Workforce inspiration, COVID-19 safety, sound legislative policy, tax reform and democracy—these were the main themes NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons discussed during the NAM’s State of Manufacturing address Thursday at Chandler-Gilbert Community College Williams Campus in Mesa, Arizona.
Inspiring the workforce of tomorrow: Manufacturing is a high-tech, fast-paced, well-paying place to work, Timmons told the audience as he stood before the Creators Wanted Tour Live mobile experience, an initiative of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner, The Manufacturing Institute. But, he said, the industry has not been immune to the labor shortage.
- “For each of the past nine months, manufacturers in America have had more than 800,000 open jobs in our industry—800,000 chances to launch a well-paying career,” Timmons told the audience of college students, teachers and staff, as well as local manufacturers. “In Arizona, there were more than 11,000 openings in just the first 45 days of 2022.”
- Yet the state of U.S. manufacturing is, Timmons announced, resilient. “There’s hardly ever been more opportunities for future manufacturing workers. Innovators. Designers. Technicians. Creators. We’re a $2.57 trillion industry, with more than 12.5 million workers and counting. And the vast majority of manufacturing leaders say they are optimistic about the future.”
Getting policy right: Timmons also talked about the policy landscape and stressed the need for lawmakers to enact robust supply-chain, immigration-reform and competitiveness measures.
- “If we’re really going to outcompete China and other countries, then we need Congress to finish up the ‘global competitiveness bill’ they’re working on and get it to the president,” Timmons said.
- He added that coming legislation must include measures to bolster supply-chain resilience, combat goods counterfeiting and increase domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
“Rocket fuel” required: Following the passage of tax reform in 2017—which Timmons called “rocket fuel for our economy”—manufacturers have “kept our promises to raise wages, hire more workers and invest in our communities,” he said.
- “For more than a year, some politicians have tried to raise taxes on manufacturers,” Timmons said. “They tried it with the COVID-19 relief bill. They tried it with infrastructure. They tried it with Build Back Better. And three times, manufacturers said don’t do it. And we won. The voices of moderation in the Senate prevailed.”
- “But if tax reform is repealed or punitive measures, such as the ‘book tax,’ are passed, the U.S. economy will suffer,” Timmons said.
Safeguarding values: America’s values and institutions are what have made manufacturing possible, Timmons said, and we must defend them from the threats they now face.
- “Today, America faces new threats to our democracy, including those threats from within,” Timmons said. “And once again, manufacturers stand proudly on the side of protecting and preserving American democracy and our constitutional republic.”
Point of emphasis: “I’ve always believed, and the past two years have reinforced, that manufacturers are in the business of causes greater than self. From building the arsenal to win a world war decades ago, to pioneering the treatments to defeat today’s diseases and pandemics, we change the world,” Timmons underscored in the wrap-up of the address.
For Tonya Byrd, there was never any great conundrum about where to attend college.
No question: “I was raised in that HBCU mindset,” said the Howard University alumna and director of community engagement policy and local affairs for Dominion Energy. “It was not a question for me of where I wanted to matriculate and learn and grow.”
MI webinar: Byrd shared some of her own academic and professional experiences as she joined Intel’s Chris Ross for a recent Manufacturing Institute webinar on how manufacturers can best engage historically Black colleges and universities.
- Byrd and Ross, who lead HBCU engagement at their respective companies, agreed on three main strategies manufacturers can employ to bolster their diversity and inclusion work and attract African American talent in a tight labor market.
Build relationships: A manufacturer doesn’t have to have huge sums of money to successfully engage HBCUs and their students, Ross and Byrd said.
- “We’re finding there are a lot of ways you make … meaningful pathways happen” between HBCUs and manufacturers, Ross said. “And it doesn’t require big paychecks to happen. We’re looking at, ‘Can we just set up some Zoom calls or Teams calls where we bring in some of our engineers … and they talk about what it’s like to be an engineer at Intel?’”
- Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, Dominion Energy sits strategically close to many HBCUs on the Atlantic coast—but location isn’t everything, Byrd said. Dominion has African American resource groups through which it creates mentorships with students at local HBCUs, and this is something other manufacturers can replicate no matter where they may be located, she said.
- “We’re building [those] relationships by offering what we have as well as listening,” she said. “It’s, ‘What do you need?’”
- Dominion has also reached out to graduate and Ph.D. students at Howard University’s Department of Economics for third-party, independent research purposes. “Students get cases studies and get to know the company” that way, she said.
Leverage alumni: Those who attended HBCUs and are now in the workforce are frequently a manufacturer’s best bet when it comes to recruitment.
- Intel has relied on HBCU-alumni employees to help forge relationships with key schools, Ross said. “That’s one way to start with the engagement.”
- For Dominion, alumni are a primary connector to HBCUs. “Alumni and their networks” are key to keeping open communication between the company and the schools, Byrd said.
Be a meaningful place to work: Manufacturers should recognize that younger generations of workers and those coming out of college now want something different from employers than previous generations.
- “There’s a different mindset in [those] coming into the workforce now,” Ross said. “They care about environmental sustainability, they care about their communities, they want to stay local.” To that end, manufacturers should ensure they have sound corporate social responsibility programs in place and “be vocal about your shared values.”
- The opportunities to guest lecture and mentor students at their alma maters seem to “really be driving employee engagement” and retention, Byrd said. Employees “find that rewarding. They get to give back to their community.”
- In addition, manufacturers should be vocal about their support of justice, Byrd continued, adding that Dominion leadership came out with a statement condemning the murder of George Floyd soon after the event. That C-suite move had a profound impact on employees, Byrd said.
The last word: Manufacturers of all sizes and types can be successful at HBCU engagement—and it will be well worth their time. “The HBCUs are gems,” Byrd said. “They are pillars in our community. What better place to look to grow innovation?”
Ahead of Thursday’s 2022 NAM State of Manufacturing Address, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons was in Cleveland, Ohio, where he visited Lincoln Electric—a global manufacturer of welding products and equipment—to discuss the state of the industry.
Trailblazing training: At Lincoln Electric, they’re not just operating the longest continually running welding school in the world. They’re also offering cutting-edge tools for new students and making sure that the people who come through their training center are well prepared for the world of tomorrow.
Welding Technology and Training Center: At the WTTC, participants learn in a $30 million state-of-the-art facility designed to help train students for new careers and to upskill welders to take on new roles and responsibilities.
Virtual Reality Welding Solutions: Not all training needs to happen in the real world. The VRTEX® virtual reality arc welding trainers offer high-tech learning solutions for students and professionals alike, along with learning tools designed specifically for educators.
A helping (bionic) hand: Finding skilled welders can be tough. However, plenty of jobs in the welding industry don’t come with a steep learning curve. To help expand their workforce and improve productivity and efficiency at their facilities, Lincoln Electric has invested in collaborative robots that offer easy automated assistance with a simple, user-friendly interface that non-welding professionals can use.
Strengthening supply chains: One challenge for manufacturers throughout the pandemic has been the burden placed on international supply chains, which has caused long delays and uncertainty around shipping. Lincoln Electric has the only wire-based additive manufacturing factory in the United States for 3D-printing large metal-based industrial components, replacement parts, tooling and molds—products that have traditionally been cast and sourced internationally. Through their innovation and domestic production, they can create parts in days or weeks that would otherwise take six months or more to build.
Lincoln’s line: “We are pleased to welcome Jay and the NAM team to Lincoln Electric and have the opportunity to showcase our industry-leading workforce training and development solutions, as well as innovative automation and large-scale additive solutions that address the manufacturing sector’s need for added operational capacity to drive growth and shorter, more reliable supply chains,” said Lincoln Electric Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Mapes.
Our take: “From the management that has built state-of-the-art training facilities to the employees who have used that training to build a rewarding career, this is an example of a team that is more than the sum of its parts,” said Timmons. “It was energizing to see all the incredible work that Lincoln Electric is doing to invest in its workforce and the wider community.”
More stops: The State of Manufacturing visit is reaching other Cleveland-area manufacturers including Jergens, Synthomer and STERIS Corporation.
Tune in: The State of Manufacturing address is this Thursday! Tune in here.
Word is out – the recipients of this year’s STEP Ahead Awards have been announced.
What’s happening: Bestowed each year by the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s workforce development partner, the STEP Ahead Awards recognize outstanding women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production (STEP). This year marks the honor’s 10th anniversary.
Why it matters: “The STEP Ahead Awards are central to the industry’s efforts to recognize and empower women,” said MI President Carolyn Lee. “Manufacturing is averaging more than 800,000 open jobs a month in the past year, and we can’t close that gap without closing the gender gap.”
- Recipients “serve as role models and have their own multiplier effect on the number of women in the workforce, paying it forward to help others find their way into a successful, rewarding career in modern manufacturing,” Lee said.
- Agreed 2022 STEP Ahead Chair Denise Rutherford: “The 2022 STEP Ahead Honorees and Emerging Leaders are excellent representatives of the exciting opportunities available in manufacturing. These remarkable women and the leadership they show help inspire the next generation of female leaders to consider careers in manufacturing.”
Gala to follow: The 130 recipients of the 2022 awards will be honored at an in-person Aril 28 gala in Washington.
See the full list of 2022 award recipients here.
Manufacturers largely agree that technology will help workers, not displace them, speakers said at the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s recent virtual event, “M2030 Visions of the Future: Reflections on New Orleans.”
New Orleans readout: The webinar, which featured a panel of technology experts, was a recap of highlights from the MLC’s December 2021 Manufacturing in 2030 project event in New Orleans, which hundreds of manufacturers attended.
What the future holds: The recent online discussion was primarily about future technological trends in manufacturing, and three major themes emerged: Completely “lights-out” manufacturing (i.e., totally automated) is not a likely near-term reality for manufacturing; upskilling and reskilling will be crucial in attaining syncopation between employees and robots; and most manufacturers have some ways to go to achieve digital maturity.
Lights out? Try lights dimmed: There is a misconception that robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning will replace human employees on the shop floor. The reality is that they all do best together.
- “I view it more as a ‘dimmer switch’ than ‘lights out,’ and the level to which you can dim depends on the kind of manufacturing you do,” said West Monroe Senior Manager of Consumer and Industrial Practice Alex Jay. Particularly when it comes to “complex materials, [manufacturers will] need a nuanced touch,” which will require more, not less, human interaction.
- “There will be a dimmer switch, a natural limit to how far you would automate,” said Infor Senior Vice President of International Strategy Andrew Kinder. “In the next eight years, we will see more use of technology on the plant floor. Is this a concern for employment? I think the World Economic Forum put that to bed when they said … technology will create 12 million more jobs than it will ever destroy.”
- EY Principal of Strategy and Transactions Rosco Newsom agreed. “[Manufacturers] don’t see ‘lights out’ happening in the near future.”
Upskilling and reskilling: The increased use of Manufacturing 4.0 technologies on the shop floor will only increase the need for skilled talent, the panelists agreed.
- First, “there is reskilling and upskilling required even to make those ‘lights out’” changes, said NTT Data Senior Director of Manufacturing Industry Solutions Baskar Radhakrishnan.
- Complex materials that need nuanced touch and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing “will need more human interaction,” not less, Jay said.
Maturity not yet reached: As was evidenced by questions from the webinar audience and comments from manufacturers during the New Orleans event, many manufacturers could use guidance when it comes to using more technology.
- For smaller manufacturers wondering where to start implementing Manufacturing 4.0, look to “labor-intensive, repetitive tasks,” Radhakrishnan said. “That’s where you start.”
The last word: Robotics aren’t going to put anyone out of a job. As Kinder said, “Tech seems to be a driver rather than a ‘retirer’ of employment.”
A record number of people quit their jobs in 2021, and companies are scrambling to find ways to attract new workers, according to CNN.
What’s happening: With almost 11 million open positions at the end of 2021, employers have begun “to sweeten their offerings in terms of benefits, pay and flexibility.”
Greater work flexibility: One of the perks that seems to be helping retain some workers is increased flexibility in work schedule, a finding in line with the results of a recent Manufacturing Institute–BKD study:
- Fifty-six percent of respondents “noted a need for increased worker flexibility, and roughly half had reevaluated what work could be done remotely where possible. With that, 41% said that their business was working to reengineer the production process with social distancing in mind.”
- The MI recently held a roundtable discussion on this very topic. Get a free recording of the webinar here.
Pre-job paid vacation: Workers are also responding favorably to paid time off—before they start a job.
- One “company started offering ‘pre-PTO’ that offers new hires a week of paid time off before their first day of work. … [It] created a task force that spoke with recruiters, current employees and candidates who had turned down offers at the firm, to come up with innovative ways to solve the hiring challenges. ‘Without a doubt, PTO-related new benefits were the most popular,’” the firm’s chief people officer said.
Quick offers, more cash: A health care provider has begun offering sign-on bonuses of up to $17,500 for particularly hard-to-fill remote jobs, and it gave every employee a 4% raise in 2021.
- Said the company’s executive vice president: “For many of our roles that don’t require licensure or certification … you show up, get a same-day offer and begin work the following Monday, if possible.”
What’s happening: “Nationally, 4.1% of women quit their jobs in January compared with 3.4% of men—a 0.7 percentage point difference. But in Maine and Rhode Island—where around 45% of families reported COVID-related child care disruptions in the Census Household Pulse Survey—the gender gap swelled to 1.7 percentage points, Gusto found.”
- “At the same time, in Missouri and Arizona—where less than 25% of households said child care was disrupted—the gender gap was close to zero.”
Why: Women still disproportionately shoulder responsibilities for child care and are also likelier than men to take on child care duties while working from home, according to Axios.
- In addition, “as omicron cases fall, schools are reopening. But many child care centers have closed down due to COVID pressures, like staff shortages and lockdowns. And the availability of affordable, high-quality child care remains a growing problem.”
- The lack of available operators has schools from Indiana to Texas canceling bus routes, leaving parents to scramble for transportation.
The NAM says: “Women are an integral part of the workforce, and while they’ve begun to return, more must be done to attract them,” said Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee. “Unfortunately, finding high-quality child care is still a difficulty for many parents.”
“Manufacturing is an industry that continues to outperform others when it comes to pay and benefits—including child care. We’re seeing members such as Vermeer Corp. and Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry Company provide or subsidize quality care. That’s the sort of benefit that’s going to bring parents into manufacturing.”
It all started with a conversation in a parking lot.
Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry CEO Sachin Shivaram was chatting with a second-shift employee outside the WAFCO building one evening last summer when he happened to glance into the man’s car.
- “[I notice] he’s got a car seat in there, so I ask him, ‘What do you do for child care?’” Shivaram recalled. “He said he’s a single dad of a 4-year-old daughter, and he takes her to a different [caretaker’s] house every night. I thought, ‘That can’t be a good environment for her.’ It got me thinking, ‘How can we help this man get better care?’”
Oasis needed: Shivaram aims to find out. While the top executive of a century-old aluminum casting and molding manufacturer may seem an unlikely advocate for affordable child care, helping employees care for their kids has practically become a business imperative for WAFCO.
- “When the frenzy of the labor shortage got going, we connected” child care and the inability to fill jobs, Shivaram said, adding that the Manitowoc area is a “child care desert” with few available spots in centers. “One day we had no women on second shift, [yet] women are 50% of the population. [That’s because,] unfortunately, the burden of caring for children falls primarily on women. We realized, ‘If we’re going to make a dent in the labor shortage, we have to fix this.’”
Lending a hand: So, the company started trying to do just that. On Shivaram’s watch, it began giving employees $400 a month in child care reimbursement, on top of its $27-an-hour median wage, health care benefits and double pay for overtime.
- WAFCO has also purchased spots, when available, at a high-quality local day care center owned by the wife of a company associate and subsidized the cost of those spots for employee children.
Doing even more: Then Shivaram learned about the state’s Workforce Innovation Grant Program, the aim of which is “to help the regions of Wisconsin solve their most pressing workforce challenges by financially supporting collaborative, sustainable and innovative pandemic-recovery plans developed by regional organizations.”
- In addition to setting aside $1 million of its own capital for the creation of a child care center, WAFCO applied for $5 million of grant money last year in the program’s first round. While the company didn’t get the funds then, Shivaram plans to redouble the firm’s efforts and apply for round two this year.
The response: “Employees love it,” Shivaram said of the child care subsidy. Of WAFCO’s approximately 580 employees, about 80 make use of the funds. “Even those employees who don’t have children of child care age say this is really helpful.”
What’s next: WAFCO has identified a site for the planned center, a former adult day care facility. It is also working with KinderCare Learning Centers, the Oregon-based childhood-education company, to decide on an operating model.
- “There will be a strong emphasis on early learning for 0-to-5-year-olds,” Shivaram said. “We’re not just going to have check-the-box child care. And we are committed to paying [child care workers] more than a living wage.”
Advice for other manufacturers: Manufacturers looking to offer child care help to their employees should chiefly remember one thing as they start to plan: You can’t go it alone.
- “This does take a coalition,” Shivaram said. “This is really businesses coming together to help a need in society that, if we don’t resolve it, is only going to make us less successful. This is not going to happen with one business [working] alone.”
Industry-wide efforts: WAFCO’s initiative is part of a larger wave of manufacturers offering increasingly competitive benefits—including child care—for their teams.
- The Iowa-based Vermeer Corp. has full onsite child care facilities for the children of its employees.
- Rockwell Automation, headquartered in Wisconsin, has a generous “caregiver leave” policy to allow workers to take paid time off to look after dependents.
- When schools were closed at the beginning of the pandemic, the Pennsylvania-based i2M employed teachers to host onsite learning “pods” for the children of employees. The company is now working on a similar setup for after-school care.
The NAM says: “As we look to close the skills gap and resolve ongoing talent shortages, manufacturers continue to outperform other industries when it comes to pay and benefits packages they offer,” said Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee. The MI is the NAM’s workforce development and education partner.
- “Manufacturers are constantly finding innovative ways to provide quality-of-life-improving services, such as child care, health care options, leave and retirement savings, that will motivate and empower millions of manufacturing team members nationwide and make our industry more equitable and inclusive.”
As the global supply chain, worker shortage and wage inflation challenges many had hoped were transitory dig in their heels, manufacturers everywhere are wondering how best to get around them.
Panelists at “Successfully Navigating Current Supply Chain Disruptions,” a webinar hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Institute, Manufacturing Leadership Council and professional services firm PwC, sought to answer that question.
We rounded up the speakers’ top tips for manufacturers seeking to sustainably and profitably maneuver the several sizable hurdles they still face going into 2022.
- Break down siloes. Now that manufacturers are having to replace traditional supply chain models, changing their company operations to have staff work across siloes is more important than ever, said PwC Partner Debjit Banerjee.
- Expect disruption. If it taught us nothing else, COVID-19 conveyed the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. Going forward, manufacturers would do well to not just plan for the possibility of disruption, but to assume it will come. To that end, preplanned “differentiated customer service” and disruption drills should become the norm, Banerjee said.
- Advance your supply chain planning. Increasingly, Nexteer Automotive, a global maker of steering and driveline components, is focusing on advanced supply chain planning, programs that help predict shipments, supply and demand for smoother operations, said Nexteer Automotive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Operations Dennis Hoeg. With it, “decisions can be made smarter, earlier.”
- Automate. Manufacturers should consider automating repetitive “transaction” work and reserving their employees for analytical tasks that only humans can do, according to Hoeg.
- Balance agility and resilience. Before the pandemic, “we were working on a strategy that was based on agility,” said Rockwell Automation Chief Supply Chain Officer Ernest Nicolas Jr. “Through the pandemic … we had to reprioritize. We had to take a step back to balance agility and resilience.” Manufacturers that want a better agility-resilience balance can do so “through data, process and technology” enablement, according to Nicolas.
- “Relentlessly prioritize.” Nicolas so believes in this advice that he ended his presentation with it. “There’s so much going on right now; we want to be certain we manage our priorities,” he said. “So, there’s a lot we’re saying ‘not now’ to …. but it’s not a matter of ‘no.’ It’s a matter of, ‘We’ve got to get these things finished so we can lay the foundation’” in this new normal.
Michaela Almgren already has two jobs, but in recent months, she’s found herself appointed to a third: COVID-19-vaccine information hub.
A foot in each world: A pharmacist by training, Almgren divides her time between the University of South Carolina’s College of Pharmacy, where she is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcomes Sciences, and Nephron Pharmaceuticals, where she is clinical adviser and pharmacy student internship director.
- Owing to her impressive background in drug formulation and analytical method development as a hospital pharmacist, as well as her skills as a lecturer, Almgren has also become a sort of de facto conspiracy-theory debunker when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination.
A go-to for facts: In recent months, in her capacity as both a professor and a Nephron employee, Almgren has given lectures and presentations about COVID-19, its variants and the vaccines—and she’s had significant follow-up questions from audience members. So many, in fact, that colleagues and others she has met teaching and at manufacturing gatherings have come to see her as a voice of reason capable of cutting through the noise.
- “A lot of people just fall into this misinformation mill” about the vaccine, Almgren said. “Typing in something like ‘Dangerous COVID-19 vaccine’ will give you this feed of articles, but it doesn’t mean the vaccine is dangerous.… That’s just how these [search engines] work.”
Convincing and calm: Almgren has been the impetus for the vaccination of several employees at Nephron, which has a 100% vaccination rate.
- “They’d say, ‘Thank you for talking with me. I was unsure about the vaccine, and it made me nervous, but talking with you made me feel that it was OK.’”
Fact vs. fiction: Almgren shared some of the top vaccine-related myths she’s successfully debunked during presentations and other conversations.
- “They have long-term side effects.” Fact: “This is where I talk about how these [vaccine] components don’t stay in your body more than 72 hours. The idea is just to elicit an immune response, and then it’s gone. And think about it on a global scale. If it was so deadly and terrible, by now we would see millions of people dropping dead or getting really sick” as a direct result.
- “They were rushed to market.” Fact: “When you actually look at how the clinical trial was defined, it was very similar to any other clinical trials for other vaccines. No shortcuts were taken. They just compressed the studies and ran them simultaneously.”
- “They’re not safe for kids.” Fact: “As a parent, I can totally understand why people would be concerned” about the vaccine for children, Almgren said. “But the clinical trial is out there, released and published in terms of how Pfizer did it. The data is clear showing the efficacy is there, and the side effects are minimal. If you have no issue with the polio vaccine or the tetanus shot, why is COVID-19 any different?”
- “Natural immunity is better.” Fact: “Natural immunity can be further boosted with the vaccine, and it wanes more than vaccine-induced immunity,” Almgren said. People who have had COVID-19 and get vaccinated “have an even stronger [immune] response.”
The last word: Check out the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s This Is Our Shot initiative to find out how you can protect yourself and the people you care about from COVID-19.