… Automation is taking root and changing the face of manufacturing among companies both large and small. Case in point is Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire. A decade ago, employees were bending wire by hand to make steel baskets. Owner Drew Greenblatt saw demand plummet as the company’s primary clientele, bagel shops, shifted their orders to cheaper Chinese manufacturers. “He made the decision to transform his business and invest in automation to build baskets for many different industries,” says Bob Doyle, a spokesperson for the Association for Advancing Automation. Today, Marlin Steel Wire makes baskets for the automotive, aerospace, and pharmaceutical industries. Those clients have significantly higher design specifications compared to the bagel shop owners, notes Doyle. “The only way [Marlin Steel Wire] could do that was to invest in automation, both in robotics and other types of manufacturing technologies,” says Doyle. …
The article points out that 2012 set a record for the North American robotics industry, and sales and orders for the first half of 2013 continued at record pace. About 230,000 robots are in use in U.S. factories, second to Japan, according to the Robotic Industries Association.
Two recent articles surveyed the business innovation bubbling at Marlin Steel.
A compelling piece by Will Swaim in the magazine Global Trade, headlined “Man of Steel,” described Marlin Steel’s transformation from making plain vanilla wire baskets for bagels to designing vastly more precise steel wire and sheet metal containers for more sensitive technology-related products such as automobile components and military equipment. As Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt was quoted in the article, “You won’t find Marlin manufacturing ‘baskets for socks in Vietnam.”
Favorite passage in the piece:
This revolution unfolded slowly, over the course of several years. In that time, Marlin has invested in robots, managers, and engineers as varied as bagels—“process engineers, mechanical engineers, industrial engineers.” … And Drew Greenblatt has become something of American industry’s Man of Steel. Continue reading →
Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt accepts a Baltimore VOLTAGE Award for 2013 (Credit: Jaimie Hurst)
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.