Anybody familiar with ‘brassing in/brassing out’ anymore?

Published 5:14 am Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Larry worked his entire career at our local Armco Steel Mill in Ashland, Kentucky.
Larry, like the Ashland Armco works, has now passed on. But what remains are these two symbols, the closed mill and this piece of brass, of a generation of strong, talented craftsmen who took much pride in their work and helped grow our local economy and in turn build this nation into the superpower that it is today.
Not familiar with the process of “brassing” into a jobsite?
Well, in the “old days” each employee on a plant or construction project jobsite was issued a piece of brass similar to Larry’s.
The brass had an employee number etched on it that identified that employee with that number.
The brass piece had a hole in it so that the brass could be hung on an attendance board by a nail.
Each shift change, a timekeeper/security guard would receive each employee’s brass piece and hang the brass on a nail board next to the that employee’s number.
This time-consuming, cumbersome process was management’s way to identify specifically who was on a job site at any given time during a shift.
The only way for an employee to enter or leave a jobsite was to walk past the brass shack and have the security guard or timekeeper either give you or receive your employee specific piece of brass for the shift.
I remember the use of brass shacks on jobsites up into the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It was around that time that industry began considering better, more accurate ways to keep time and attendance on jobsites.
After the tragic 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, knowledge of who was on a plant or construction site and who was not became much more important, especially for “soft target” sites like oil refineries.
I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, saw a need for better, more accurate accounting of employee attendance and created the patented MAC Portal.
Or as I called it back in my early days the “Electronic Brass Shack.”
The first MAC portals were built for industrial and construction sites in our local area, but today the MAC Portal (AKA: “electronic brass shack”) exists at refineries, power plants and construction sites on six continents.
Just as the Armco Steel mill is now obsolete and no longer in operation and Larry has provided the steel industry and, in turn, the nation, with his tremendous work ethic and craftsmanship, the day of the “brass shack” has now come and gone.
It has been replaced with its electronic successor, the MAC Portal.
The piece of brass has now been replaced with employee badges and the nail board, while the security guard has been replaced by an electronic badge reader.
I am honored that the MAC Portal, still manufactured right here in Ashland, Kentucky, could be a part of this wonderful industrial history that our country has enjoyed for centuries.
It gives me a great sense of pride to know that the manufacturing of these MAC Portals near Ashland and shipped globally, has created jobs that are replacing some of the steel mill jobs that have been lost in our area.
The steel mill workers and all the other great craftsmen in this nation have a tremendous story to tell, they have built the U.S. into the most powerful country in the world, and that story continues today.
American industrial exceptionalism is alive and well and our industrial ingenuity continues to propel our nation forward.

— Robert Slagel is the president and CEO of Portable Solutions Group, parent company of two privately held businesses whose products are sold through the U.S. and around the world.