Within the footwear business, Okabashi is unique. The company, based in Buford, Georgia, is not only a family-owned company focused on sustainability, but also, according to the company’s leadership, producing part of the 1% of footwear still made in the United States.
For third-generation shoemaker Sara Irvani, this choice to build a sustainable and successful business in the U.S. was made possible only thanks to constant research and development.
The backstory: Irvani’s family started the company 40 years ago, and it always tried to reduce waste, both for the positive environmental impact as well as to improve its bottom line.
- “By developing closed-loop manufacturing processes, we were able to reuse some of the materials that otherwise might have gone to waste,” said Irvani. “That helped us stay more competitive—and from there we’ve developed innovations in processes and systems and materials that build on that foundation.”
The process: Okabashi’s sustainable processes extend throughout the product lifecycle—from incorporating recycled or biological elements (like soy) that ensure products last longer to preventing disposable waste to recycling post-consumer shoes into new ones.
- “When we look at sustainability of a product, we do it holistically—we look at what it’s made of, where it’s made, how it’s made, the lifecycle, the quality—and we’ve been able to innovate and develop so that our manufacturing process doesn’t create waste,” said Irvani.
- “Without R&D, we would not only be creating the additional cost basis of throwing away all those scraps, but we would also not be able to eliminate waste that is by default landfill or ocean bound.”
The circular economy: In the traditional, linear economic model, inputs go into production, a product reaches a consumer, the consumer uses the product and eventually throws it away. In contrast, Okabashi is working to perfect a circular economic model for its products, said Irvani.
- “If you are designing for circularity, you might use renewable and recycled resources, develop them into that same product with a level of quality that lasts longer, and when the customer is ready to move on, it can be remade into something else,” said Irvani. “That’s how the loop continues. When we talk about circularity, we’re creating that virtuous cycle.”
The homegrown production: Okabashi’s R&D efforts both help it stay in the United States by keeping costs down and require domestic production to work.
- “To remake and recycle a product into something new, you need to have local production,” said Irvani. “You can’t be sending things halfway across the world to be unmade and remade and sent back. That’s why R&D locally and domestically is so important, to help produce circular systems.”
The local benefit: Irvani is quick to point out that money spent on R&D creates significant financial benefits for local communities.
- “There’s a multiplier effect for commercially oriented R&D in terms of the jobs it can create and the impact on the local economy,” said Irvani. “You get a very strong return on investment for both the company and for the community.”
The global perspective: R&D is essential for U.S. companies competing with manufacturers abroad, Irvani added.
- “For U.S. manufacturing broadly, R&D is critical to stay at the forefront of the innovation curve,” said Irvani. “Unless we’re proactively investing and developing new and better ways of doing things, we won’t be globally competitive.”
The last word: “It is imperative industry and retail move toward a circular-based economy,” said Irvani. “That’s not something that just happens or falls from the sky. Consumers are demanding it, and R&D is our pathway to that future.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Confederation of Industrial Chambers of Mexico and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters hosted the inaugural North American Manufacturing Conference at NAM headquarters where they formalized manufacturers’ commitment to supporting close economic ties between the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, CONCAMIN President José Antonio Abugaber Andonie and CME President and CEO Dennis A. Darby signed a memorandum of understanding, which will serve as a roadmap to the cooperation between the three organizations and outlines the key goals and objectives for the partnership.
“There’s never been a greater need for us to stand together. The world is caught between different political and economic systems. One system, our system here in North America, enriches lives and lifts people up into freedom and prosperity, while other systems oppress their people and rob them of their liberty,” said Timmons. “Together, we are an indomitable force for prosperity. The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement is a powerful force multiplier for the already unmatched productive power of our industries. And this agreement reminds us of what we can achieve when we work together.”
“Today we live in a new reality. The commercial competition with China, the pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, among others, place us before a second great industrial transformation in North America, the first one being propelled by NAFTA 30 years ago. Some call it nearshoring, friend-shoring, ally-shoring or reshoring. No matter the name, the truth is that this phenomenon is modifying the structure of international industrial organization. North America is the epicenter of this transformation,” said Abugaber Andonie.
“Manufacturers are an important driver of economic development and prosperity. We are key players in the changes and challenges of the 21st century,” said Darby. “This agreement between representatives of Canada, the United States and Mexico reinforces the strong ties between our three economies and manufacturing industries and serves as a reminder that we can achieve so much more when we work together. We would like to thank our colleagues from the NAM and CONCAMIN for this agreement, and we look forward to future cooperation.”
The MOU calls for the organizations to share information on each organization’s services and activities and to jointly develop the North American manufacturing agenda of the future. The associations will share best practices and policy recommendations to assist manufacturers in addressing future commercial challenges in North America, including, but not limited to, global competitiveness. They will work collaboratively to understand the challenges facing manufacturers in North America and commit to host the North American Manufacturing Conference on an annual basis in Mexico, Canada or the United States, on a rotating basis.
Click here to view the full text of the MOU.
About Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
Since 1871, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has been helping manufacturers grow at home and compete around the world. Our focus is to ensure manufacturers are recognized as engines for growth in the economy, with Canada acknowledged as both a global leader and innovator in advanced manufacturing and a global leader in exporting. CME is a member-driven association that directly represents more than 2,500 leading companies that account for an estimated 82% of manufacturing output and 90% of Canada’s exports.
CONFEDERACIÓN DE CÁMARAS INDUSTRIALES DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS
The Confederation of Industrial Chambers of the United Mexican States, CONCAMIN, established in 1918, is the main organization representing the different industrial sectors and activities of high importance for the economic development of Mexico.
It is an effective business representation organization, recognized by its leadership and full capacity to develop projects and initiatives through its work commissions, that contribute to achieve sustained development for the Mexican industry.
- We are an Organization committed to the economic growth of the country.
- Obligatory organ of consultation of the three orders of government in all those topics related to the industry in Mexico, according to the Law of Business Chambers and their Confederations.
- Annually, about 30% of the Gross Domestic Product that is generated in the country comes from those affiliated with the Confederation of Industrial Chambers of the United Mexican States.
In accordance with the provisions of the Law of Business Chambers and their Confederations, we are an organization of consultation and collaboration of the State; Therefore, we maintain a close, harmonious and purposeful relationship with the three levels of government and the powers of the nation.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.91 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 55% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.
What exactly is the industrial metaverse? While the term sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, it’s already being used by manufacturers in the here and now. Put simply, the industrial metaverse is a collection of technologies that can create an immersive virtual or virtual/physical industrial environment.
The metaverse will contain virtual replicas of everything from complete factories down to individual components and parts, powered by evolving digital technologies like AI and cloud computing. As the metaverse develops, users will be able to access it from any internet-connected device, such as a smartphone, laptop or tablet, or using virtual reality headsets.
According to a new report released by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation division, and Deloitte, 92% of manufacturing executives say they are experimenting with or implementing at least one metaverse-related use case. On average, the surveyed executives say they are running more than six.
How is it used? Manufacturers are using industrial metaverse technologies in four common areas: production, supply chain oversight, customer service and talent management.
- Production: Manufacturers are simulating key processes in order to evaluate them, creating virtual prototypes of processes or systems and creating simulated factories to optimize factory layout and setup.
- Supply chain: Other manufacturers are using the metaverse to track products and raw materials and to collaborate with suppliers.
- Customer service: Companies are also creating virtual showrooms and product demonstrations, which attendees can visit without leaving their own homes or offices.
- Talent management: Lastly, other companies are experiment with using the metaverse for immersive training, virtual plant tours and virtual recruiting and onboarding.
What are the benefits? Executives report that each of these use cases comes with significant benefits, including cost reductions. Respondents also said metaverse applications have improved employee attraction and retention.
- Immersive customer experiences and virtual aftermarket services, such as equipment service and maintenance, have also led to increased revenue, according to the survey.
The challenges: While the industrial metaverse offers many promising benefits, manufacturers are still finding some challenges, including:
- The high cost of metaverse technology and the cybersecurity protections it requires;
- A lack of employees with the right skills, along with the steep learning curve for those who must be trained; and,
- Insufficient digital infrastructure and other resources.
The solution: The report suggests that manufacturers can find success in the metaverse by building a culture of innovation, establishing leadership support and starting small by investing in a digital technology foundation.
The last word: All in all, manufacturing executives are confident that the industrial metaverse will transform their operations. Learning to understand and use the metaverse will soon be essential for companies seeking a competitive future.
Download the full report, “Exploring the Industrial Metaverse,” to learn more.
Around 15,000 people are diagnosed every year in America with glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. At Novocure—a global oncology and medical device company with its North American flagship facility located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—scientists and manufacturers have developed a device to revolutionize the way these tumors are treated.
The breakthrough: Novocure’s founder Yoram Palti developed an innovative treatment called Tumor Treating Fields therapy—an approach that uses electric fields to kill cancer cells while sparing healthy ones.
- For adult glioblastoma patients, the device, called Optune®, consists of wearable, portable adhesive arrays and an electric generator that can be carried in a bag.
- “Unhealthy cells and healthy cells have different properties,” said Frank Leonard, president, CNS Cancers U.S. at Novocure. “If you can create the right type of electric field, you can exert force and destroy cancer cells as they divide.”
Value added: Crucially, Tumor Treating Fields therapy is being studied together with other therapies, giving patients access to an optimal mix of treatments.
- “You get the best of both worlds with a device intervention and a drug intervention,” said Leonard. “Patients can wear this device consistently while using Temozolomide, which is the current standard of care chemotherapy agent used to treat glioblastoma.”
Low risk: Unlike drug therapies, which can present a range of adverse effects, Optune® has few side effects beyond mild-to-moderate skin irritation beneath the transducer arrays. As a result, patients can receive the treatment continuously for extended periods of time to attack cancer cells.
- “Typically, the limiting factor in treating cancer is dose-limiting toxicity—for example, you can only take one or two chemotherapies at the same time because they’re so toxic,” said Leonard.
Getting heard: The company’s device was featured in the award-winning short film “Rare Enough,” which tells the inspiring story of cancer survivor DJ Stewart and his journey in battling glioblastoma.
- Stewart is a Kansas City–based skateboarder who was first diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2019. Thanks, in part, to Tumor Treating Fields therapy, his life expectancy—once only 13 months—has been prolonged significantly. DJ now serves as a community outreach coordinator for the Head for the Cure Foundation.
Next steps: Novocure believes that Tumor Treating Fields therapy holds significant promise for other types of cancer as well. The company is developing additional wearable devices that could treat countless patients around the world.
- Lung cancer trials have shown promising results recently, and the company expects to learn more in the coming months from clinical trials involving ovarian cancer, metastases from lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.
- “We started working first in one of the rarer, yet most aggressive, forms of cancer. There are around 15,000 patients diagnosed with glioblastoma in the U.S. each year,” said Leonard. “But pre-clinical data suggests that Tumor Treating Fields can work with all different tumor types.”
A look to the future: Wearable anti-cancer devices offer an exciting new frontier in the fight against life-threatening diseases, and an important field where manufacturers can make an enormous difference.
- “In these really aggressive cancers, we still are making advances—and advanced devices that require sophisticated engineering and complex global manufacturing have a role to play,” said Leonard. “There’s a lot the manufacturing industry can do to improve the outcomes of patients, and they should be recognized for that work.”
Supply chain problems, PALIoT Solutions is coming for you.
This fall, the New-York-state-based startup, whose name derives from a combination of “pallet” and “IoT,” will begin production of its smart shipping pallets. According to company leaders, these products will do nothing less than revolutionize the way food and goods are transported.
From vision to reality: PALIoT cofounders Paul Barry and Richard MacDonald envisioned pallets “whose positive impact on the environment keeps increasing as more of them are manufactured and deployed,” according to the firm’s website.
- To accomplish this feat, the pallets had to be both far lighter and more durable than typical pallets, which are made of wood and nails.
- After significant research and development, Barry and MacDonald came up with the solution: a polyurea-coated, engineered-plywood pallet that was 20 pounds lighter than its traditional peers and contained a proprietary sensor capable of instant communication with the cloud, making inventory tracking a cinch.
The “secret sauce”: “The ‘secret sauce’ is essentially a smart mesh network,” said Barry, who hails from Ireland and has an electrical engineering and investment banking background. “The PALIoT pallets in a shipment will all talk to each other, say, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ And [after shipping,] because they know they’ve been on a truck, they know they have to report all that valuable inventory and environmental data back to the cloud.”
- PALIoT, which will rent its pallets to customers using a per-pallet, pooling model (with an optional subscription service), acquired exclusive global use of the mist® Mesh Networking protocol. This ensures that communication is highly secure and battery sensitive at all times.
- The company estimates it will initially produce between 650,000 and 700,000 pallets a year in the first phase of the launch.
Savings for all: PALIoT’s groundbreaking sensors promise to save buyers both resources and money.
- “Food producers see tens of millions of dollars a year in food waste,” Barry said. With PALIoT technology, those producers will be able to track their perishable food shipments’ temperature and humidity conditions, viewing that information in the cloud so handlers can take swift action to cut down on spoilage.
- And because real-time asset protection is a PALIoT priority, the pallets will help companies cut down on theft and losses. As Barry put it, “If a pallet gets stolen, we will know where and when.”
A “smart” solution: Typical asset-embedded IoT sensors fail long before the assets themselves, making them impractical for longer-term use. Not so with PALIoT’s pallets, which can be used for a decade before they will need to be “retired and recycled,” according to Barry.
- “How can you justify having an expensive piece of hardware with a battery that needs replacing every few years?” he continued. “Using a combination of communications technologies, we’ve been able to solve the key problems of battery life and cost for large-scale asset-pooling companies.”
What’s next: Having recently relocated its manufacturing operations from Colorado to just outside Rochester, New York, PALIoT has its sights set on doing business with the dairy farms of the Northeast. It also plans to expand its manufacturing footprint across the U.S.
- “Demand is not the issue,” Barry told us. ”People just want a better solution, and we think this is it.”
After a global pandemic and amid considerable economic strain, worker morale may not be everything a company hopes. So what can leaders do to boost communication and restore a sense of excitement and purpose?
The Innovation Research Interchange—the NAM’s innovation division—recently published a whitepaper on morale building, drawing on copious existing research as well as consultations with leaders in a range of industries (from aerospace to consumer goods). Here are some of its key recommendations.
Senior leaders in the trenches: The best way to understand company morale (or its absence) is to go looking for it. In one notable case, FM Global Chief Science Officer Lou Gritzo spent a day working in each company lab, so he could understand where communication and cooperation needed improvement.
- Thanks to this experiment, Gritzo was able to “open lines of communication up and down the organization,” according to the IRI, leading to both an improved flow of information and greater comfort among lab staff in making independent decisions.
- “For others looking to try their hand at being a (not so) undercover boss, [Gritzo] recommends setting out rules of the road in advance,” the IRI paper notes. “The goal is to create a dialogue, not make guarantees that things will change. The change comes from the relationships built.”
Support for midlevel managers: Many participants in the IRI’s roundtables and interviews agreed that midlevel managers have only become more crucial in recent years—which explains why these managers are often very stressed.
- Amid the pressures of the pandemic, companies began offering more support and coaching for middle managers, according to earlier IRI research.
- One organization studied by the IRI and its research partner, Babson College, brought in coaches to work with managers—but not just for one-off sessions. “The external coaches were brought in multiple times during a one-year period in order to observe leadership styles and gave feedback openly,” which led to improved communication and greater autonomy among the managers.
Everyone an innovator: Another way to boost morale is to make sure great ideas are always recognized, no matter who comes up with them.
- At ICL Group, leaders devised a novel way to encourage innovative thinking: “an online platform that allowed anyone at ICL Group to propose an idea, have it reviewed by management, voted on by frontline staff and assigned to the appropriate team for implementation.”
- The platform has proved very popular, according to one senior leader, who said, “Everybody has just been blown away by how many ideas people have entered and [how many employees] continue to do it.”
Read the whole thing: Check out many more useful details and expert advice in the full whitepaper, which you can find here.
Flashback to 2015: “Hamilton” debuted on Broadway, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest U.S. generation and the term “Industry 4.0” was gaining traction in manufacturing circles. It was also when the Manufacturing Leadership Council created a conceptual framework called “Manufacturing 4.0.”
So what is the difference between Industry 4.0 and Manufacturing 4.0? While the terms may not sound all that distinct from each other, Manufacturing 4.0 represents the MLC’s commitment to a far-sighted, holistic approach to manufacturing’s tech-enabled metamorphosis—one that has served it well in over the past eight years.
The background: The 4.0 movement started in Germany in 2011 when the German ministries for education, research, economic affairs and energy developed a strategic initiative that would push forward the digital transformation of industrial manufacturing.
- They named this initiative Industrie 4.0. It featured an action plan that combined policy initiatives, public–private funding, strategies for technology implementation and the identification of business drivers and barriers.
The difference: For the MLC and its members, Manufacturing 4.0 is made up of transformations in three different arenas: technology, organization and leadership.
- Contrast this with Industry 4.0, which covers only technology topics—specifically nine pillars of technological innovation, which include autonomous robots, big data, cloud computing, IoT, cybersecurity, systems integration, simulation, AR/VR and additive manufacturing.
- “MLC, of course, covers all of these technologies, but, importantly, adds the dimensions of organizational and leadership change as part of its perspective on manufacturing’s digital transformation,” says David R. Brousell, the MLC’s founder, vice president and executive director.
MLC in action: While the MLC does provide member resources that focus on specific technologies and their uses in manufacturing operations, it also covers topics such as how leaders can prepare their workforce for digital transformation, how organizations should be structured to make business decisions based on manufacturing data and how leaders can ensure they set their teams up for digital success.
- Additionally, the annual Manufacturing Leadership Awards recognize not only high-performing digital manufacturing projects but also outstanding individuals who demonstrate both technological understanding and strong personal leadership.
M4.0’s continued evolution: Today, the MLC continues to use Manufacturing 4.0 as the overarching framework for its member companies’ activities.
- Its influence is apparent in the MLC’s annual Critical Issues Agenda, a member-created list of key business drivers and enablers of digital manufacturing.
- The agenda covers technological advances like smart factories and data analytics, alongside the organizational ecosystems that put such advances into operation—from the leaders who direct them to the cultures that make them succeed.
The Future of M4.0: As the MLC gets ready to set its 2023–2024 Critical Issues Agenda, it will continue to take a holistic approach to the technological changes sweeping the industry by recognizing the importance of people in making those transformations happen.
Go deeper: You can learn more about Manufacturing 4.0 by downloading the MLC’s white paper, Manufacturing in 2030: The Next Phase of Digital Evolution; reading a recent report, The Future of Industrial AI in Manufacturing; or attending its Aug. 30 virtual Executive Interview, Shifting from Disruption to Growth.
With one of its key components—printed circuit boards—in short supply, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories chose the proactive solution: it would begin making them itself. Now that its new factory is up and running, SEL is receiving unexpectedly keen interest from other companies, and considering ramping up production for outside sales.
Fixing a supply chain problem: The Pullman, Washington–based electric power system protection solution manufacturer began manufacturing PCBs at its new $100 million, 162,000-square-foot factory in Moscow, Idaho, back in March.
- “Printed circuit boards take electronic components and interconnect them so they can interact with each other,” SEL CEO David Whitehead said. “Without them, you can forget about AI, forget about your cell phones—they’re in just about any electronic device.”
- The Moscow factory is running at about 25% capacity. When it reaches full production later this year, it will be one of the top PCB manufacturers in the U.S., according to Whitehead.
Domestic and accessible: The PCB “is a critical component that goes into our devices,” Whitehead continued. “Now, instead of sourcing PCBs from around the U.S., we can produce them ourselves.”
- The Moscow facility—which only produces the circuit boards for SEL—has increased the company’s supply chain resiliency and sped up its output, Whitehead told us. “Now, in a handful of days after designing a printed circuit board for a product, our engineers are in their labs testing it. It’s a big win for us.”
- Nearly half of manufacturers in the U.S.—44.9%—cite supply chain hurdles as one of their top business challenges, according to the NAM’s Q2 2023 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.
Self-funded and viable: SEL funded 100% of the facility’s construction costs, and it will have paid for itself in two to three years, Whitehead said.
- “I think that’s really a big deal for not only taxpayers but the local community generally,” he said. State and local governments “can take the funds [they didn’t use on us] and invest” elsewhere.
A good neighbor: The Moscow plant—which features a fume scrubber system that exceeds Environmental Protection Agency standards for volatile organic compounds—also uses a “zero-liquid discharge water treatment system that recycles and reuses all the water used to manufacture the printed circuit boards,” Whitehead said.
- A comparable factory would use about 90,000 gallons of water each day of production, while SEL uses about 500 to 600 gallons—the equivalent of only a few households’ daily usage, according to Whitehead. Most of that is for worker needs (drinking water and restrooms).
- The company also reclaims and reuses metals, such as tin, silver and gold, that are used in the production process.
- “We are very environmentally conscious about how we produce these boards,” Whitehead said.
What’s next? Since the facility began production, SEL has gotten numerous inquiries from other manufacturers interested in buying the PCBs. The company is likely to oblige them soon.
- “This is our next opportunity,” Whitehead said of producing boards for other manufacturers. “We love being vertically integrated, building as much as we can close to where we’re going to use the products. … As we get better at it for our own consumption, I can see us expanding it.”
Innovation isn’t just one of many priorities at transportation systems manufacturer Wabash—it’s at the center of everything. Instead of having a traditional R&D function in the product development department, the company has reorganized its hierarchy so that innovation is considered in every major decision, from hiring to investments and more.
“It’s not possible to have innovation siloed in the engineering world; that wouldn’t allow us to achieve the scale of innovation that customers need,” President and CEO Brent Yeagy said.
As the manufacturing supply chain becomes increasingly intricate in a complex world, Wabash is staying ahead of the game. In a recent interview, Yeagy explained how the company does it.
The big picture: This “full reimagining” of the company occurred in response to broad forces reshaping the manufacturing industry, said Yeagy.
- Within the past decade, e-commerce has totally disrupted the logistics model of the previous 30 years, he pointed out.
- Meanwhile, digital technology has enhanced the speed and precision of the industry, which has also increased the complexity of its logistics needs.
- On top of that, the pandemic altered manufacturers’ thinking about lean inventories, lead times and the domestic supply chain infrastructure, sparking a system-wide transformation that isn’t over yet.
- And that’s all before we get to the possibilities of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and new sources of clean energy—all of which could bring profound and unpredictable changes to the industry.
The response: Watching these changes unfold, Yeagy and his team knew they had to take dramatic steps to keep up.
- “We restructured the entire organization away from standalone divisions,” prioritizing collaboration instead, Yeagy said. This involved “aggregating R&D and business development,” which had previously been spread out over 11 different departments.
- This shift also reflected a change in the company’s philosophy. Innovation could no longer be incremental, Yeagy determined, but had to be audacious.
The internal system: Such advances are only possible if the company has a flexible, fast-moving core of innovators who are always looking for the next opportunity, Yeagy told us.
- Instead of creating an innovation strategy that “sits on a shelf” for a year or more, Wabash updates its strategy on a weekly or monthly basis.
- While the company’s R&D and corporate development teams have strict objectives, they can also challenge the strategic direction and introduce fresh ideas—such as new technologies that might give the company an edge.
- This system also requires the right people for the job. Team members must have not only the technical qualifications for the work, but also the capacity to trust, collaborate and be vulnerable when sharing ideas, Yeagy said.
The successes: The company’s new structure has led to industry-leading innovations like Wabash’s subscription model, which allows clients to “subscribe” to a certain level of fleet capacity, instead of managing a fleet of trucks themselves.
- Wabash manages the fleet and maintenance, Yeagy explained, guaranteeing a certain capacity every day to its customers, while offering a range of rental models to suit their needs.
- In another victory for its innovative corporate development team, Wabash found a swift solution when it discovered it didn’t have sufficient distribution capabilities for aftermarket parts. It created a joint venture with a competitor company that had ample warehouse space across the country—going from the idea stage to nationwide operations in a mere six months.
Military influence: Yeagy’s service in the Navy shaped his leadership throughout the company’s transformation, he told us.
- “The military is based on a mission orientation,” he explained. “If everyone understands where we are supposed to go and why, it allows them to be agile and overcome obstacles” in the field, where the unpredictable happens.
- “Officers live to complete the mission by taking care of their people, preparing them mentally, physically, operationally,” and then allowing them to operate on their own. “We have to do that too,” he concluded.
A word of advice: Yeagy advises manufacturing leaders that truly experimental teams require “a safe place to fail and learn how to be comfortable with failure.” He admits that “It’s very hard to take a manufacturing company that doesn’t want to fail, and to teach them,” so leaders must strive to be “immensely” empathetic. It’s clear from speaking to Yeagy that this is his top priority.
Ever wondered how best to contact your members of Congress? Or invite them on a tour of your facility? The NAM’s advocacy division, which helps manufacturers express their priorities to D.C. decision-makers, recently released a new and important resource: a suite of toolkits for different advocacy activities, including facility tours and more.
Congressional contact: There is an art to contacting Congress, as the NAM’s advocacy team will tell you. Their “Engaging Congress” toolkit provides simple, easy to remember rules for all types of communication, as well as sample letters and phone messages.
- By email: A few key tips include using a clear subject line, making sure that you identify yourself as a constituent and providing strong facts and data. And don’t forget to make it personal—the congressional office should understand that you yourself are harmed (or benefitted) by the policy in question.
- By phone: The advice for phone calls is similar—make sure you identify yourself as a constituent and a manufacturer, and that you have a clear request for the congressional staffer answering your call. Personal details matter in this format as well.
Lastly, consider attending a town hall or other event hosted by your members of Congress, where you can also voice your opinions and connect with their offices.
Facility visits: Another way to make an impact on your representatives is to invite them over to your place. Hosting a facility tour can seem daunting or complicated, but the NAM’s toolkit breaks it down into eight easy steps. This collection of advice from the experts includes the following:
- How to create a guest list, send invitations and coordinate with congressional office staff
- How to prepare for media participation and craft a CEO message
- How to organize the tour itself, from preparing the premises to greeting the lawmaker to providing safety equipment and more
- How to show the visitors around while dropping key talking points into the conversation
That’s only a snapshot of this helpful toolkit, which includes many hints that you may not ever have considered—such as designating a notetaker to join the tour and keep a record of it.
Become an ambassador: If you are interested in making advocacy one of your missions, consider becoming an NAM Ambassador. Ambassadors share their stories with the media and policymakers, take public positions on key manufacturing issues, publish op-eds, host elected officials at their facilities and much more.
Check it out: Explore the whole toolkit and learn how you can become an effective public advocate for your company, your industry and the American economy.