Promoting the Benefits of Automation in the Manufacturing Industry

In Custom Wire Baskets, American Manufacturing, News, Publications & Events

Drew Greenblatt on March 17, 2014

 

 

Three 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.

Author: Drew Greenblatt
Drew Greenblatt
Drew Greenblatt bought Marlin Steel Wire Products in 1998 when it was a small maker of a commodity product. Since then, it has grown revenue seven-fold. In the face of challenges to the global economy, Marlin Steel has invested more than $3.5 million in robotics in a quest for quality and speed.

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