Learn How to Improve Employee Engagement in this Inc. Article!

Marlin Steel mentioned in Inc Ever wonder what marriage and boss to employee interactions have in common? In both of these things, communication is the key to success.

Good communication leads to improved productivity, success, and even happiness, both in marriage and in the business world. Bad communication, on the other hand, leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and dissatisfaction.

Learn how you can avoid some common communication mistakes in the Inc.com article, “Four Techniques to Destroy Your Marriage and Disengage Your Employees” by Marlin Steel president Drew Greenblatt today!

Marlin Steel Recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek for Growing Jobs in America

Marlin Steel ManufacturingFor the American economy, few tasks are as vital as growing the number of jobs to stimulate local economies. Not just part-time, minimum wage jobs flipping burgers 20 hours or less a week, but real, sustainable careers that allow people to support their families.

In a recent Bloomberg Buisinessweek article, the Federal Open Market Committee was quoted as saying that despite some recent data suggesting job growth, “a range of labor-market indicators suggests that there remains significant underutilization of labor resources.” In other words, while there has been a growth in the number of jobs in America, people are still underemployed.

However, despite the relative negativity of the FOMC statement, there is cause to be optimistic about the future of the job market in this country. According to the same article listed above, the actual rate of job loss has diminished, and confidence in median-wage income households “rose this month to the highest level since December 2007.”

What about Marlin Steel?

As noted in the Bloomberg article, the size of Marlin Steel’s workforce has increased by 12 percent this year alone. Just last week, we hired two new engineers.

The best part? These aren’t your typical, minimum wage jobs. These are jobs with real potential for advancement both within the company and as an engineer. We actively encourage our employees to train to learn new skills to be able to fill more roles, allowing them to work new positions when they are needed.

Learn more about how mid-wage jobs are once again on the rise in America, and how Marlin Steel is contributing, by reading the Bloomberg Businessweek article now!

Parts Washing Baskets with Integrated Rods

Marlin Steel Basket with Integrated RodsRecently, our company was contacted to create a specialized wash basket to hold machined aluminum housings during the cleaning process. The expected daily output of this process? 10,000-20,000 parts per day.

During the washing process, the parts would be cleaned with a chemical detergent, then rinsed with a specialized corrosion inhibitor.

On top of that, not all of the parts being put through this process would be the same. There would be variances in size, shape, and weight. So, unlike many other custom wire forms, which would be designed to hold a specific part in place, and no others, these wire baskets would have to be designed in such a way as to accommodate several different kinds of parts, loaded in several different ways. Some parts would be loaded vertically, while others would lay horizontally in the basket.

Because of the sheer amount of parts to be washed per day, and the differences in those parts, the baskets for this job would have to be durable and have the ability to hold parts in more than one way. To solve this problem, it was decided to use a series of vertical rods to help keep parts in place.

When parts are placed vertically in the basket, the rods help keep them upright. When parts are laid in the basket horizontally, the rods can help to provide separation of the individual parts so that they do not bump into each other during the wash cycle and become scratched or damaged.

Choosing a Basket Material

For this particular basket design, finding a material that would be durable enough to withstand the high number of parts washing cycles that the client proposed each day was actually quite simple. Although each basket would have to go through a large number of wash cycles each day, the temperature of the wash process itself was relatively low (145 °F), and the detergent used was not a powerful corrosive. The wash process did not have an ultrasonic component, so that also reduced the amount of stress the basket frames would be put under.

Because of this, it was determined that the baskets could be made from Grade 304 Stainless Steel, as this grade of steel was more than tough enough to take the proposed wash process.

Building the Basket

The largest challenge in designing these baskets was not in choosing the right materials and coating, but in integrating the vertical rods into the design in an efficient manner, while still allowing the baskets to stack. Also, for this job, there needed to be a special plate for wash tags so the client could employ a bar code reader for each batch to assist in quality control.

The rods needed to be close enough together that they would hold a sizeable number of parts vertically, but spaced far enough apart to accommodate larger parts that were being placed horizontally. The spacing of these rods needed to be identical from one basket to the next as well to ensure consistency in the loading process.

To allow the baskets to stack while in use, the bottom corners were designed to rest on special wire shapes that were integrated into the raised handles of each basket. The stacking had to be done in this manner because there needed to be an extra few inches of clearance between the lower and upper baskets to allow larger parts to be held in the lower basket.

Marlin Steel Integrated RodsThanks to the assistance of automated wire bending robots, we were able to make sure that every piece of wire in each basket was precisely placed. Also, we used automated welders to ensure that every intersection was done properly. This ensured that the wire shapes in each basket were free from defects that would impair their ability to stack or hold parts in place.

The end result was a basket that met the demands of accommodating a variety of parts through the client’s wash cycle, and a happy client.

Learn more about how Marlin Steel can provide you with “quality, engineered quick” today!

Marlin Steel’s Take on Employee Training is Being Featured on Inc.com

Is there such a thing as too much training? For those of us here at Marlin Steel, there is no such thing as too much training.

In a recent article featured on Inc.com, Marlin Steel’s company president and weekly INC Columnist gives six reasons why manufacturers need to double down on training for their employees. Even in a period of economic hardship (especially in a period of economic hardship), employee training is a great way to differentiate your company, attract top-quality talent, and stay a step ahead of the competition.

From enabling superior quality for production lines, to building your bottom line, learn why your company will benefit from “over” investing in employee training in this Inc.com article today!

Baskets of Interest for Mechanical Engineers

Baskets for EngineersEvery wire form job is different. During the initial design phase, Marlin Steel’s engineers ask the client to rate key characteristics of the final product in importance. These characteristics include:

  • Functionality.
  • Appearance.
  • Cost.
  • Delivery.

Different clients will have different priorities. For example a client who uses their baskets for a display might prioritize appearance above function or cost, while a client who has a tight deadline might make delivery time the most important aspect of their particular order.

“How do these priorities impact the final design,” you ask? By gathering information on what their clients want the most from their basket designs, Marlin Steel engineers are better equipped to meet the needs of said clients.

To highlight this, here are two examples of recent basket designs that were optimized to meet the priorities of the mechanical engineers ordering them.

#1: Zero Frame Weld Baskets

Baskets for mechanical engineersIn this instance, a client wanted mass-produced baskets that would be sturdy, delivered quickly, and, most of all, inexpensive.

After choosing a grade of steel that would meet the minimum performance requirements of the client for heat and chemical exposure, Marlin Steel’s engineers set to the task of finding a way to make the final assembly of the basket as cost effective for the client as possible while speeding up production time.

Ultimately, it was decided to weld the wire together in a “flat” position. Once welded, the wire form is put through a CNC press brake to bend the outer edges up to create the walls of the basket. This eliminated the need to weld a frame around the top, reducing production time and costs.

In this way, Marlin’s engineers were able to meet their client’s demands for cost-effective wire baskets to hold larger pieces of loose material quickly and easily. The precision of the CNC press brake ensured that each and every one of these wire baskets came out with consistent angles in the bend and a uniform shape.

In short, welding the frame while it’s flat, then bending it into a basket shape using a CNC press saves both time and money.

#2: Baskets Capable of Both Stacking and Nesting

Baskets for mechanical engineersFor this design, the client want a basket design that had specific functionalities. In this case, they wanted the baskets to take up minimal space when not in use, but to be able to stack without putting pressure on the contents when in use.

Naturally, these baskets had to have a frame welded on to ensure maximum integrity when stacking with a full load. This way, the baskets won’t deform when the weight of one is placed on top the other. Every aspect of this basket’s design had to be considered in light of how it would affect the ability of the basket to stack when in use, and nest when not in use to save space.

Baskets for mechanical engineersIn order to allow the baskets to switch between nesting and stacking modes, Marlin Steel’s engineers made the decision to make the handles of the baskets a part of the stacking mechanism. The handles, which feature a precision-bent hook design, can be flipped into or out of the basket. When inside the basket, the grips of the handle act as a mount for the next basket on top to rest on. When flipped outside of the basket, the handles are out of the way, leaving the top basket free to rest almost wholly inside the bottom basket (minus space for the handles), minimizing the space each takes up when not in use.

For this customer, functionality was the most important part of the basket’s design. Their baskets needed to be sturdy, able to take a load and still stack neatly.

Building the Perfect Basket

Whenever Marlin Steel’s engineers create a new basket design, they always strive to make sure that each basket will meet, if not surpass, the goals and needs of the client. From creating the base design, to choosing the materials needed to make that design a functional and effective reality, Marlin’s engineers have the training and the practical experience to help you make the perfect parts washing and material handling baskets.

Learn more about how Marlin Steel creates top-notch wire baskets with a combination of automation and technical know-how today!

Custom Material Handling Baskets: Creating the Perfect Plunger Basket

Custom material handling basketWhile many Marlin Steel customers are looking for either a wire basket or a sheet metal product for their material handling and parts washing needs, sometimes a specific customer process requires a more creative approach than simply using one material or the other.

In a recent job for an automotive parts washing process, the customer had a very specific set of requirements for washing their parts. The part in question was for the rebuilding of injectors, and the washing process involved placing the basket in a tank with various chemicals at 150 °F for ten minutes at a time.

Not only that, but the cleaning process also involved the use of ultrasonics, so the basket needed to be designed to withstand the stresses of such high-frequency vibrations.

Movement of the basket between phases of the process was to be done by hand, with operators wearing protective gloves for safety.

With this information, Marlin Steel’s engineers were able to pick the right materials for the basket, but the hard part was designing a basket that could hold 322 cylindrical parts in place without allowing them to move around, and still be able to release all parts quickly at the end of the wash process. Not only that, but in order to ensure the best cleaning performance, there had to be as little material between the part and the cleaning medium as possible, so the final design needed to be as “open-air” as possible.

Holding Narrow Cylinders in Place without a Mesh Cage

The final solution was relatively simple, but elegant. Instead of making a wire mesh basket with a lid, or a straight sheet metal box, Marlin Steel’s engineers used a wire frame with several custom-cut sheet metal plates to hold the parts in place.

Since each part had a slightly narrow “neck” just below the head of the unit, the basket was designed as a plunger basket. Two layers of sheet metal were precision cut to hold the hundreds of narrow cylinders in place securely. One layer is cut in such a way as to form hundreds of “L” shapes, and the other layer has hundreds of corresponding keyhole-like shapes with a wide and a narrow end cut into it.

The part would fit into the larger circle portion of the keyhole shape, then slide up into the narrower part of the shape. Once all 322 parts are in place, the lock sheet slides over, covering the large holes with the other piece of sheet metal and securing all of the cylinders in place.

This gave the parts maximum exposure to the cleaning process and coatings that they needed to be ready for final assembly, while keeping them in place so that they would not get lost inside the parts washing machine.

Making it Easy to Load and Unload

Custom material handling basketOf course, the speed at which this basket could be loaded was a major concern. The basket had to be designed in such a way as to allow an operator easy access to load and unload the parts. To this end, the frame of the basket is designed to be open and hold the parts far enough from the base to comfortably fit a forearm underneath. This allows operators to load the parts from the underside of the basket as well as from the top.

To facilitate the quick release of parts once they are finished going through the wash process, a quick-release pin was added. This pin holds the lock sheet in the closed position during the wash, and can be used to keep the sheet in the open position during the unloading process.

Using the Perfect Materials for the Job

When Marlin Steel’s engineers were first given the task of making this basket, the customer’s initial request was for plain steel. However, after a review of the washing process, it was determined that plain steel would not last long enough to be cost-effective, as it would require frequent replacement.

Grade 304 stainless steel, on the other hand, was found to be much more compatible with the client’s wash process while still being cost effective. Marlin’s engineers brought this to the customer’s attention, and talked them through how using 304 SS would save money in the long run.

The change was made, and this customer was spared the expense of having to re-order new baskets a month or two down the road. Instead of simply giving the customer an inferior product that would not have met their needs, Marlin Steel’s engineers identified a potential problem and offered a solution.

By consulting with clients and making them aware of issues that can affect the performance and longevity of their products, Marlin Steel’s engineers strive to ensure that their clients get the perfect parts washing baskets to meet their needs.

Three Benefits of Manufacturing in the USA

Marlin Steel Wire ManufacturingRecently, we talked about several reasons to be optimistic about the future of manufacturing in America. One of the major takeaways from that post was that the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is on the rise once again, and that many companies are beginning to consider moving their production back to American locations.

However, you might be wondering “why it is that companies are considering making the switch to manufacturing in the U.S. once again?” Well, there are actually a number of reasons, including:

#1: Costs

As we mentioned in a previous post, the energy costs associated with operating a U.S.-based manufacturing location are actually going down. However, the cost savings of moving manufacturing to the U.S. go well beyond that for many companies.

For a lot of companies, even though their production has been moved out of the U.S., their R&D facilities have remained here. By basing their manufacturing facilities nearer to their R&D facilities, companies can save time and money when shipping parts and prototype units between the two.

Not only that, but communication between manufacturing and R&D teams is much easier when they are both located in the same region. This eliminates the need for translating terms, speeding up the communication process (team to team as opposed to team to translator to team). Also, this reduces the chances of a miscommunication between a team used to using one kind of measurement to a team that typically uses another kind of measurement: degrees Fahrenheit versus degrees Celsius, for example.

#2: Simplification of Regulations Requirements

One of the major challenges of operating any business in multiple countries is that each country will have different regulations and requirements for the distribution, import, export or manufacture of any products.

By placing your manufacturing in the same country where goods are to be distributed, you can streamline the approval process for many products and make it easier to avoid intellectual property infringement risks.

Having to pay for customs fees and wait for processing on materials, then having to pay export fees and other taxes for the finished products in order to get it to the intended market can quickly become expensive and time-consuming.

Speaking of shipping times…

#3: Reduction in Transit Times

The delay in the ROI for the manufacture of a new product line as it languishes in the cargo storage of a slow, bulky sea vessel can break monthly income projections, and faster air cargo shipments can be prohibitively expensive, while still having to wait for customs processing.

Bringing manufacturing centers into the region where your company’s products will be distributed saves time. This allows you to see a return on your investment sooner rather than later. In addition, this removes a few middlemen from the sales process, reducing markup and allowing prices to be more competitive.

What’s more, this reduction in transit times also means an increased level of flexibility and responsiveness in meeting consumer demands. The faster a company can leverage consumer needs and wants, the better.

For example, if the first run of a product line sells out in record time, a company that bases its manufacturing in the same country it is distributing those products in can strike while the proverbial iron’s hot, putting more of the in-demand product into customer’s hands while it is still in demand. A company that bases its manufacturing overseas, on the other hand, will have to wait for weeks on shipping alone, during which time the enthusiasm for the product may die down or competitors could release off-brand copies of the product.

A company located overseas could prevent an unexpected shortage of a suddenly popular product by massively over-producing everything, but that would be a tremendous waste of time, money and materials.

A Positive Outlook

Of course, there are many more reasons why any specific company might benefit from basing their manufacturing in the U.S., far too many to cover all of them here. Here at Marlin Steel, we’re excited to have the chance to not only witness a resurgence of American manufacturing, but to be a part of it.

With more companies relocating their manufacturing to the U.S., and thus more manufacturing jobs being created, we’re optimistic for the future of the manufacturing industry in the U.S.