The NAM’s Makers Series is an exclusive interview series featuring creators, innovators and trailblazers in the industry sharing their insights and advice. Meet David Solomont and Greg Horne from ev Transportation Services, Inc., which makes the FireFly ESV vehicle. In this edition of the NAM’s Makers Series, Solomont and Horne explain how ev Transportation Services uses PTC’s Onshape cloud-based CAD system to power its distributed manufacturing and engineering teams working on the FireFly ESV.
Eli Lilly is working with a new venture capital firm to help underrepresented communities receive better health care.
The project: Lilly has invested $30 million in a partnership with Unseen Capital Health Fund LP, a newly formed venture fund built by racially diverse business leaders that is intended to identify and support early-stage minority-owned health care companies. The group hopes to fund up to 50 companies and raise a total of $100 million—and with Lilly’s support, it’s well on the way.
The fund will focus especially on health equity, digital innovation and the social determinants of health. Underrepresented founders often have firsthand knowledge of the limitations of the traditional health care system, as Unseen Capital’s general partner Kayode Owens told Bloomberg (subscription).
Why it matters: Black Americans and other people of color have long suffered significant disadvantages in health care—and have done so again during COVID-19. People of color are also underrepresented in pharmaceutical and other health-related industries, as well as among venture capital firms that could improve the situation. Unseen aims to change the fates of “unseen” communities, by combining the expertise of racially diverse investors with the insight of underrepresented founders.
Other efforts: In addition to the partnership with Unseen Capital, Lilly has also taken a range of measures to help promote racial justice, including by expanding diversity in clinical trials; working with other major companies through the OneTen coalition to hire, train and advance Black Americans into 1 million jobs; and doubling Lilly’s spending with diverse suppliers.
Lilly says: “Driven by unprecedented innovation, health care is attracting record levels of investment. To unleash the full potential of innovation in our sector, historically underrepresented founders need to receive more growth capital,” said Philip Johnson, Lilly’s senior vice president and treasurer. “With this capital, these founders can catalyze systemic change while improving health outcomes for society. Providing our financial and knowledge resources to Unseen Capital is an opportunity for Lilly to be an agent for change in a way that is authentic to our purpose and culture.”
Unseen says: “Solving for equitable health care is the challenge of the 21st century,” Owens told Bloomberg. “While Covid-19 laid bare the inequities of our health-care system, George Floyd’s killing laid bare the inequities of our justice system. We need to bet on underrepresented founders to be the agent of that change.”
The NAM’s commitment: In June, the NAM Executive Committee unanimously approved a Pledge for Action intended to close the opportunity gap by taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities. The initiative is supported by The Manufacturing Institute. Make your commitment here.
As the U.S. vaccine rollout expands to nearly all adults, manufacturers are figuring out how to encourage workers to be vaccinated. To help them, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute are providing resources and advice through their This Is Our Shot project. Most recently, the project hosted a webinar to help employers frame conversations about vaccines, called Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Communications: Do’s and Don’ts. Here are some of the highlights.
The participants: The webinar was hosted by NAM Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas, the NAM lead of the This Is Our Shot project. It featured Ann Searight Christiano, director of the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida, and Jack Barry, a postdoctoral research associate for the University of Florida’s Center for Public Interest Communications.
Why communication matters: “The vaccines are becoming widely available and so people are really at a point where they no longer have to wait. It’s time,” said Christiano. “But as employers, you have a great deal of influence and trust with your employees and are well positioned to help build their trust and encourage them to get those vaccines.”
What to think about when you talk about vaccines: According to Christiano and Barry, there are eight factors to think about when developing vaccine communications: worldviews, timing, messengers, narratives, relationships, social norms, emotions and motivations. Christiano and Barry recommend taking people as they are—and responding to their particular identities and values.
Think about who and when: The timing and the messengers are extremely important. National health professionals are far more trusted on pandemic advice than celebrities, for example. People generally want messengers from their own communities, too. Think of the “influencers” in your workplaces—the respected leaders, the trusted employees—and consider using them in your campaigns, say Christiano and Barry.
The message itself: Use specifics to show how important it is to get vaccinated, such as that vaccines allow you to travel or hug your grandparents. And use the themes of choice, regret and control—often cited by vaccine hesitators—and frame them in a positive way to increase vaccine uptake.
Things to avoid: Don’t amplify people’s concerns and avoid appeals to unpleasant emotions like shame and fear, the researchers advise. Consider instead using pleasant emotions like pride, joy and parental love. Consider the motivations of the messenger, too. Be transparent and honest about why you want people to get vaccinated.
The last word: “Our role is to help all manufacturers get fact- and science-based information to safeguard workplaces and communities and to help end this pandemic. We’ll continue hosting webinars, curating the most effective tools available and deploying other research-proven resources at NAM.org/ThisIsOurShot,” says Kefalas.
For more details on how to create communications for your employees, check out the whole presentation here.
At Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation—a food manufacturer headquartered in Chester, Illinois—the impact of COVID-19 is deeply personal. In April 2020, their CEO, Don Welge, passed away due to the virus.
“It was a time when there was not a lot known about the virus,” said CEO Tom Welge, who is Don’s son. “He was very much the spirit of the company, and we found ourselves without him at a time when demand was blowing up for groceries as everybody began staying home and the supply chain was starting to be disrupted. It was a very challenging year, and we were without our captain.”
A year later, that heartbreaking experience has made Welge especially supportive of the nationwide vaccination campaign and motivated to get his company’s workers vaccinated. He spoke to us recently about Gilster-Mary Lee’s methods for overcoming vaccine hesitancy and its efforts to run its own vaccine clinics.
Reducing vaccine hesitancy: The company is taking a multistep approach to help employees become comfortable with vaccination—from disseminating the NAM’s materials and fact sheets to coordinating with state and local health associations to creating its own informational products. But the most critical piece, according to Welge, is communication.
- “Probably the most important thing is consistent messaging and conversations,” said Welge. “We engaged our managers to make sure they were on board, and then we asked them to go out and evangelize the teams that they work with.”
Open engagement: “You’ve got to be open to answering questions that people have about the vaccine, and not belittle any questions that are brought to you,” said Welge. “At the end of the day, it’s still a decision that an individual has to make—and all we can do is point out all the advantages.”
Vaccination stations: Gilster-Mary Lee isn’t only encouraging its employees to receive the vaccine; the company is also bringing the vaccine directly to them by setting up vaccination clinics at its facilities—a process that was no small feat.
- “You make a lot of calls—you find the right person to talk to at a health care agency or a pharmacy and have a friendly conversation,” said Welge. “We are all aligned on what the mission is: we want to get as many doses to as many people as possible. If you show that you are somebody who will do whatever it takes to make this work, they’ll say let’s work with these guys.”
Pictures at a vaccination: NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer captured one of Gilster-Mary Lee’s vaccination events on April 1. The county health department sent over staff to give the Moderna vaccine to more than 150 workers at the company’s Perryville, Missouri, facility.
Here is Perry County Registered Nurse Amy Hector filling a shot from a vaccine vial:
Workers who are coming off an overnight shift or starting their day shift get vaccinated:
A nurse wears a pro-vaccine shirt in the picture below—sending the right message!
And last, getting your first vaccine dose is definitely worth smiling about. Here’s Gilster-Mary Lee employee Claudia Bohnert showing off a new Band-Aid where she received her first shot.
The bottom line: Welge is adamant in his support of vaccinations. As he puts it—and tells his employees—“This is a decision that protects you, protects your family and protects your coworkers.”
Timmons says: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said about Welge’s efforts, “Having lost my father to COVID-19, I know what the Welge family has endured. And I know how it strengthens your resolve to see everyone get vaccinated. No one should have to feel the immense pain of losing a loved one to COVID-19. And thankfully, now with the vaccines, we can protect all of our loved ones.”
You could say this was just another supply chain challenge for Marlin Steel Wire Products President and Owner Drew Greenblatt—a matter of getting the right materials to the right people at the right time. Except in this case, the right materials were COVID-19 vaccines, the right people were more than 3,300 manufacturing workers at 81 companies, and the right time was ASAP.
Greenblatt organized a coalition of Maryland manufacturers interested in hosting their own vaccination events, which required liaising with government officials and partnering with local pharmacies. The companies will host 17 events at their facilities, bringing in pharmacy employees to administer Pfizer vaccines.
First time: This grand plan went into motion last week, with the first vaccination events held on March 31. More than 120 essential manufacturing employees from Marlin Steel (a wire products and metal fabrication firm), Orlando Products (a disposable and reusable packaging maker) and Arnold Packaging (a producer of packaging and containers) got their shots at the Orlando facility. Meanwhile, a second event took place at the facility of spice manufacturer McCormick for that company’s employees.
NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer attended the Orlando event, capturing the vaccinations in progress. Here is a pharmacy worker explaining the COVID-19 shot record card to an employee who just got his first dose:
And here’s Hector Carmona of Marlin Steel receiving his shot:
Behind Marlin Steel employee Jake Dieter, you can see other employees waiting the required 15 minutes after they receive their vaccinations (in case of adverse reactions).
And last, here’s a McCormick employee celebrating her vaccination with a pharmacy employee (this photo was taken by McCormick staff at the company’s event).
How they did it: To help other manufacturers who might be interested in hosting vaccination clinics, Greenblatt explained to us how he planned the events.
The entire process took just under two months, beginning in late January. Greenblatt sprang into action once essential manufacturing workers became eligible for vaccinations in Maryland. Seeing his employees struggle to get appointments, he decided to work with other companies to make things easier for manufacturing workers. This is how they did it:
- First, a project manager at each company assembled a list of “critical” employees who wished to be vaccinated.
- Out of 8,000 employees, they built a spreadsheet of 3,300 essential manufacturing workers who were not vaccinated and were willing to receive the shots.
- At the request of the Maryland governor’s office, Greenblatt’s coalition partnered with Giant, Safeway and Rite Aid to get the vaccine. He jumped at the opportunity to work with efficient private-sector partners, as opposed to a patchwork of county governments. This allowed the coalition to move much more quickly—and to nail down the supply of the vaccine much faster.
- Once all the pharmacies and companies were committed, everything moved very quickly. The companies were warned that they had to be ready to vaccinate “at the drop of a hat,” so once the vaccination dates were confirmed, they coordinated with each other and the pharmacies directly to get workers where they needed to go.
The coalition has had the enthusiastic support of the Maryland government throughout its efforts. Gov. Larry Hogan, whose office was instrumental in arranging the vaccination events, will attend one of them in person in the coming days.
The last word: “We got it done. A mass inoculation blitz of 3,300 essential manufacturing workers in Maryland are getting the vaccine in 17 locations over the next couple days,” said Greenblatt. “Governor Hogan led the charge to make sure our food processing, medical products manufacturing and defense workers are protected against COVID-19. This leadership will keep our nation safe.”
More than half of all manufacturers will be testing or using fifth-generation cellular wireless technology (aka 5G) in some capacity by the end of 2021, according to a new study from The Manufacturing Institute. The big numbers:
- 91% of manufacturers believe 5G connectivity will be important to the overall future of their businesses.
- 91% of manufacturers indicate speed of 5G deployment will have a positive impact on their ability to compete globally.
- 88% of manufacturers indicate 5G connectivity will allow engineers to troubleshoot remotely.
All-encompassing: 5G is poised to help manufacturers in almost every part of their businesses, according to the study.
- Nine in ten manufacturers expect the utilization of 5G to lead to the creation of new processes (88%) and new businesses (86%). It can make supply chains more efficient and both machines and workers more productive. It also will likely lead to new improvements no one has anticipated yet.
Drilling down: Let’s look at just one facet of 5G’s potential impact: its effects on factory operations. This is how comprehensive the 5G transformation is expected to be:
- Four-fifths of manufacturers indicate 5G technology will be important to inventory tracking (83%), facility security (81%) and warehousing and logistics (81%) within their facilities.
- Three-fourths of manufacturers indicate 5G will also be important to inspection (76%) and assembly (76%) activities, with seven in ten saying packaging (72%) and employee training (71%) efforts will benefit from the deployment of 5G.
And let’s not overlook the fact that more than 90% of manufacturers expect cost savings of approximately 38% from their 5G connections.
Competitive advantage: “Manufacturers’ competitiveness depends on their ability to continuously improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations, and disruptive technologies are changing the way that firms innovate and produce,” said the Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research Director and NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray.
More information: You can join the Institute for a webinar on 5G technologies on Tuesday, April 6, at 2:00 p.m. ET. Register here.
The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute are launching the Yellow and Red Ribbon Initiative today to encourage vaccinations against COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know to get involved.
What it means: The ribbon is designed with two colors: yellow, which shows that we support one another, and red, which signifies that we care for one another. Wearing or displaying yellow and red ribbons is intended to serve as a sign of support for COVID-19 vaccination and a signal that you have been personally vaccinated.
Why do it: “It’s the same philosophy behind ‘I Voted’ stickers,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Seeing that others have been safely vaccinated sends a powerful message to those who have not yet made the decision to get their shot.”
What you can do: You can wear the ribbon to work or out in public, or in your social media profile pictures. If you’re an employer or run a vaccination site, you can make the ribbons available to those who get their shot.
How to get your pins: The NAM and the MI are producing yellow and red pins to distribute to workers, families and communities and have developed tools such as bilingual social media, email and newsletter copy and posters to support distribution.
- Bulk orders can be made online here. The NAM and MI are also encouraging a grassroots effort in communities nationwide, urging people to make ribbons at home, find them online or locate them at a craft store.
What we’re building on: Getting manufacturers and Americans their COVID-19 vaccines is a key step toward ending the pandemic. See how the NAM and MI are working to get that done through its “This Is Our Shot” project.
You may not know it, but one company has the capacity to manufacture bulk drug substance for more than a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines annually: Emergent BioSolutions, a global supplier for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and U.S. supplier for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Emergent Executive Vice President of Manufacturing and Technical Operations Sean Kirk spoke with us recently to explain what goes into the heroic production of all these doses—in other words, what it takes to help defeat COVID-19.
How the vaccine works: The complexity begins with the vaccines themselves, which are amazing feats of bioengineering. The two vaccines have broadly similar structures, though they are made by separate, quarantined production lines in the Emergent facility. (As Kirk says, you can’t even take a wrench from one production suite to the other.)
You can think of this type of vaccine as a sort of beneficial Trojan Horse:
- Particles of a virus called an adenovirus, which usually causes cold and flu-like symptoms, are engineered to hold the DNA of SARS-CoV-2 (the official name of the coronavirus)—and to not be infectious themselves.
- Those adenovirus particles enter your cells and program them to produce a component of SARS-CoV-2 called a spike protein.
- That process provokes an immune response, teaching your system how to defeat the real COVID-19.
So how do you make it? As you might guess, making such a precise vaccine is itself a complicated and delicate process.
- You need to make a lot of modified adenovirus particles very fast, while ensuring they aren’t infectious and can deliver their payload of SARS-CoV-2 DNA.
- To cut a long story very short, the production process involves “infecting living cells [with the modified adenovirus] and turning them into virus factories,” as science writer Derek Lowe says.
Where Emergent comes in: Emergent handles the manufacturing process, which results in something called “bulk drug substance,” Kirk explains.
- “Our facility produces the high concentration active pharmaceutical ingredients, the viral vectors themselves,” he says. “Then we freeze them down and ship them out to what’s called a fill/finish facility, which dilutes the concentrate and fills vials or syringes with it.”
The numbers: That concentrate will eventually become part of the 100 million Johnson & Johnson doses and 300 million AstraZeneca doses purchased by the U.S. government.
What it takes: Kirk gave us a glimpse of just how much effort went into getting ready for a new vaccine.
- 6 or 7 months: That’s all Emergent had, for a process that normally takes years. Consider how much goes into it, Kirk says: ordering equipment, getting that equipment to work correctly and comply with regulations, “working out the kinks from the complex biological manufacturing process”—and then scaling it up and optimizing it to make large quantities of vaccines as quickly and safely as possible.
- 800 new jobs: Emergent had to increase hiring, adding approximately 800 new jobs in 2020, many of which were dedicated to COVID-19 response across three Maryland sites.
- Group effort: Emergent works incredibly closely with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, along with the U.S. government and the company’s own suppliers. “We have leveraged U.S. government rated orders to get access to critical raw materials and equipment. We’ve depended upon certain suppliers, who were likewise rallying to the cause, to really step up and ramp up their overall capability and capacity,” says Kirk.
Why can’t you go faster? Kirk says he gets this question all the time and wants to impress upon readers that these are very complex biologic manufacturing processes.
- “They are highly regulated, highly technical and have to be highly reproducible,” he continued. “We are growing living cells and then we are infecting them with these viral vectors.”
- Furthermore, everything that Emergent produces must have the same characteristics of the product used in the clinical trials—“that’s the essence of biologic vaccine development,” Kirk says. “That’s the only way you can ensure safety and efficacy.”
The last word: Kirk tells us what he tells his employees: “It’s unbelievably difficult, more difficult than anything I’ve done in my entire career. But I can’t think of a more awesome opportunity to leave an indelible mark on the course of human history. We are going to help return a degree of normalcy to society. We’re going to help reunite families, open up economies and put a smile on children’s faces when they go back to school. And that’s an honorable and amazing thing.”
This article is the first in an exclusive four-part series on Emergent’s accelerated production efforts.
The NAM’s Makers Series is an exclusive interview series featuring creators, innovators and trailblazers in the industry sharing their insights and advice. Meet Stockton Rush, CEO and co-founder of OceanGate. In this edition of the NAM’s Makers Series, Stockton explains how OceanGate uses PTC’s Onshape cloud-based CAD to design its manned submersible solutions.
For Big Ass Fans, a Kentucky-based company that manufactures fans, evaporative coolers and controls for industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential use, the eye-catching name isn’t the only thing that makes them distinctive. The company is also a leader in research and development, crediting U.S. tax policy with supporting its innovations and the jobs they create.
Investing in innovation: BAF has spent millions of dollars in R&D, even building an R&D lab on its global headquarters campus in 2008. Most recently, it pioneered new ways of disinfecting air to keep manufacturing employees healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. And when Congress approved tax reform in 2017—including a lower corporate tax rate—the company got additional fuel for its efforts.
- “The more incentives that are there for us to create and for our customers to purchase, the more we can deliver for everyone,” said BAF Government and Public Relations Director Alex Risen.
Risen cautions, however, that a higher corporate tax rate could impact the company’s ability to grow. Meanwhile, a prospective tax change on R&D spending could stymie innovation by requiring the amortization of expenses (as opposed to current tax policy, which allows expenses to be fully deducted in the same year).
- “We’re always going to innovate. That’s in our DNA. But if our customers have higher corporate tax rates, that can take money out of our pockets and theirs,” said Risen. “If this new R&D tax policy detracts from a company’s ability to push and pioneer…then we’re all at risk of losing out on expedited innovation.”
Creating American jobs: BAF isn’t just using its revenues to invest in innovation; it’s also working to bring jobs and supply chains into the United States. In addition to its headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, the company has offices in Canada, Australia and Singapore. Up until recently, it also had a manufacturing facility in Malaysia in addition to a sales office there—but BAF is in the process of moving those production jobs to the United States.
- “It doesn’t just mean new jobs at BAF; it brings more business to American vendors and suppliers,” said Risen. “It allows them to continue trying to grow even during a downturn and uncertain times.”
Bolstering supply chains: In addition to job creation, strengthening the supply chain was another top priority for BAF.
- “We were already working on moving those operations before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic is a reminder that you want to have that supply chain close,” said Risen. “We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had to slow production down, because the majority of our product is here in our backyard. That speaks to where we want to be as a company that is internationally headquartered in the U.S. but serves 175 countries. We want to do our part in order to make high-end machinery a U.S. export.”
NAM support: To support companies like BAF and its customers, the NAM is leading the effort to ensure that the tax code keeps encouraging innovation. Recently, a bipartisan group of U.S. policymakers introduced legislation that would allow manufacturers to continue to deduct their R&D expenses immediately—a move that the NAM advocated for. The NAM is also working to strengthen U.S. supply chains, releasing an agenda for such actions last year.
The bottom line: “A high tide floats all boats,” said Risen. “We need to continue to innovate and deliver for companies in America—and we need to help Americans push the envelope, innovate and deliver for all of us.”