Promoting the Benefits of Automation in the Manufacturing Industry

 

 

Marlin Steel

3 Marlin Steel employees in front of Marlin Steel’s Trumpf laser

A3, the Association for Advancing Automation, has launched a new website to help educate people, particularly employers, about the benefits that come with automation.

What is one of the key stories featured on the website? A video about our company, Marlin Steel.

In the video on the A3 site, our CEO/Owner, Drew Greenblatt, talks about how making the switch to automation saved Marlin Steel from bankruptcy. Not only that, but automation has actually helped Marlin Steel generate new jobs and retain our dedicated and experienced workers.

When Drew acquired Marlin Steel more than 15 years ago, our company was known as the “King of Bagel Baskets.” For a time, that was fine. Using traditional hand-crafted methods, each employee at the plant was able to produce 15-20 wire baskets per shift for bagel shops all over the country. Back in those early days, the customers were looking for a commodity product that worked good enough, not the most high-quality product.

However, Marlin’s status as the king of bagel baskets would come to an end not long after Greenblatt acquired the company. Chinese metal wire basket companies began to move into the market, often selling their products for less than what Marlin had to pay just for the  steel to make the baskets. With a cheaper product on the market, clients began to dry up and Greenblatt had to make a choice: adapt, or go bankrupt.

Thankfully, Drew decided to adapt by bringing in new automation equipment, much to the chagrin of Marlin’s overseas competitors.

The Benefits of Automation

Back in the day, the hand-crafting methods were, relatively speaking, slow, inefficient, and not very precise. Using the hand-bent assembly method for wire baskets, Marlin Steel was able to handle products that had an error tolerance of plus or minus one inch.

Not only that, but the hand assembly method was inherently dangerous, with as many as four safety incidents occurring every year. Many employees had severed fingers and eye injuries, which only increased the risk of future injuries. Fatigue caused by exhausting manual labor also contributed to the chances of an accident occurring.

Making the switch to automation has allowed Marlin Steel to reap numerous benefits, including:

  • Increased production capability –Machines don’t “get tired” after performing a task for hours on end. Not only that, but for tasks that require the precise application of brute force, a mechanized process can get the job done much faster than older manual methods. For example, our new automated machines can pull and bend hundreds of feet of wire each minute. This increases total production by so much that orders which once took four to five days to complete can now be fulfilled in a single day.
  • Improved employee safety – Another benefit of machines doing the manual labor is that it vastly reduces job injuries. Where we once had as many as four injuries each year, we now have gone more than 1,680 days (over four and a half years) without a safety incident. Our staff certainly appreciates the newfound safety that comes with the automated systems. And our workman’s compensation bills are way down.
  • Reduced employee fatigue – With the switch to automation comes a reduced level of exhaustive manual labor. Our employees are now able to focus on tasks that work their minds rather than their muscles. Their work is less physically demanding, repetitive, and mundane, which makes for improved job satisfaction and less fatigue. We don’t have to recruit employees who are just big and strong.
  • Enhanced precision – A machine can bend and shape steel to the exact specifications that it is given, every time it performs that task. Before introducing automated manufacturing techniques, we would make products that had a tolerance for error of one inch or less. Using automated manufacturing, we can now make products with a tolerance of +/- 1/4000”, which opens up our list of clients to include those who need extremely precise products, making Marlin Steel more than just the king of bagel baskets.
  • Higher profitability – Increasing the output of our production line and expanding our list of clients has improved Marlin’s profitability by six times. That’s six times as much capital to invest back into our company, adding even more automation and benefits for our work force.
  • The ability to hire more employees – Not only has changing over to an automated production process saved our company from the threat of bankruptcy, saving the jobs of everyone here, it has allowed us to expand our work force. Since going automated, Marlin Steel has nearly doubled the size of the work force, adding engineers and automated production specialists to our existing team. While many might fear that automation eliminates jobs, here at Marlin Steel, it has created new opportunities for employment, and we know that it can do the same for many other businesses.
  • More competitive benefits for employees – Now that Marlin Steel’s employees are more productive than ever before, we provide them better pay and more benefits to match that increased productivity. Our employees receive medical coverage, 401(k) plans and vacations in addition to an increase in their base pay. Plus, by working with automated machinery and acquiring new job skills, our employees will be better positioned to work with other high-tech businesses in the future.

Ultimately, the move to automation for Marlin Steel has been overwhelmingly positive. If you want to see the video, you can find it here. Or, if you have other questions about our company, contact us today.

Lights…Camera…Marlin! Transforming Marlin Steel Wire Products

 

Marlin Steel Wire ProductsMarlin Steel Wire is now featured in a video produced by The Hitachi Foundation. This video highlights our core strengths – “Quality Engineering Quick.®”  In five minutes, it shows how Marlin Steel was able to turn our wire products business around and meet our customer’s needs, strengthen our bottom line, boost earnings and offer our associates advancement opportunities. It also showcases our SkillsMatrix that emphasizes cross-training and our focus on production bonuses and paid training.

In 2013, The Hitachi Foundation designated Marlin Steel a Pioneer Employer – awarded by the Precision Metalforming Association – in recognition of our growth in revenues as well as our focus on creating opportunities for our associates and our investment in their professional success.

The video shows how Marlin aligns the interests and objectives of our employees, management, and customers to achieve high-quality results. By linking our client’s expectations with production team goals, we are able to share Marlin’s financial success with our associates.

The video features interviews with a few of our exceptional Marlin Steel team members – Nathan Myers, Liston Clise, Kenny Browning, Hector Carmona, and Andy Croniser.

Please watch the video and share it with your colleagues.

The Hitachi Foundation also blogged about us in – From Bagels to Boeing. It tells our comeback story and showcases how our team’s advanced manufacturing skills and agility have kept us growing eight years in a row.

Auto Czar Steve Rattner New York Times article Debunked – USA Manufacturing Renaissance is Real

 

Recently Steve Rattner, the former Auto Czar for President Obama, wrote a piece in the New York Times denying the blossoming American Manufacturing Renaissance. In my weekly INC Column, we debunked his article.

7 Reasons Auto Czar Steve Rattner is Wrong

 

Steven Rattner, formerly the Obama-appointed czar for the auto industry and a former banker at Lehman Brothers, wrote a provocative piece in the New York Times recently trying to debunk the so-called “Made in America” renaissance, which he terms a “myth.”  He makes some good points. But he’s wrong.

Make no mistake, there IS a surging American manufacturing renaissance. Here are some overriding  issues that overwhelm his myth thesis.

First, value added in manufacturing recently exceeded $2 trillion for the first time (wow), showing that output continues to rebound strongly. That’s not chopped liver.

Second, Rattner’s analysis is a static one. He ignores the dynamic nature of the American spirit of capitalism, particularly the brilliant and innovative leaps in energy efficiency and labor productivity (among other things) that have made U.S. manufacturing more globally competitive. The advances behind the energy and labor are based on work by American engineers.

Third, natural gas. Rattner doesn’t even mention natural gas, and this is a game changer. We are now the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Soon we will be exporting natural gas and even, you guessed it — oil. This is the feedstock for many companies that will change their investment plans and park more money here – more new U.S. factories because of this advantage. That is good for us. Plus, we won’t be sending $700 billion each year to people who hate us. Instead, it will go to property owners in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas. Those folks pay taxes, for our schools, roads, and national defense. Most importantly, they like us more than the oil sheiks in many parts of the Middle East.

Fourth, many of the announced investments for the natural gas and energy boom have not yet come online. These projects take two to five years to launch. Permitting and improving these facilities takes time. The snowball effect is going to kick in soon and then expand rapidly. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Fifth, Rattner decries manufacturing wages, but the average U.S. manufacturing employee makes $77,000 a year (with benefits) and if the company exports, the average pay is $95,000 (with benefits). This is a lot better than the $14.50 per hour jobs in Tennessee and Kentucky that Rattner derides. Yes, those jobs exist, and they don’t pay as well as assembly line work used to. However, if the alternative for an auto worker is a minimum wage job, this is more than two times better. Many people like that alternative.

Sixth, Rattner does not mention WHERE the manufacturing job loss has occurred. Virtually all of the shrinkage in manufacturing employment has happened in union manufacturing jobs. Non-union jobs have been flat, on the other hand. Rattner missed the point, which is that while union manufacturing jobs evaporated, nonunion did okay. If there is a myth, it is that the problem is manufacturing.

Lastly, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs did not need the government-supported Manufacturing Innovation Institutes that Rattner blames for propping up industry statistics. That’s because those Institutes are not where the next Facebook or stunning innovation will come from. It will come from some entrepreneur working in a garage right now. We don’t even know his or her name — yet. Government cannot spearhead the next flash of brilliance. And that’s okay.

Intellectual Property Rights – Theft by China and others – hurting US Job Creation

 

MANUFACTURERS AND HARVARD ECONOMIST BILL KERR TO UNVEIL STUDY ON NEGATIVE IMPACT OF SOFTWARE THEFT ON U.S. JOBS, COMPETITIVENESS AND INNOVATION

 

Study Unveiling and Panel Discussion on January 30 at 10:30 a.m. at NAM Headquarters

 

On January 30, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Harvard economist Bill Kerr will unveil their new economic study, which eliminates the idea that software piracy is a problem that only affects software and technology companies. The NAM/Kerr study found that stolen software negatively impacts the U.S. manufacturing sector through unfair competition, resulting in losses in U.S. manufacturing revenue, jobs, patents and GDP.

 

The NAM will disclose the results of the study as well as a member survey on intellectual property (IP) theft and host a discussion with experts and manufacturers whose companies have been negatively impacted by software theft.

 

WHAT:

Study unveiling and roundtable on Economic Impact of Global Software Theft on U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness and Innovation

 

WHO:

Moderator: Rob McKenna, partner, Orrick; former attorney general of the State of Washington and cofounder of the Intellectual Property Task Force at the National Association of Attorneys General; and current president of the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation (NAJI).

  • Brian Raymond, director of technology and domestic economic policy, NAM
  • Bill Kerr, associate professor of business administration, Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Drew Greenblatt, president and owner, Marlin Steel Wire Products, Baltimore, Md., NAJI chairman & co Founder and NAM executive board member
  • Daniel Abdun-Nabi, president and CEO, Emergent Biosolutions, Rockville, Md., and NAM board member
  • Michael Sigourney, president and CEO, AVTECH Software Inc., Warren, R.I., and NAJI member

 

WHEN:

Thursday, January 30, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. EST

 

WHERE:

NAM Headquarters, 733 10th Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC, 20001

 

 

 

To attend or dial in to the roundtable discussion, please RSVP to Matt Lavoie at (202) 637-3085 or mlavoie@nam.org.

# # #

About the NAM

The NAM is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes more than $1.8 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for two-thirds of private-sector research and development.

 

About Bill Kerr

Bill Kerr is an associate professor at Harvard Business School, where he focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation. Kerr has researched agglomeration and entrepreneurship and how government policies aid or hinder the entry of new firms, cluster formation and growth. He has worked extensively with the World Bank, Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and the National Science Foundation and has received several awards for his research papers.

About NAJI

NAJI, which commissioned the study with the NAM, is a nonpartisan organization of more than 300 U.S. businesses and industry experts working together to stop unfair competition from the use of stolen IP, whether it be through piracy, counterfeiting or trade secret theft.

Paving a Path to Growth in 2014 – Growing Jobs & Revenue in Manufacturing

 

 

Marlin Steel ICIC 100 2013

Marlin Steel has won the Inner City 100 award for fastest growing companies in the Inner City two years in a row.

ICIC showcases Marlin Steel, one of the fastest-growing urban businesses in America, sharing experiences & decisions that have paved paths to sustainable growth.

Loren Feldman, Small Business Editor of The New York Times will lead an interactive discussion with multi-year Inner City 100 winner Drew Greenblatt, president of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products.

Loren Feldman is an editor and writer, specializing in digital journalism and entrepreneurship. Since 2009, he has been creating and building a Web portal for The New York Times that focuses on small businesses and entrepreneurship, including the You’re the Boss small business blog. He has also been web editor of both Inc. magazine and Fast Company magazine.

Under Drew Greenblatt’s leadership, Marlin Steel’s revenues have grown six times since he bought the company in 1998 despite disruptive changes in their biggest market.  After the popular Atkins Diet reduced the demand for bagels, Marlin Steel completely transformed its product line of wire bagel baskets and expanded to serve large buyers. The company now manufactures a variety of custom wire baskets , wire forms and sheet metal fabrications for industrial giants, including Caterpillar, Pfizer, Merck and Toyota.

Thursday, January 30th

8:00 – 10:00 a.m.

University of Maryland BioPark
1st Floor Conference Center
801 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Program and breakfast will begin promptly at 8:00 a.m.  Space is limited to the first one-hundred registrants.  All program attendees will receive a complementary gift card from our event sponsor, Staples and learn about the 2014 launch of the Inner City 100.

Helping Manufacturing & Growing Jobs – Maryland State Senate Testimony

 

senateThere are 4 reasons why you should support this.
Number 1, you are going to grow jobs.
Number 2, President Bush and President Obama bipartisan support this. This will grow manufacturing. It will make American, specifically these Maryland manufacturers much greener because they will be taking out the outdated equipment and replacing it with new high tech, highly efficient equipment that uses less green grass and has less poor emissions.
My name is Drew Greenblatt I am the owner of Marlin Steel. We are a small steel factory based in Baltimore city. We make everything in Baltimore. We import nothing, we export to 36 countries. We buy recycled steel. These are old cars that are melted down and old dish washers and we convert them into sheet metal fabrications and wire baskets. We ship them all over the world. We have to be competitive in this environment. We give all of our employees’ health insurance like the average Maryland manufacturers. All of our people are well paid. The average Maryland manufacturing employee gets paid $77,000 a year. If that company is an exporter manufacturer, they are paid over $95,000 per year on average. These are great jobs; we need to coddle these jobs. This is very important for our state. The only way we can be effective, efficient and competitive is if we give our employees the best equipment in the world. Otherwise, you can’t justify paying somebody seventy-five grand a year or ninety-five grand a year. We are competing with China; they pay $2.38 an hour.
For us to compete we have to arm our people with the best equipment and the best technology. Senator Klausmeier’s bill will give us a shot at investing in this new technology. So right now though, we are at a disadvantage. Delaware and West Virginia already have this on their books. We need this. We have a very expensive laser in our factory. We bought this from a Connecticut company, this has made us very efficient. Today we are running a job for a Japanese company in the Midwest that is a transplant. They are buying from us, they are not buying from China. That is because of this laser that we bought. We showed this to senator Klausmeier and Senator Kittleman when they came to visit us and this is intrinsic.
If we could get this technology to our employees we could beat China, we could beat Mexico, we could beat Canada, and we will hire more people locally. We need to make our climate better than all of the other states or at least equal to them, otherwise we are going to lose these kinds of jobs. It is like getting our employees on steroids. Recently we had Senator Mikulski in my office. She took a tour of our factory, and she saw us shipping a container full of wire forms to China that was made in America; Indiana steel, Chicago made robot, US man made labor. But it’s the robot that gave our employees the technological umph that put us over the edge and beat our Chinese competition. So these are the kinds of investments we need to make. This bill will help us get those investments, and all of our fellow manufacturing companies. This bill will pay for itself in approximately 24 months.
Lastly the chamber of commerce supports this bill, we appreciate your support. Thank you so much.

Tolerances – What are Marlin Steel’s Tolerances?

 
 Tolerances are critical to know before you launch into a custom material handling basket or sheet metal fabrication project. Everyone has to be on the same page. Here are Marlin Steel’s Tolerances: 

 

STANDARD TIGHT STANDARDS ABSOLUTE MINIMUM TOLERANCES MARLIN CAN HOLD
in. mm in. mm in. mm
WIRE FORMS & WIRE FORMING 0.125 3.2 0.063 1.6 0.031 0.8
WIRE ASSEMBLIES 0.125 3.2 0.063 1.6 0.063 1.6
FLAT SHEET METAL (laser/punch) 0.015 0.4 0.010 0.3 0.008 0.2
Bent Sheet Metal 0.063 1.6 0.031 0.8 0.015 0.4
Sheet Metal (only) Assemblies 0.063 1.6 0.031 0.8 0.030 0.8