Drew Greenblatt Discusses How to Make More Valuable Employees with The FABRICATOR

Marlin Steel Most Valuable EmployeesIn the recent April 2014 issue of The Fabricator, Marlin Steel’s own Drew Greenblatt discussed with Dan Davis, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, in his own words, how we foster the skills of our employees to strengthen our business. Here is what he said:

While automation has done much to help Marlin Steel not only survive, but thrive in a tough market, it is the ever-growing experience and knowledge of our employees that makes our company a force to be reckoned with. To encourage more knowledge and skills growth among our employees, I have adopted a number of policies designed to make our employees the best that they can possibly be.

Not only does Marlin Steel encourage our employees to gain new skills, we actively reward employees who continue to build their knowledge set. We track our employee’s certifications and skillsets through an organizational “Skills Matrix” that provides a snapshot of who has what skills and we post it where every employee can see it in the lunchroom. Our employees know that we provide wage increases based on the total number of skills that they have earned, which provides a real incentive for them to pursue training in the skills that we need to cover most.

Where other companies are having a hard time finding employees with the skills they need, the members of our team are more versatile than ever before, able to handle a number of tasks. That’s because we invest in making them better.

Marlin Steel Employees

Why We Encourage Broad Skillsets

Naturally, there is a reason why Marlin Steel encourages our employees to have a broader skillset than we used to. Actually, there are several benefits to growing the skillsets of our employees, but there is a specific incident that Drew mentions in his interview with The FABRICATOR that really highlights the need to have people with more than one skillset.

A few years ago, Marlin Steel was beginning to really ramp up our business, taking on more clients and doing a lot more shipping. One day, the employee that was in charge of shipping and logistics had a medical emergency and was unavailable for a few days. Too late, we discovered that she was the only person in our factory who knew the process for creating packing slips, UPS forms, and various other shipping-related activities.

We kept making products, but we couldn’t ship them without the help of this one person, this Most Valuable Person for shipping. Orders piled up, and the backlog that she came back to was stupendous.

This incident helped us come to the realization that we needed to cross-train our employees and broaden their skillsets and knowledge so that the next time someone got ill or went on vacation, production and shipping wouldn’t come to a screeching halt.

Creating the List

After the shipping fiasco, we  created a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel, listing the names of all of our employees and the critical job skills Marlin Steel needed in order to function. We crossed off the skills that each employee had, and then we put the list on the lunchroom board. The results surprised us.

There were a few employees that we had who already possessed a considerable number of skills, while there were others who did not have as extensive a skills list. We tied a points system to the skills list, and everyone began getting into the spirit of competition, because nobody wanted to be left behind.

As employees added new skills, such as how to work, repair or reprogram specific robots in the factory, we rewarded these self-improvement efforts by providing pay raises to them.

The Benefits of Making More Valuable Employees

Not only were our employees becoming more adaptable and robust in their knowledge, we were, as a company, able to identify specific weaknesses in our overall skill base. Knowing where we were lacking allowed us to incentivize the learning of the specific skills we needed to be more successful and ensure that we continued to be productive and competitive as a whole.

Even as our employees are competing with one another to get the most skill points on the board, which we update regularly, the broadening of their skillsets allows our employees to better support one another. Before, if one employee wanted to take a vacation or go on his/her  honeymoon, production might have been hurt because we wouldn’t be able to find someone to cover that person’s responsibilities. Now, everyone knows who will be able to cover for them in case of an emergency, or if they just want to take a well-earned vacation.

Having some skill redundancy also helps when we get a large backlog of work for any one department. When one department gets swamped, for whatever reason, other, less -busy departments can send people in to help get the work done faster.

Treating Employees like Humans, not Resources

Another benefit of Marlin Steel’s rewards system is that we actually don’t have an HR department. Our CFO does HR-related stuff, but we don’t have an HR person.

Why? When our employees meet or beat their goals, they get a cash bonus on top of their regular pay. It’s that simple. Paying people more money to do their work quickly and efficiently is a much more dignified way of improving efficiency than sending someone around the factory floor to tell people that they aren’t working hard enough or fast enough.

Talking down to a person and treating him/her like  a child or worse, just a tool to be used and abused, is not only reprehensible, it’s often counter-productive. By supplying a fair, reachable goal for bonuses on each pay period, our employees can see how to earn more money, and know that it is tied directly to their performance for that week.

Read the Full Article Now!

To learn more about how Marlin Steel creates More Valuable Employees and rewards driven, capable individuals, read the article from The FABRICATOR here or contact us today! Marlin Steel is dedicated to moving the manufacturing industry forward through improved automation and better employee relationships.

The NY Times Features Marlin Steel Twice in one Day!

Drew Greenblatt Marlin Steel

Shortly after the release of their last interview with Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt, The New York Times decided that they just couldn’t get enough of us! After completing that first interview, which you can read here, Times writer John Grossman asked some follow-up questions to know more about our company and where Drew’s inspiration comes from.

The newspaper was left with so much extra information that instead of rolling it all into a single post, they decided to create a second feature article about our company. In this second post, Drew talks about where he learned the safety practices that have seen Marlin through several years of accident-free operation, how he dealt with the challenges of selling products overseas, and more. Read the complete second article to learn more.

Automation – “Why I Automate”


Marlin Steel automation

Marlin Steel automation

Association for Advancing Automation created a new website that features Marlin Steel’s commitment to growing jobs and improving safety through a heavy investment in robotics and automation. They created a tremendous video that captures the critical path that all manufacturing companies must pursue to grow.


By investing over $3.5 million dollars in the last couple of years in the latest technology for sheet metal fabrication and wire forming fabrication, Marlin Steel has made its employees more productive and this has allowed the company to win more jobs, hire more people, pay better wages, offer more benefits and most importantly provide a safer work environment. Robotics and automation has contributed to Marlin Steel’s 1,850+ days without a safety incident. 

Automation propelling quality, productivity, safety and speed

Nice article this month about the impact of automation on Marlin Steel in Area Development Online, a website that focuses on site selection, facility planning and economic development.

As Beth Mattson-Teig writes:

… 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.

How safety and sustainability align

From Drew Greenblatt’s latest column on Inc.com on why safety and sustainability go hand in hand as important objectives for business — with help from the American Society of Safety Engineers. Thanks, ASSE:

I recently Googled the word “sustainability” and these are the headlines I found: “Global Environmental Change and Sustainability,” “5 Traits Essential for Sustainability Leadership,” and “Top 10 Cities Leading in Urban Sustainability.”

Then I Googled the word “safety” for the same period and a dominant story was “Pittsburgh Steelers Score in 3 Seconds on Titans Opening-Kickoff Safety.”

At 1,765 consecutive days without a lost-time accident at Marlin Steel

We’re now at 1,765 consecutive days without a lost-time accident at Marlin Steel

Safety — that is, preventing injury or worse — isn’t the hip, eco-friendly topic that sustainability has become in recent years. But in workplaces like ours sustainability and safety are both essential and in fact go together: Sustainable practices seek to avoid waste, and the risk of injury is greater in places where mess and waste fester.

Many companies have gotten religion on sustainability. They realize it’s good for their mission, their operation, and of course their public image. Safety might seem an objective less easy to rally around. But I think smart companies grasp its importance and go above and beyond what is required.

David Coble, who runs a safety consultancy in North Carolina and chairs the Manufacturing Practice Specialty Group of the American Society of Safety Engineers, points out that safety and sustainability have gone hand in hand for a long time. The general industry standards of OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he notes, include dozens of references to “housekeeping.” And they were written in 1910, long before the concept of sustainability had the cachet it does now. Continue reading

What a safe workplace says about the quality of its work

From Drew Greenblatt’s latest column on Inc.com about the importance of workplace safety:

Marlin Steel Drew GreenblattOn a recent visit to a Fortune 100 company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers, I asked the company president how he assesses the performance of his company as well as prospective vendors. He mentioned market share, cash flow and profit — key indicators all — but I was astounded at what he mentioned first: Safety.

“Have you ever heard of an unsafe shop being clean or making good quality products?” he asked.

It’s true. An obsession about safety in a workplace is a pretty reliable signal that the company is compulsive about other processes, such as making a quality product. If cleanliness is next to godliness, it’s also pretty close to industriousness and dependability. Continue reading

Safety First: 1,700 straight days accident-free

Marlin Steel Safety 1700 Consecutive  DaysWe crossed the 1,700-day mark for consecutive days without a lost time accident this week. Among the folks pleased by that milestone: Our insurance carrier (understandably) who wrote us a letter of congratulation.

On a recent visit by Marlin Steel to a Fortune 100 company in the Midwest, the host company’s president related how safety is one of the top four metrics he pays attention to every day at his global organization.

His reasoning?: A safe shop is more likely to be a clean shop and a clean shop is more likely to produce a high-quality part. “Have you ever heard of an unsafe shop being clean or making good quality?” he asked. Continue reading