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Business Operations

Manufacturer Racks Up New Product in COVID-19 Response

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Marlin Steel Wire Products team member creates newly designed test-tube racks critical to COVID-19 testing efforts in the U.S.
Marlin Steel Wire Products team member James Branch creates newly designed test-tube racks critical to COVID-19 testing efforts in the U.S.

At 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Marlin Steel Wire Products, a Baltimore-based wire and sheet metal fabricator, received an urgent order. A client conducting coronavirus testing needed a large set of test-tube racks by Monday morning to continue work. Marlin had never designed test-tube racks before, but the company sprang into action.

It was a race against time. During a week when employees had already worked 40 to 60 hours—and on a day when some had begun at 6:00 a.m.—a group volunteered to work through the weekend. After working until 10:30 p.m. on Friday, they started again at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, working until 10:00 p.m. that evening and resuming early Sunday morning. At 1:40 p.m. on Sunday—just 43 hours from the moment they received the request—the racks were ready to ship.

Still, the work continued. The client asked Marlin to send the racks by plane—but when Marlin’s staff arrived at the airport, their flight was canceled. Undeterred, Marlin loaded the racks into a truck with two drivers to cover the 1,100-mile journey. By Monday morning, they were unloading the racks—fewer than 65 hours after receiving the order.

“This team is extraordinary. They’re manufacturing heroes,” said Drew Greenblatt, Marlin’s president and owner and a member of the National Association of Manufacturers Executive Committee. “Despite working 40 to 60 hours during the week, they dropped everything, pulled together and used an extra 30 hours to get things done. This is Rosie the Riveter stuff.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the company is taking extra measures to protect employees; keeping workers at least six feet apart, sanitizing workstations and door handles frequently, and ensuring that employees able to work from home can do so. Greenblatt emphasized manufacturers’ importance to the effort against COVID-19 and the need for factories to stay open.

“That lab cannot determine if COVID-19 is in that test tube unless they have that wire rack, and I can’t manufacture that wire rack if I don’t have my steel suppliers in Illinois or my cardboard box manufacturer in Maryland or my employees in our facility,” said Greenblatt. “We’re doing this so they can accomplish their mission. We need to keep factories open because we’re making the goods that keep our world functioning.”

The NAM, working with state association partners, has asked governors and municipal leaders nationwide to declare manufacturing facilities “essential” so that businesses like Marlin Steel can continue their lifesaving work.

“Manufacturers in America are mobilizing to help our nation overcome this historic crisis,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “America’s creators will respond to this challenge, as we have throughout history. We’re in this together as we fight to keep our country healthy and strong.”

“Small manufacturers can help defeat COVID-19,” said Greenblatt. “Many make products that help labs or hospitals. Let the NAM know and let your governor know: your products and team can play a critical role to save lives.”

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