks to the inclusion of caster wheels on the base, these racks allow for a large number of parts to be moved at once without being too heavy of a strain for most workers. Wheeled transport of heavy loads makes work faster and more efficient. Also, having multiple shelves to hold parts allows for more items to be moved at once, while also allowing said items to be sorted more easily. Instead of trying to load many different kinds of parts into a single basket, each part can have a basket that is dedicated to holding that one type of item, while still allowing them all to be moved together throughout your wash or finishing process. sheet metal rack marlin steelWith the ability to craft metal racks to meet your specific needs, Marlin Steel can help you replace lost or damaged custom racks or create better, more mobile racks with casters to make moving large loads easy. Using corrosion-resistant grade 316 stainless steel and specialized polymers allows these racks to survive intense wash cycles. In short, creating a metal rack unit that can accommodate your machined or delicate parts in heat-treat ovens or curing ovens is a simple task. Whether you want a new rack to be compatible with your existing wire baskets, need a completely new solution for a variety of uses, or just need a heavy duty set of wire racks to help move heavy loads, Marlin Steel can provide the perfect metal rack shelving units and wire baskets for you.

How Marlin Makes the Perfect Rack for Your Job

You might be wondering how it is that Marlin Steel can make the right metal rack for your particular needs. The process begins with a few simple questions. Through these questions, our engineers can collect information such as:

  • The purpose of the metal shelving rack.
  • The temperatures the product will be exposed to, and for how long.
  • The dimensions that the shelving unit and racks should have. This takes into account the dimensions of the parts and other items the racks will hold.
  • How much weight the final product should be able to hold.
  • The chemicals that the racks will be exposed to.
  • Tolerance for sharps, weld marks, and other irregularities.

sheet metal rack marlin steelWith the above information, Marlin Steel’s engineers can set to work creating the ideal design to hold your parts efficiently without interfering with your wash process, as well as choosing the right materials and coatings to prevent damage to sensitive parts while prolonging the useful life of your metal racks so that you can get the most from your investment. The final design is incorporated into an AutoCAD file and sent to you for approval, with images representing what your metal racks would look like when loaded and when empty. These images include a top-down view, side views, and an isometric (peeking over the corner) view. These views enable you to verify that your custom wire forms and metal rack units meet your needs before they are crafted. sheet metal rack marlin steelOnce the designs have been verified, our automated manufacturing robots can be programmed to cut, shape, and assemble your racks in hours, not days or weeks. Marlin Steel’s automation ensure rapid delivery times and consistent results so that we can deliver quality engineering quick. Learn more about the uses for metal racks with casters by contacting Marlin Steel today.

Why Optimism is on the Rise among Small Business Owners

Marlin Steel President Drew GreenblattRecently, we discussed how the NFIB’s small business optimism index showed an increase in the confidence of small biz owners in the American economy. With increased optimism in the future from the small business sector, investments in the growth of business are on the rise, which further fuels economic growth through spending.

But, why are small business owners so optimistic about the future? This is a question that Marlin Steel owner and president Drew Greenblatt tackled in his recent Inc Columnist post on Inc.com titled “Glass 3/4 Full – 10 Reasons Why Small Business Optimism is Improving.” In the article, different reasons for the recent upsurge in confidence among small business owners are revealed and explained, including:

Increases in Lending from Banks

For many businesses, especially smaller ones, the ability to get a loan from the bank in order to cover major expenses that are a consequence of starting up or expanding business can mean the difference between success and closure.

As an example, let’s say that a small manufacturer manages to secure an enormous, lucrative contract with an overseas buyer to make several tons worth of custom metal forms. Before this order can be completed, raw materials need to be purchased, production lines need to be set up, and workers need to be paid. However, payment for the order is contingent upon completion.

Without a loan, the manufacturer cannot complete the shipment, and they lose the money they may have already spent on trying to get set up for said shipment. With a loan from the bank, the company can have access to the funds needed to complete the shipment, and repay the loan from the proceeds. In this arrangement, the client gets what they wanted, the manufacturer makes money (allowing for continued operation and growth), and the bank collects a profit as well.

Because of situations similar to the one above, lending from banks, including the Ex-Im Bank, continue to be a cornerstone of economic growth and success for small business.

Businesses are Adding New Equipment/Facilities

Since banks are lending more, businesses are having an easier time buying new equipment and expanding their facilities. Business have to buy their equipment and facilities from someone, which means more capital is flowing to the suppliers and manufacturers who support other businesses.

Since these suppliers are earning more money, they can afford to make more expenditures, hire new personnel, etc., all of which further helps to bolster the economy. Recently, Marlin Steel added a brand new, top of the line Medium Frequency Direct Current (MFDC) automated welder that can complete welds in a fraction of the time that a standard welding machine would take.

Businesses that acquire new equipment and technology gain a competitive advantage, meaning that their competitors have to find ways to keep up, spurring growth and innovation in their industry as a whole.

Stabilized Energy Costs

For many companies, especially manufacturers, energy costs are a huge part of the operational budget. Thankfully, plentiful reserves of natural gas in our country are helping to keep the cost of energy down, translating into lower electric bills for many small business owners.

This alleviates some of the financial stress on business owners, leading to a modest increase in optimism among small biz owners.

In addition to that, the natural gas industry is adding new, high-paying jobs to the market, adding more people who can pay taxes, buy homes, and put their money into circulation.

The Bottom Line

Overall, increased lending from banks, more investments in improving business infrastructure, and stable energy costs, among other things, are helping to actually breathe life into the economy, which is helping to brighten the outlook of small business owners.

With some hard work and innovation, we can make a difference and make the American economy stronger.

You can read the full article and all 10 of the factors in the Inc.com post.

What you need to be Successful in a Manufacturing Career

As the economy, and more specifically, the manufacturing industry continue to recover in the U.S., the need for skilled workers will also increase. At this time, many different manufacturers are having difficulty finding people with the skills that they need to fill critical job openings.

Marlin Steel Wire ManufacturingIn a recent Fortune.com article, it was stated that there were roughly “237,000 job openings” in the U.S. for manufacturing positions. The shortage of skilled manufacturing labor may get even worse soon. Why? As the Fortune.com article points out, nearly “80% of the current manufacturing workforce is between the ages of 45 and 65.” With the majority of the workforce approaching retirement age, the “brain drain” that the Fortune article warns of seems to be more threatening than ever.

With this perfect storm of conditions, it would seem that now is the perfect time to enter the manufacturing workforce. However, to be successful in a manufacturing career takes more than just having the right skills (though that does help), it takes having the right stuff.

So, what makes a top-notch manufacturing worker? What is the “right stuff?” There are a lot of things that can make a skilled engineer either perfect for a given job or an absolutely terrible fit.

The Right Stuff

First, and foremost, as with almost any career, the right attitude can go a long way towards helping you succeed in manufacturing. Being able to show up for work with a positive demeanor and make every effort to perform your best can make the difference between slogging through a job and missing or barely meeting performance goals, and having a long, successful career.

Next, being punctual and able to support your team is a critical part of success in manufacturing. The team is relying on your ability to be there and ready to work on time in order to meet production goals and keep clients satisfied. This goes beyond simply being physically present; it means showing up ready to start working. Arriving to work clear-headed and wide awake helps to prevent accidents and ensures that you’re able to work at your best.

Another important trait to have is the ability to pay attention to details. Being meticulous and exercising care is vital to crafting top-quality products that are free of errors. Without a high level of care in the manufacture of a product, errors begin to crop up. By being aware of the details for manufacturing jobs, you can spot inconsistencies and rectify them before they affect your final product. When you’re assembling components with tolerances of a micrometer, it pays to keep an eye out for the finer details.

For a job in manufacturing, creativity is an often-overlooked quality that can be helpful. In the best manufacturing companies, employee input carries weight in the design of a product. For example, if a minor design change could allow for a wire basket to hold 12 parts instead of 9, make it easier to load/unload parts, or improve the ability of the basket to withstand a given wash process, the engineer making that basket should consider such improvements and bring them to the attention of others. Even on a job where a specific design is given, the ability to think of such improvements and make suggestions can help create a better product.

The Right Skills

While we’ve been talking about how the right attitude is important to being successful in a manufacturing career, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your basic technical skills. These skills are still an important part of actually being able to perform a manufacturing job, after all.

For most manufacturing jobs, basic math skills are indispensable. Before applying for a job where you’ll be tasked with designing lots of complex parts, you should know the definitions of basic mathematical terms such as radius, diameter, tangent, sine, cosine, etc. Trigonometry and algebra skills are a definite plus, as many manufacturing jobs involve calculating angles to be used and total dimensions of a final product.

As many manufacturing jobs now involve the use of advanced automation such as manufacturing robots, having computer skills is becoming more and more important. Being able to program and maintain manufacturing robots can be very useful for attracting the attention of potential employers who use lots of workplace automation.

Beyond math and computer skills, Basic English skills are also important. When you’re designing a part for a client, you will be expected to communicate clearly with said client and with the other members of your team through written communication such as intra-office memos and emails. Being able to communicate clearly in a manner that can be understood by others makes the design process smoother, and allows you to bring your most creative ideas to the table and make sure that they’re given serious consideration.

With the right skills, attitude, and mannerisms, you can not only find a job in manufacturing, but excel in a long-term career with the right employer.

Marlin Steel on Inc.com: “Why it’s Better to Purchase from a U.S. Manufacturer”

Marlin Steel RoboticsIn manufacturing, as in many other businesses, the old wisdom is to save as much money as possible to improve the profit margin. This is one of the primary reasons why so many purchasing managers from so many companies have turned to the cheap labor available in overseas markets for their manufacturing needs. The logic here is “because the labor’s cheaper, the parts and materials will be cheaper.”

But, is that really true?

In a recent editorial for Inc.com, Marlin Steel’s president examined the question of whether or not buying from foreign manufacturers in China is really more cost-effective than purchasing from a U.S.-based manufacturer. The answer may surprise you.

Why Buying from U.S. Manufacturers is the Best Choice

When making a purchase order for parts and materials from a Chinese or other overseas manufacturer, it can be tempting to look only at the price tag of the items being ordered and forget about other costs associated with said order. Things such as shipping & handling charges, customs duties, import/export taxes, insurance, and delays in production caused by long shipping times all add to the total cost of ownership in ordering from an overseas manufacturer.

When ordering from a U.S.-based company, however, many of these additional cost of ownership expenses are greatly reduced or even non-existent. For example, when purchasing from a U.S. manufacturer, you don’t have to wait for 4-8 weeks for a cargo ship to not only be available, but actually make the delivery. Not only that, but you still need to arrange for shipment of parts from the port to your factory as well. Instead, a U.S. manufacturer can load your order onto a truck as soon as it’s complete and ship to your manufacturing/distribution center right away for a fraction of the cost.

Another concern when buying parts is their overall quality. When buying cheap parts made with cheap labor, you get what you paid for. This can be a problem because when the time comes to distribute your own product made using said parts, it’s your company’s reputation that is put on the line. Not only that, but if those parts don’t all conform to a precise set of dimensions, they can make using them in your product line impossible. Parts that have to be rejected represent money wasted.

U.S. manufacturers that use skilled workers, engineers, and precise automated manufacturing techniques can deliver consistent, reliable results, meaning fewer rejected parts that cannot be used for your application. For example, here at Marlin Steel, we use a Trumpf laser cutter and a punch machine that each have a margin of error of 0.004” (the thickness of an average human hair) for every operation. For bending metal forms, a press brake machine can make bends that are accurate to within 0.1 microns, or 1/40th the width of a human hair. This is a level of precision that is, quite frankly, impossible on a large scale using purely human labor.

Not only are products made in America using high-tech assembly methods more uniform in shape and size than products made using manual labor, manufacturing is much quicker as well. For example, as pointed out in the full Inc.com article, Nathan, one of Marlin’s dedicated robot setup operators, operates a four robot manufacturing cell that can complete 20,000 complex, high-precision bends per hour. These robots won’t get worn out as the day goes on, so they’ll keep making bends with the same level of precision and at the same pace all day, every day.

On top of all of the above, when you’re dealing with a U.S.-based company for the manufacture of your goods, you know that you’re dealing with a company that is being regulated by the same laws and standards as your own. If a dispute arises between your company and an overseas manufacturer, their local trade authorities will naturally have a pre-existing preference for their own company. In dealing with a U.S. company, it is usually easier to get a fair arbitration over your dispute.

In short, with U.S. companies, you get faster shipping, faster manufacturing, better quality, less red tape, quicker time-to-market, better management/regulation of transactions, and fewer extraneous ownership costs related to shipping products from one side of the planet to the other.

To learn more about the advantages of using a U.S.-based manufacturer, read the full Inc.com article.

Marlin Steel on CNBC: Small Businesses Optimistic about Future

Not too long ago, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) released a report called the “Small Business Optimism Index” for the month of July. In this index, ten different items are measured to establish an overall measurement of the confidence of small businesses have in the economy. In the month of July, six out of ten of the index’s criteria saw improvements, with one holding still and three others experiencing a slight dip.

Bill Dunkelberg, Chief Economist of the NFIB, stated that “expectations for business conditions and outlook for expansion accounted for virtually all of the net gain in July’s index.” In short, more small businesses are expecting that now is the time to expand, with many feeling that the economy will improve soon.

The NFIB report mentioned above was one of the key focuses of a CNBC interview featuring Marlin Steel’s company president, Drew Greenblatt.

The Canary in the Coal Mine (Proverbially Speaking)

In answer to what he thought about the current state of small business in America, and how the increase in confidence among small businesses has affected Marlin Steel, Drew stated that: “we’re very optimistic, we’re very bullish, we think that the economy’s coming back. We’re like the canary in the coal mine; when people start buying big two-million dollar washing machines and $2-$4 million dollar cleaning systems for their precision parts, people buy the baskets from us.”

As a result of the increased confidence in the future of the economy among small businesses, Marlin Steel has seen a significant increase in activity from pharmaceutical, medical, and automotive industry clients.

The Best Six Months in Marlin’s History

In the interview, Drew describes the recent upsurge in business as the best six months in the company’s history. Thanks to the increase in business that comes with an increase in the willingness of businesses to invest in the future, Marlin Steel has added new jobs and even made a few other investments.

Considering that Marlin Steel has been featured in the Inc. 5000 list in both 2012 and 2013, to say that the last six months have been the best in the company’s history is a significant statement.

Since the beginning of this year, Marlin Steel has filled six new jobs, including an engineer, a machinist, and a shipper, as well as three robot operators to help manage and maintain the automated manufacturing equipment used in creating custom metal forms. These jobs are not menial, part-time positions that only pay minimum wage. These new jobs are true careers with benefits, chances for advancement, bonuses, and a fair wage.

One of the robots that these new operators will be using is Marlin Steel’s brand new 4-headed welder from IDEAL welding systems. This welding machine is the most expensive robot Marlin has ever acquired, and represents this company’s own confidence in the future of the industry.

The Challenges that Remain

Despite the increase in optimism among small businesses in the future of the economy, there are still some challenges to overcome. During the CNBC interview, the interviewer brought the discussion around to the matter of how companies are having a hard time filling the technical positions that they need to fill in order to grow and succeed.

It is true that at this time, there is a massive skills gap in American manufacturing. Manufacturing businesses need workers who have the skills required to read, understand, and create blueprints, who can understand mathematical terms and make calculations. Without these personnel to fill technically-oriented manufacturing jobs, manufacturers have a much more difficult time filling orders quickly and efficiently.

Currently, these skilled workers simply aren’t being produced from our education system at a rate that allows manufacturers to fill all of their critical jobs. This is one of the reasons why Marlin Steel employs a job skills board and actively encourages current employees to become qualified on new machines and processes. This way, Marlin Steel can have some redundancy in the workforce so that the absence of a single employee doesn’t cripple our ability to produce, and our workers can gain the skills they need to be successful in other manufacturing jobs.

Overall, with the increase in investments in the future among small businesses, manufacturers such as Marlin Steel are seeing an increase in business. Hopefully, as more businesses make more investments, the economy will continue to improve. In order to make the most of it, however, we need to encourage young people who are going to college for their higher education to pursue engineering degrees and other technical degrees that will allow them to fill the hundreds of thousands of available job openings which manufacturing companies need to fill.

Numbering Wire Baskets for Accuracy and Quality

Numbering Wire Baskets - Marlin SteelWhen putting numerous parts through a given washing or finishing process, or when multiple batches of similar parts need to be run through entirely different processes, it is important to be able to identify the different part sets quickly and easily.

One way in which specific batches of parts can be tracked through a wash/finishing process is to use labels on the baskets washing them. Unfortunately, however, printed labels with barcodes often cannot survive exposure to the temperatures and chemicals used in many different wash and finish processes.

Because of this fact, it may be necessary to use a more permanent solution. Instead of simply placing temporary labels on baskets, you can have plates with custom-cut numbers integrated with the baskets.

Uses of Numbered Baskets

Marlin Steel Numbering Wire BasketWhen you have multiple product lines that use parts of a similar shape, but will be used in different applications that require different coatings and treatments to be applied to them, simply being able to look at the basket to tell them apart can be an enormous help.

For example, say that two similar sets of cylindrical parts with only very minor outward differences were being put through two different processes at the same time. On a busy manufacturing floor, one basket of parts gets mistaken for the other and is subjected to a polymer coating process meant to improve grip instead of the high-temperature and scratch resistance coating which that basket was meant to get. Assuming the coating can be removed without damaging the parts, that’s still a waste of time and resources which can delay production.

Numbered Wire Basket - Marlin SteelWith a numbered basket, workers on the manufacturing floor have a clear understanding of which basket of parts goes to which process. To keep with the above example, you could place all parts that are supposed to go through the soft-coating process above into even numbered baskets, and all high-temp coating parts into odd-numbered baskets if your baskets are sequentially numbered.

Alternatively, you can order individual sets of baskets to all have the same numbers on them. For example, all baskets meant to hold product line “A” parts could be marked with a number “1,” product line “B” parts baskets would all be marked with a “2,” and so forth. This makes finding the right basket for the right part easy for manufacturing workers, reducing the possibility of errors in factories that run numerous product lines at once.

Why Choose Number Plates over Barcode Plates?

Numbering wire basket - marlin steelFor wash processes that can support them, barcode labels are a great way to track the process of a particular set of parts through your finishing/wash process. However, as was mentioned before, paper barcodes may not always survive certain finishing or wash processes intact.

Of course, durability is not the only reason to choose engraved or cut number plates over barcode plates for your metal wire baskets. For the people who actually have to work with the baskets, reading a clear, large number is much easier than having to break out the barcode scanner to get the part # for the items to be put in the basket.

Marlin Steel - Numbering Wire BasketThis makes sorting out parts and baskets at the start and end of the wash process much simpler for workers, meaning less time spent on finding the right basket for the right part and more time actually processing parts through wash process, even when you have many different product lines being worked on at the same time. Workers will appreciate the way that numbered baskets makes sorting product lines easier, and you’ll enjoy the reduction in miss-sorted parts and lost production time.

Learn more about how you can use custom engraved number plates for your product lines by contacting Marlin Steel today.