Vice President Joe Biden Meets with Marlin Steel and Discusses Manufacturing

Joe Biden and Marlin SteelVice President Joe Biden spoke with me and a roomful of US manufacturing leaders last week regarding his optimism about US Manufacturing. He stressed that the USA is the best place to build things because we have several attributes that differentiate us from the rest of the world:

1. Rule of Law
2. Respect Intellectual Property
3. Vast Energy reserves
4. Innovative Universities and Research colleges

He believes by embracing immigration reform we can help manufacturing because we will have a broader pool of labor we can hire that is legitimate.

When shaking my hand, he shared with me that his grandfather was in the steel fabrication business in Baltimore (like Marlin Steel) but they later moved to Pennsylvania. He thanked Marlin for growing jobs in the USA.

The president is right about some of the USA’s strong suits that make our nation great, however we can be better and faster growing. While visiting my Maryland Senator’s last week, Marlin Steel stressed that US Manufacturing has a 20% cost obstacle compared to our biggest economic competitors (like Germany and Canada). US factories are burdened with:

1. Higher taxes (40+% vs 15% in Canada)
2. More regulations
3. An out of control legal system

These costs make our manufacturers less likely to win jobs so we will not hire people and end the recession fast. The natural gas revolution is helping US Manufacturing, but it is being constrained. Approving the Keystone pipeline will help grow jobs in our nation.

Vice President Biden is right that we have strong suits, but let’s rollback these obstacles so we can hire more people.

A Manufacturers’ Perspective: What Marlin Steel suggested to Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen On Monetary Policy

I had the honor to meet Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and several manufacturing leaders to discuss manufacturers’ perspective on the state of the economy. Several manufacturers stressed there was an improved degree of optimism and some new-found confidence because Washington seemed less dysfunctional (no Government shut downs looming, etc), however everyone was concerned with  the negative GDP growth in the first quarter.

Marlin Steel and Janet Yellen

Was this decline indicative of a loss of momentum or was it a nasty winter that depressed activity, activity that will bounce back in the second quarter?

The general theme was that housing is a concern and the world is becoming increasingly globally competitive.

One consistent theme was that stronger USA factories were exporting, but Europe remained a weak market (this is the same week that Europe announced Negative Interest Rates as a way to jump-start their economies!)

Marlin Steel’s Suggestions on Monetary Policy

I shared with the Chairwoman that Marlin Steel makes wire baskets for industry (Automotive, Aerospace, Pharmaceutical, Medical and Industrial powerhouses) and our material handling baskets are used to clean parts for clients like Toyota and Caterpillar, so we are exposed to a broad cross section of the US economy.  I suggested two ways to get the economy firing on all cylinders:

First, cut taxes because most factories were at competitive disadvantage with formidable economic rivals (Germany and Canada, especially) because our companies pay more taxes. As a result, we are losing jobs that Germans are winning and this means fewer jobs in the US. These are crucial jobs we need now to reduce unemployment.

Secondly, I said we should RAISE interest rates because this will be a psychological boost for the economy. Our country is on such sound footing now that we do not need the economic crutch coming from the Federal Reserve any more. In addition, our county is seeing some bubbles form (junk bond market) and that is an ominous sign. Lastly, raising interest rates will get consumers and business people off the sidelines and start borrowing money now to buy things that will improve their business and grow the economy. In our case, we bought the biggest robot in company history this week to capture the historically low rates (we received a financing deal for 10-year money @4.97%!) That is too good to stay valid; low interest rates mean a low hurdle for new investments, so poorly-thought-out ventures get funded.

I insisted to the Chairwoman that she should provide the  profound psychological mind shift we need – it’s time to get moving. The economy is rolling again and it is time to get off the sidelines. Raising interest rates will embolden business people to act – which is what our job seekers desperately need. It will provide the needed confidence we have turned the corner. Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines.

Response to Marlin Steel’s Manufacturer Perspective

The Chairwoman listened intensely but challenged me when she said that when we revised rates recently, it hurt the housing market. She believes that interest rate increases are off the table if unemployment is equal to 6.5%.

It was refreshing to see Federal Reserve leadership engaging with manufacturing leadership to understand the trends in the market and pulsing people in the trenches to get a feeling of the future growth trends from job creators.

Marlin Steel to Speak at the Northeast Shingo Prize Conference

marlin steel logoThis year, we are proud to announce that Marlin Steel has been invited to the 10th Annual Northeast Shingo Prize Conference to make a presentation on the subject of: Leading, Enabling & Nurturing: People First! The organizers of the event, the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP) and the Shingo Institute, expect that there will be over 600 attendees from businesses located throughout the U.S. and Canada.

It is a privilege and an honor to be invited as a speaker for this conference event.

What is the Shingo Prize?

The Shingo prize is one of the most coveted and prestigious awards that a manufacturing company can win. Only the best manufacturing companies can hope to be nominated for this award, and taking this prize home is proof positive of excellence as a manufacturer.

For those who may not have heard of the Shingo prize, it is an award given by the Shingo Institute, which is a part of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business of Utah State University. The institute itself is dedicated to “learning experiences that assist leaders in improving organizational culture.”

The institute takes its name from Shigeo Shingo, a Japanese engineer who created management techniques, systems and concepts that would later become the basis for the Toyota Business System. Back in 1988, Utah State honored Shingo’s accomplishments with an honorary doctorate. The Shingo prize was established that same year.

Manufacturers who wish to be considered for the Shingo award have to submit an online application for the honor by August 1. When examining an applicant for the prize, the Shingo Institute’s examiners look for excellence in many fields, such as the corporate culture of the business being assessed, improvement over previous years, guiding principles and results.

Winning the Shingo Prize is a mark of distinction that many companies seek, but only a few receive. Past winners of the Shingo Prize include:

  • Barnes Aerospace OEM Strategic Business of Ogden, Utah
  • Ethicon Inc. of Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
  • John Deere, Power Products of Greeneville, Tennessee
  • E-Z-GO of Augusta Georgia

In a year, two or three applicants out of hundreds might be recognized with a prize.

See Marlin’s Speech

Our presentation at the conference is currently scheduled for Wednesday, October 1 at 1:30 p.m. in the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA. Be sure to catch our presentation if you can!

The top representatives of manufacturing businesses from several different countries will be present for this event, making it a great opportunity to share our insights and ideas with the manufacturing world.

How Natural Gas Can Save the Manufacturing Industry

Recently, Marlin Steel President and CEO was invited to speak with WBAL radio’s John Patty to discuss how natural gas production is helping to turn around the entire manufacturing industry. You can listen to the entire conversation on the WBAL website, or you can read a transcript we made of the conversation below: John Patty: For a while now, we’ve seen a lot of American businesses relocating their manufacturing processes, and their jobs, overseas because, among other reasons, their energy costs were too high for their products to be competitive on the world stage. That might be about to change. Joining us is a local businessman, Drew Greenblatt. Drew is a president and owner of Marlin Steel Wire Products in Baltimore. Drew, thanks for joining us and tell us all how this might be changing all because of the natural gas industry.

Drew Greenblatt: We are very fortunate in Maryland State and our region because we’re sitting on a tremendous amount of natural gas, and it’s become very easy to extract it. This is something that wasn’t true in the past because of things like horizontal drilling and fracturing, or fracking, and this has made natural gas very accessible and very cheap to pull out of the ground. This is great for us because finally we have a wonderful accelerant to manufacturing because we have cheap energy to power us.

JP: You wrote a commentary in The Sun over the weekend where you stated that “Maryland has a chance to be among the first states to benefit from this projected economic boom.” How do you project they do that?

DG: Well, we should exploit this like we won the lottery, and all we have to do is go claim the ticket. We are in a wonderful position: we’re in the driver’s seat. Other states are taking advantage of this, like North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and they’re making a lot of money from this. They’re also, more importantly, creating a lot of jobs: and these are great jobs. You know, money, the employees who work in an oil rig get paid 80 grand, 100 grand, 120 grand a year, so these are great jobs and tax revenue. This is the kind of thing that can help us get rid of this recession right away in our state. In North Dakota, the unemployment rate’s under 1½%.

JP: I know there are some measures making their way through the state legislature. But there will be a lot of permits needed, a lot of approvals. What do you see as roadblocks in projected timelines here?

DG: Well, our neighboring states, like Pennsylvania, like Ohio, have taken advantage of this and they’ve done their environmental analysis and they’ve confirmed that there is no downside to this wonderful opportunity that lays underneath our ground. They’re going full steam ahead and because of that their land prices are going up, their tax base is going up, their tax revenue’s going up; that means more money for schools, more money for police, more money for fire departments, and again, more jobs. So, this is something we should take advantage of. Why should North Dakota, why should Pennsylvania, why should Ohio take advantage of it, and not our state?

JP: What part does Dominion of the state of Virginia play in all of this?

DG: Well, Dominion is, right now pursuing and exporting natural gas that’s in Ohio, that’s in Pennsylvania, and selling it to India, and selling it to Japan. We have an opportunity to export it through our state in Maryland and it’s gonna give us a short-term boom of a couple of thousand union employees: highly-paid to construct the facility. Then, long-term, it’s going to 75 high-paid jobs running the facility. This is an exporting terminal and it was designed originally to do importing, but because we have so much natural gas in our country, we can actually export it, and there’s a lot of countries out there that love to buy it from us.

JP: Well Drew, we’ll have to leave it there because of time. Drew Greenblatt, president and owner of Marlin Steel Wire Products here in Baltimore. Thanks for being with us today on Maryland News Now.

DG: Thank you and bye.

JP: Okay. End Transcript Overview: Thanks to the current surplus of natural gas in our country, we have the unique chance to revitalize our manufacturing industry by lowering energy costs and moving jobs back into our country. By investing in the infrastructure for natural gas processing and refining, we can create even more jobs outside of the manufacturing industry itself. Overall, the benefits of harvesting natural gas can help revitalize the economy, and several states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota are already reaping the benefits. Here at Marlin Steel, we’re dedicated to bringing a new American manufacturing renaissance, and natural gas could be a critical component of such a renewal in manufacturing. It is our hope that as the situation with natural gas continues to develop, we will see a marked increase in job creation and an overall boost to the economy.

Drew Greenblatt Discusses Manufacturing with The New York Times

Drew Greenblatt Marlin Steel Marlin Steel’s president and CEO Drew Greenblatt recently sat down for an interview with John Grossman of The New York Times. In the interview, Drew discusses how he came to be the owner of Marlin Steel, his early successes, challenges, and how a little call from Boeing helped him overcome extinction at the hands of foreign commodity distributors who could sell product for less than his materials costs.

Read the full article, “From Making Bagel Baskets to Thinking Much Bigger” to learn more about Marlin Steel’s incredible journey from being a small commodity bagel basket maker to an advanced company that creates precision-engineered material handling baskets for leading technology companies.

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.