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UL Helps Manufacturers Keep Their Air Healthy

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With the highly infectious Delta variant causing concern even among vaccinated people in the U.S., manufacturers are thinking about the quality of their air yet again.

Now they can benefit from additional expert advice. In a recent webinar, the NAM’s Leading Edge program hosted an expert from global safety company UL to discuss how manufacturers can keep their air (and their employees) safe. Here are some of his recommendations.

In their own category: “Manufacturing facilities … are unique, in many respects,” UL Director of Assets and Sustainability, Real Estate and Properties Sean McCrady said. “You have all of these activities where there’s going to be regulatory safeguards in place for worker protection that are likely going to [act as] guidance for IEQ [indoor environmental quality].”

  • In fact, many manufacturers worked quickly to improve their air quality when the pandemic started, the webinar’s moderator, NAM Director of Labor and Employment Policy Drew Schneider, noted. But though manufacturers may be ahead of the game on air quality, there’s more still to consider.

UL’s work: In response to the pandemic, UL developed what Fast Company magazine has called “LEED for the COVID-19 era”: its Verified Healthy Buildings program.

  • To date, hundreds of buildings, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Cira Centre in Philadelphia, have had their IAQ (indoor air quality) tested, along with water purity, ventilation efficacy and other environmental factors.
  • With UL’s guidance, building owners have made systemic changes, such as HVAC-system mold remediation, ventilation upgrades, air-filter unclogging and more.

So what can manufacturers do? “There’s a lot of opportunity to maintain that positive momentum” from behaviors that arose in response to COVID-19, McCrady said during the webinar.

  • For manufacturers, this includes extending the IAQ- and IEQ-safety measures in place on the facility floor to their administrative areas, which may not be as well-ventilated, McCrady advised.
  • “People know a lot more these days,” he said. They “want transparency” about their air quality.

Tips and tricks: McCrady offered additional advice for manufacturers:

  • “Number one is ventilation. You want to make sure you’re bringing in enough fresh air” from outside, as well as doing proper and routine maintenance of ventilation systems.
  • “Focus on source control,” McCrady added, referring to the elimination of individual sources of pollution. “And limit the migration of harmful contaminants”—for example, by carefully maintaining HVAC systems.
  • Lastly, it’s important to fit air filters properly. Filters that have gaps or are otherwise incorrectly installed “won’t work,” McCrady said.

Not a magic pill: While high-quality filtration, ventilation and purification can go a long way toward stopping the spread of disease (particularly airborne illnesses such as the coronavirus), people must take other precautionary measures, too, McCrady noted. These include getting vaccinated and washing hands frequently and thoroughly.

The final say: “The things that can and should be done aren’t new, they’re just kind of under a spotlight right now,” McCrady said. “Focus on the fundamentals.”

Interested in hearing more from UL? Register for our Leading Edge Growth Series: Preparing for the Future of Manufacturing.

Business Operations

ABB: Motoring Toward Greater Energy Efficiency

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Jesse Henson wants you to think of motors the way you think of lightbulbs.

Most people recognize the energy and cost savings to be had by switching from incandescent bulbs to LED light sources. In the same way, they should see the advantages of swapping out anachronistic, clunky motors for newer alternatives, said Henson, president of ABB’s NEMA Motors Division.

“You’ve [still] got the old incandescent lightbulbs out there—which are your motors—that need to be replaced with newer technology,” Henson told the NAM.

Not too different from 1921: The humble motor, which Henson says has “really not changed much in over 100 years,” is ubiquitous in manufacturing. Motors are found in factories in fans, pumps, compressors and more, powering everything from systemwide HVAC systems to individual power tools. But new technology could make them much more efficient and environmentally friendly—and save manufacturers a lot of money in the process.

Motor movement: ABB is working to change the way motors are used across the manufacturing sector, where they account for the lion’s share of expended electricity—approximately 70%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • A sizable portion of that electricity is wasted because the motors using it are running constantly, consuming energy even when no task is being performed, Henson noted. That’s a costly reality for manufacturers.

Use only what is needed: ABB’s variable speed drives address this problem, allowing manufacturers to tailor a motor’s speed to the job it is doing. “That’s how you save energy,” Henson said.

  • Adding a drive to a motor-driven system typically reduces power consumption by 25%, according to ABB.
  • However, most companies aren’t getting that level of efficiency—just a quarter of motors in use today have such energy-saving drives, Henson noted.

No rare-earths needed: Of particular importance at a time of global supply-chain disruption is the fact that ABB motors achieve higher levels of efficiency without using rare-earth magnets.

  • ABB’s EC Titanium motor, for example, does not use rare earths. Instead, it employs synchronous reluctance (the conversion of electrical energy to mechanical) technology and ferrite magnets for an even higher level of efficiency.

Easy savings: In fact, just by adding the EC Titanium motor drive to a fan array with 50 motors, one ABB manufacturing customer that already used drives cut its electricity consumption in half.

  • The company slashed its annual energy bill from $20,000 to $10,000, according to Henson.

The last word: “We want to continue embracing sustainability . . . today and into the future,” said Henson. “These motors and drives are truly a game-changer in our marketplace today.”

Business Operations

The Companies Leading the Way into Manufacturing 4.0

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We all learn by example. That simple principle lies behind an ambitious undertaking by the World Economic Forum: to build a network of manufacturers that have succeeded in adopting Manufacturing 4.0 technologies, and that can act as ambassadors and educators for the whole global industry.

It’s called the WEF Global Lighthouse Network, and it’s already yielding fruitful partnerships and useful information. Recently, WEF Head of Advanced Manufacturing Francisco Betti sat down with the MLC to explain how it works.

Lighting the way: The Global Lighthouse Network emerged from a research partnership with McKinsey, which looked into what holds manufacturers back from embracing M4.0 technologies.

  • After talking to more than 400 senior leaders, the researchers discovered that only 30% of companies were benefitting from technology adoption in their facilities and supply chains.
  • As Betti puts it, “The majority were stuck in what we define as ‘Pilot Purgatory.’ There were massive investments being made in new technologies, and thousands of pilot projects underway, but very few were making it to the shop floor or delivering real operational financial value.”

That’s where the Lighthouse companies come in—the WEF decided to ask some of that 30% to open their doors and teach the rest of the industry how to make the digital jump.

How it’s going: Currently, the Lighthouse network has 69 members, assessed by a rigorous and independent review process. Betti says, “What is interesting is that we have companies from a large variety of sectors, and that is by design. . . . The opportunity for cross-learning here is massive.”

  • The project is looking for use cases at factories, but also beyond. Many of the real winners in the digital game transform their entire supply chains, and the WEF is also looking to add those sorts of companies to their network.

Get involved: Companies can apply to be a part of the network, says Betti. The process involves an application, which covers both achievements and strategies, and culminates in a site visit.

  • “The panel convenes on a quarterly basis to assess all the applications, vote and decide on those who finally get recognized as Lighthouses in the network.”

The transformation: Betti sees the M4.0 technologies as transforming whole economies and enabling “a new era of economic growth.” He makes a bold prediction about its effects on manufacturing leadership:

  • “We are under the impression that there is a trend that we will most likely see going forward where chief operating officers will become the next generation of CEOs. Those who know how to successfully run operations by transforming them digitally are most likely going to provide top leadership positions in the near future.”

The last word: “If you transform digitally, and you do that by bringing your people on board, you have not only become more productive, you’re not only becoming more resilient, you’re not only becoming more sustainable, but you are setting your organization for growth in the years ahead.”

Business Operations

The Six Factors of Manufacturing 4.0 Success

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In a world that only ever speeds up, manufacturers need to embrace technologies that let them shift operations quickly and seamlessly. Manufacturing 4.0 technologies like machine learning and robotics provide that power, but the scale of the M4.0 transformation can seem overwhelming.

In a recent edition of the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Manufacturing Leadership Journal, Oracle Senior Director of Transformational Technologies Anant Kadiyala lays out six factors that make all the difference for successful M4.0 adaptation. Below is some of his advice.

Technology Adoption: Companies that consider the full range of technology’s benefits are setting themselves up for success. Some trends to consider:

  • Software is becoming more integral to business operations and product functionality—allowing products to be configured and monitored in real time using analytics.
  • On the operational side, the industrial internet of things and machine vision are enabling a whole host of advances in real-time monitoring, anomaly detection and worker safety, among other uses.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Companies that make good use of data achieve higher margins than their peers, according to a McKinsey study, but that requires some key ingredients, including:

  • A unified data infrastructure, including APIs, applications, analytics, real-time systems and much more;
  • The right tools to process the data; and
  • Employees who are skilled in data-driven operations.

“In most companies, 90% of the data goes unused. In addition, more than 70% of the time and effort in data science projects is often spent on moving, cleaning and preparing data,” says Kadiyala.

New Business Models: “Modern technologies, such as cloud, IoT and AI/ML, enable every manufacturer to have the sophistication of business operations and real-time feedback loops that were only enjoyed by the big players,” says Kadiyala.

Innovation and Experimentation: Manufacturers can pursue different options for innovation, with partnerships being a common choice. Other methods might be design workshops or R&D investments, Kadiyala notes.

  • “With the right people, processes and tools, companies can navigate faster and realize value quicker. The lean methodology that the manufacturing industry is renowned for also works very well for innovation.”

Well-Integrated Teams: The right talent is critical to business transformation—and good data, process automation and collaborative practices clear the way for employees’ success.

Culture: As Kadiyala puts it, “Successful companies start early innovation on the edges of their business, deliver a few wins and then gradually build their way into the rest of the organization. All successful transformations need employees to enjoy a strong sense of purpose and mission for the change.”

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“The Culture Is the Company”: An Interview with ALOM’s Hannah Kain

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With 19 global locations, ALOM Technologies Corporation specializes in technology-driven supply chains for Fortune 100 companies. ALOM President and CEO Hannah Kain recently sat down with the Manufacturing Leadership Council to share her thoughts on the state of the industry and the keys to successful leadership.

Taking on challenges: Over the long term, Kain sees workforce development—finding and training the next generation of manufacturing leaders—as a significant priority. But in the short term, she cites COVID-19- and trade-related supply chain disruptions as the most pressing issues.

  • “Shifts in demand have increased the need for agility in manufacturing, yet U.S. infrastructure, from ports and roads to cybersecurity, is under extreme strain, and geopolitics have made goods movement more complex,” she said.

Meeting the moment: During the COVID-19 pandemic, ALOM manufactured millions of COVID-19 test kits for the medical sector while ensuring its own workers remained safe, Kain said. The company also met the past year’s challenges by investing in digitization to improve its productivity.

Finding opportunities: Kain cites a range of opportunities for manufacturers of the future, from fast-improving technologies to the availability of new manufacturing talent—if manufacturers can find and harness it.

The importance of culture: Kain believes in what she calls “servant leadership”—seeing yourself as a supporter of stakeholders like customers, employees and suppliers and working to put their needs first. She strives to create a culture of collaboration within her own company.

The last word: “In the end, culture is the company, and the company is the culture,” said Kain. “Our culture is inclusive, collaborative, improvement-oriented and quality-focused, with a strong sense of ownership. Supporting that culture may be the most important thing I do.”

Business Operations

How COVID-19 Accelerated Manufacturing 4.0

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Manufacturing leaders proved they were good in a crisis in 2020—creating new products, speeding up the production of essential materials and instituting safety policies in record time. And as they accelerated their production lines, they also focused on increasing their adoption of Manufacturing 4.0 technologies.

Now, the Manufacturing Leadership Council—the division of the National Association of Manufacturers focused on manufacturing’s digital transformation—is exploring what leaders learned during the pandemic about the importance of digitization. The MLC’s recent survey of manufacturing leaders gives us a window into their thoughts, expectations and plans for the future—after a year like no other. Below are some key insights. 

A big impact: A full 54.8% of respondents said COVID-19 increased management’s focus on digital transformation. The changes they cited included new procedures for remote working, new disaster preparedness plans and increased integration across teams and structures.

And here’s another important finding: these changes seem permanent.

  • 68.2% said new disaster preparedness plans and strategies will be permanent additions to their operations.
  • 57.3% said more collaborative organizational structures will stick around.
  • 62.2% expect to keep allowing both leaders and employees to work remotely.

The digital workforce: With baby boomers retiring, companies are looking for new manufacturing leaders and seeking to fill a range of jobs, even as the digital evolution of the industry requires new and different skills. Where are these workers coming from?

  • 45.5% of respondents said they would come from internal sources—a drop of nearly 5% from last year’s survey. Leaders felt somewhat more in favor of finding talent elsewhere in the manufacturing industry.
  • One-third of respondents said they would look within the industry for talent, while only 13.2% expected to find candidates from other industries.

But these results may soon change, as manufacturers are still figuring out what digital skills they need. Over time, leaders will likely develop different ideas about where to find workers—and how to train them.

  • As the survey shows, manufacturers have a big opportunity to ramp up their digital training: only 22.3% of respondents this year said they have formal M4.0 training programs for workers and leadership.

Organizational shift: The emerging digital focus means many manufacturers are shifting toward a flatter, more collaborative working style. The numbers tell the tale:

  • Nearly 48.5% of respondents identified understanding how the company should be organized as a result of new technologies as a key challenge—an increase of 23% from last year.

The MLC says: As MLC Executive Director and NAM Vice President David Brousell put it, “Many manufacturing executives acknowledge that the equivalent of several years’ change has been compressed into the past year. Now, manufacturing leadership has the responsibility to see these changes through. If they are successful in doing so, they will take the industry to a new and better level, raising the bar for all and redefining the rules of competition.”

Business Operations

Prepare for Hurricanes with the NAM

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This year, hurricane season—which officially began June 1—arrived early, as it has every year since 2015. But while 2021’s inaugural Subtropical Storm Ana did not make landfall in the U.S. in late May, meteorologists are expecting the remainder of the year to be a busy time for hurricanes—and as manufacturers know all too well, that can mean trouble is ahead.

In addition to endangering lives, a strong hurricane can cause severe damage to individual companies and the U.S. economy as a whole. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019 that expected annual losses from hurricane and storm-related damage came to $54 billion.

Always be prepared: Better planning for these yearly occurrences can help manufacturers mitigate the costs associated with storm-caused devastation—and go a long way toward keeping employees safe, too.

Offering resources: In partnership with disaster-relief organization SBP and product-philanthropy nonprofit Good360, the NAM’s Emergency Response Committee works year-round to provide members with access to disaster-preparedness resources and training in advance of natural disasters, and helps manufacturers activate to help their communities when one strikes

For example, in a recent webinar sponsored by the NAM’s ERC, Amanda Gallina, SBP community engagement manager, and Matt Woodruff, vice president of public and government affairs for Texas-based tank barge operator Kirby Corporation, laid out some suggestions for hurricane preparation.

For businesses: Woodruff provided some commonsense advice for employers:

  • Ensure new employees understand the hurricane plan well ahead of hurricane season.
  • Create a checklist of duties that must be performed, starting with the first day of hurricane season.
  • Set up remote work sites for affected areas and employees.
  • Provide support to the families of employees who live in affected areas to ensure their safety.

For individuals: Gallina offered advice for all individuals facing a hurricane:

  • Collect hazard and emergency information from local and national sources like news and weather apps, NOAA Weather Radio and the Red Cross Emergency app.
  • Make a household emergency plan, which should include stockpiling supplies, establishing communication methods and emergency contact numbers and creating an evacuation and sheltering plan.
  • Identify and protect important documents by storing them in a fire- and water-proof box, while giving extra copies to a trusted attorney or friend. You can also use secure online cloud storage as another backup.
  • Get the right insurance by identifying any gaps in coverage and asking your agent the right questions.

The last word: “We are grateful for the partnership with Good360 and SBP, which allows us to better support NAM members in times of need, but most importantly, provide valuable resources and thought leadership to build resiliency in advance of a disaster,” said NAM Chief Operating Officer Todd Boppell. “Advance planning is critical for successful businesses, and the thoughtful approach demonstrated by our partners resonates with the NAM’s vision to support manufacturing operations.”

To contact the NAM’s emergency response committee or to be added to its mailing list, email [email protected].

Business Operations

Rethink Presents Lessons for Manufacturing Leaders

Are you grappling with the fast pace of competition in manufacturing? Are you working to keep up with the massive amount of disruption brought on by artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and digital breakthroughs? Are you racing to create new competitive advantages by using the power of Manufacturing 4.0—the next wave of industrial progress based on digitization?

The NAM has you covered with Rethink: The Manufacturing Leadership Council Summit, on June 22–24.

What it is: Rethink is the premier conference on Manufacturing 4.0 for industry leaders as they continue to navigate disruption. Hosted by the Manufacturing Leadership Council—a member-driven, global business leadership network dedicated to senior executives in the manufacturing industry—the summit offers participants strategies and solutions that are designed to advance their operations and improve their competitiveness.

Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged some of the changes that were already occurring in the manufacturing industry. Across the past year, businesses have seen an even greater need for flexibility, agility and speed in operations, and many manufacturers have accelerated their adoption of digital technologies to achieve these goals.

What it includes: The summit will offer a wide range of informative conversations with next-generation leaders and experts. A few elements include the following:

  • Case study sessions showcasing real-world examples of advanced manufacturing technologies in action—from efforts to transform legacy facilities into smart factories, to the role of analytics in digital transformation, to the growth of robotics in manufacturing and logistics. By hearing from manufacturing leaders who have taken on these challenges, executives can learn best practices and gain new ideas for their own companies.
  • “Think tank” sessions that will allow participants to ask questions and share ideas about advanced manufacturing technology. These conversations will include discussions of topics like quantum computing, manufacturing execution systems, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, edge computing and sustainability.

The big difference: Most importantly, Rethink gives participants the chance to learn from other manufacturing executives and experts. Many of the industry’s most forward-thinking leaders will collaborate at this summit to make manufacturing better and stronger.

Check it out: Click here for more information and to register for the summit.

Business Operations

40 Years in Manufacturing: An Interview with Former CEO Vicki Holt

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Vicki Holt wants to tell you about digitization. The recently retired CEO of Protolabs, Holt got her start in manufacturing more than 40 years ago and has seen the industry transformed by digital technologies. “By helping manufacturers seize the opportunities of digitization, I believe I am helping them innovate and solve some of the world’s problems,” she explains.

Over the course of her career, Holt led the glass division of PPG, making homes and buildings more energy efficient with solar glazing, then developed sustainable packaging as CEO of Spartech, and from there took charge of digital manufacturing powerhouse Protolabs. We talked to Holt recently about her career, as well as her tenure as the vice chair of the NAM’s Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturers Group, NAM Executive Committee member and as a board member of the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. Though she has retired from both roles, she remains a key figure in the NAM’s orbit, having recently become a board member at The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM.

Why the NAM? Holt explains that when she was asked to join the NAM in 2016, she saw it as an opportunity to help manufacturers learn.

  • “It was a way for me to get involved and give back, at a time when manufacturing was on the cusp of a new technological revolution,” she says. “I didn’t get involved to influence policy in Washington, but to influence manufacturers themselves.”

By 2017, she had been elected the vice chair of the NAM’s SMM Group, a position she held until her retirement this year. As she notes, the collaboration between the big companies and the smaller ones at the NAM benefits everyone:

  • “For example, the big companies were able to dedicate teams to figuring out COVID-19 safety in their factories, and the small and medium-sized companies learned from them. But the big companies also need the smaller ones, because they are essential to supply chains.”

An example of innovation: Holt holds up Protolabs as a prime example of what digitization can do.

  • “It used to take companies a long time to innovate, which would stretch out the time for product development. It would take months to make a custom part. Protolabs’ founder broke apart all the things that go into manufacturing a custom injection mold tool and automated the process. What used to take weeks could now be done in a day or two, and all using e-commerce.”

Holt remains an avid watcher of digitization trends, observing that “COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to B-to-B e-commerce throughout the industry, making manufacturers more comfortable connecting to their suppliers digitally.”

Getting manufacturers together: While she was involved with the NAM, Holt also served as a board member of the MLC, which the NAM acquired in 2018 with her encouragement.

  • “What I’ve learned through the MLC is that manufacturers are really generous in sharing their learning with other companies,” Holt says. “And that sharing fuels innovation and collaboration.”
  • “The MLC complements the NAM,” she adds, “because the NAM is about creating a policy environment that nurtures manufacturing. The MLC is about sharing knowledge about the manufacturing process itself.”

What’s next? Holt is keeping active in retirement. She serves as a board member of several companies—including water heater and treatment maker A.O. Smith Corporation, Waste Management and financial services firm Piper Sandler.

  • She is focusing on sustainability in several of these roles and was encouraged to see the Biden administration’s plan for emissions reduction. As she puts it, “If you can unleash manufacturers to innovate, we can reach those targets, even if we don’t have the answers today.”

Holt is also passionate about the mission of the MI:

  • “If manufacturers are going to achieve our potential in innovation and digitization, we’ve got to attract people to the industry and show them it’s moved on since the 50s,” she says. “Our frontline employees now solve problems and improve operations in a high-tech environment.”

The last word: Holt says about her time at the NAM, the MLC and the MI, “I’ve just been so impressed with the leaders I’ve met there and their dedication to collaborating and tackling issues like diversity and inclusion. I really appreciate the opportunities afforded to me by being involved in these organizations.”

Business Operations

The State of Manufacturing in 2021

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NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons delivered his 2021 State of Manufacturing Address today, focusing on key priorities for manufacturers as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Marlin Steel Wire Products, a Baltimore-based wire and sheet metal fabricator, hosted the event at its facility.

How manufacturers adapted: Timmons lauded the ways in which manufacturers adapted to the constraints of the pandemic by using tools like augmented reality and virtual reality, which allowed them to remain productive even while workers had to remain distant from one another. He also highlighted individual examples of manufacturers who embraced innovation to respond to COVID-19.

  • “Marlin Steel reworked their shop floor so that they could answer an emergency order for test-tube racks for COVID-19 testing—something they’d never made before.”
  • “W.L. Gore, the makers of Gore-Tex in nearby Delaware, donated their fabric laminate for protective gowns and supplied their material to make N95 masks, helping doctors breathe easier.”
  • “Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, invented a portable clean room—a small glass enclosure that shields health care workers from patients.”
  • “And iconic automakers nationwide stepped up to produce face shields and ventilators.”

Boosting vaccines: Timmons thanked manufacturers nationwide who have led the effort to get employees vaccinated against COVID-19, stressing the importance of the vaccination campaign.

  • “This is such a powerful example of how vaccine manufacturers are helping all manufacturers, and all Americans, get our lives back. This is how we save our economy. This is how we protect our loved ones. This is our shot to end this pandemic. And manufacturers stand behind the COVID-19 vaccines and encourage all of our fellow Americans to get them. The vaccine is also one important reason why manufacturers see the light at the end of the tunnel leading to the next, post-pandemic world.”

What’s next: Timmons offered proposals for how America can lead manufacturing into the future through bold investments in infrastructure, support for research and development, bolstering supply chains in the United States and ensuring a diverse workforce, all without going back to “the archaic tax policies of the past.”

  • “Our industry isn’t focused on just going back to the way things were. We want to build a better world—one that offers an abundance of opportunity to every American.”

Manufacturers’ voices: A number of manufacturing workers and leaders were featured during the speech to help describe the state of manufacturing. They included:

  • Sharon Kaul, First-Shift Socket Machine Operator at Snap-on Incorporated
  • Lisa Winton, CEO and Co-Owner of Winton Machine
  • Cassandra Hawkins, PS&D/Quality Manager at International Paper
  • Luis Martinez, Outside Sales Representative at Click Bond
  • Patricia Miller, CEO of MATRIX 4, Inc.
  • Juan Rigoza, Weld Technician at Vermeer Corporation
  • Kevin Carpenter, Plant Manager at LP Building Solutions
  • Jose R. Esparza of Gowan Milling LLC
  • Steve Macias, Co-owner of Pivot Manufacturing
  • Frank Bautista, Supply Base Manager at ALOM

The last word: As Timmons said, “Manufacturers simply do not accept the notion that anything is impossible. If we can now develop vaccines in less than a year or remake our shop floors in a week, we can build the world we want to see. Manufacturers are not victims of history, never have been. Because we literally build the future.”

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