Business Operations

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Business Operations

How a Manufacturer Left Landfills Behind

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Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems sends almost none of its waste to landfills. A manufacturer of safety, air management and braking system technologies, the company cut its energy use by 14 million kilowatt-hours over the past six years. And it’s now building a 1.168-megawatt solar array near its Indiana facility.

That’s only the start for the Ohio-based manufacturer. In the past few years, Bendix has become a leader in sustainable manufacturing, adding sustainable design to its buildings and emphasizing sustainability in everything from employee training to production. The company has also been recognized for its achievements: In April 2020, Bendix received an award for “environmental excellence” from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and recently the company won an award from the U.S. Department of Energy for its outstanding energy management.

“Even during a year when many activities had to be modified, curtailed or held remotely, our team members stayed true to our sustainability mission and to our overall energy strategy,” said Bendix Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Maria Gutierrez.

So how did they do it?  

What it takes: “Our approach is built on a hierarchy that calls for each location to first eliminate, then reduce, reuse, recycle and reclaim—and as a final option when these strategies are not available, to utilize waste-to-energy technologies or incineration,” said Bendix Corporate Manager of Environmental and Sustainability Bill Schubert.

  • The entire company sent fewer than 16 tons of material to landfills in 2020, a 97% decrease from the 508 tons in 2019.
  • Bendix has done everything from eliminating plastic water bottles and Styrofoam to conducting “spent material audits”—more commonly known as dumpster dives—to ensure recyclables don’t go to waste.
  • Its 4,100 employees are also chipping in: worker-led teams coordinate “green” projects, which continued even during the pandemic.

What’s next: At its Huntington, Indiana, manufacturing campus, Bendix is constructing a solar array that is expected to be operational in September 2021. It will produce more than 30% of the site’s electricity requirements and is slated to save $140,000 in utilities annually.

  • Bendix also aims to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 across its entire North American operations. The larger goal: to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050.

The last word: “Taking a creative approach to addressing challenging waste and improving energy efficiency remained a key theme for Bendix during all of 2020, and our efforts certainly paid off,” said Gutierrez. “Now, we’re focused on the next steps of our long-term energy plans, which are just as exciting.”

Business Operations

How One Manufacturer Inactivates COVID-19

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When COVID-19 upended their operations, LumenFocus—a manufacturer of LED light fixtures—saw an opportunity to be of service. It quickly pivoted to developing products that inactivate viruses and kill bacteria with certain UV wavelengths, called UVC wavelengths. These products, which may be used in businesses, schools and hospitals, can make shared environments safer for everyone.

The company’s new solutions also caught the attention of the military. Recently, the Department of Defense awarded LumenFocus a significant portion of a $2.3 million contract to develop a prototype for military operations. LumenFocus President and CEO Charles Kassay said after the announcement, “As an American company, we are thrilled at the opportunity to be developing products to help our servicemen and servicewomen.”

So how did LumenFocus come up with these virus-inactivating fixtures?

How they did it: Before the pandemic, LumenFocus had only manufactured LED light fixtures. But when COVID-19 hit, the company directed its R&D teams to research solutions for eradicating pathogens like COVID-19.

  • “We knew about ultraviolet light and its potential for disinfection, but it wasn’t an avenue we had traversed before,” says Marketing Coordinator Eric Robinson. “Once we understood the science behind UV, we combined this with our knowledge and experience in engineering light fixtures, and our fabrication capabilities, to create products for pathogen eradication.”

What they’re making: LumenFocus speedily developed a range of products that offer different means of sanitization for different customers’ needs. Some include:

  • The new PathogenFocus product line: These products use nonthermal plasma technology for continuous air and surface disinfection in buildings, either in conjunction with existing HVACs or as standalone units. They have been scientifically proven to reduce up to 99.99% of common pathogens (including bacteria and viruses) quickly and effectively, according to the company.
  • Direct UVC units for unoccupied rooms: These products are intended for unoccupied spaces, as they provide a high dosage of UVC to eradicate pathogens quickly. The UVC fixtures can be ceiling mounted or recessed into grid ceilings.
  • Germicidal upper air units: These fixtures can be used in occupied spaces, as the UVC treats only the upper zone in the room, not the lower zone where people are. As the air circulates, it flows into the plane of UVC irradiation, where the pathogens are killed or inactivated.
  • A portable UVC Tower that can be wheeled around to unoccupied rooms, such as classrooms or offices, and which uses a higher dose of UVC to eradicate viruses and bacteria in a very short time.

The last word: As Kassay says, “The LumenFocus team has been tirelessly working on ways to implement pathogen-eradicating technology. Lighting is just one area where we can help—and that’s an area where we have a lot of experience. Our goal is to develop solutions that will help Americans get back to work in safer, healthier environments. And, if a similar unfortunate situation like COVID-19 arises in the future, we hope that these solutions can help us fight it.”

Business Operations

How Small Manufacturers Can Use Cutting-Edge Tech

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As manufacturing goes through digital transformation, small to medium-sized manufacturers have just as much opportunity to reimagine their operations as large businesses. And to help these companies think through their options, the NAM and Stanley Black & Decker got together to host a Creators Wanted virtual session on making use of “Industry 4.0” technologies.

Who participated: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree spoke at the event. Other business leaders and government officials, including Connecticut Business & Industry Association President and CEO Chris DiPentima, also joined the session.

Inside Manufacturing 4.0: “All of us want to be a part of Manufacturing 4.0, a fourth Industrial Revolution in manufacturing, powered by digital and smart technology,” said Timmons. “There’s literally no business that can’t benefit from tapping into digital transformation. And today’s event is about demonstrating that keeping your business state of the art, on the cutting edge, is truly easier than you think.”

Why now? U.S. manufacturing is at a pivotal moment and will play a central part in the ongoing economic recovery. Adopting digital tools should be a part of the strategy, according to Loree.

  • “As every one of us strives to put the health challenges of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, we all have a responsibility to assist with the economic recovery that must follow,” he said. “Manufacturing must and will play a critical role, and we can supercharge it.”

Getting started: One key tool under discussion was the Smart Industry Readiness Index Assessment, a comprehensive technology evaluation and independent review that can help businesses modernize.

  • Bead Industries CEO Jill Mayer said at the event that what she needs as an executive is a snapshot of the current technology landscape and an understanding of her company’s future needs. That’s what a SIRI assessment can deliver.
  • The assessment, which takes roughly two days, can help identify technology gaps and inefficiencies, while also helping companies create structured plans for purchasing equipment. The reviews are conducted by certified assessors who understand manufacturing and can help businesses through this key transition.

A broader landscape: In addition to individual innovations and technology, Stanley Black & Decker Chief Technology Officer of Global Operations Sudhi Bangalore cited the importance of innovation and economic manufacturing ecosystems.

  • A strong innovation ecosystem can include government experts, upskilling programs, a thriving community of small and medium-sized enterprises and more, according to Bangalore.
  • Gov. Lamont added that Connecticut is home to one such ecosystem and cited manufacturing education as a crucial area where government and industry can work together to grow the economy.

Closing thoughts: “I would consider this next year an extraordinary opportunity as we change the way we do business in state government and what we do in manufacturing,” said Gov. Lamont.

To watch the whole session, click here.

Business Operations

How Tax Reform Helped Optimax Invest in Workers

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After the passage of tax reform in 2017, the lower corporate tax rate and faster tax depreciation of capital equipment purchases enabled Optimax Systems—a manufacturer specializing in optics for semiconductor, aerospace and defense technologies—to reinvest in its workers and operations.

Hiring new workers: Since 2018, the New York manufacturer has hired aggressively, increasing its full-time headcount from 290 to 340. It has also raised salaries for employees, with an average annual increase of 4.8% since 2017—well above the company’s annual increases before 2017. Optimax sees the increases in hiring and wages as a vote of confidence in its workforce—and as a way to pay forward the benefits of tax reform.

Expanding their operations: Since 2018, Optimax has doubled the size of its manufacturing facility, increasing the space from 60,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet. The company also increased investment in equipment, boosting its annual investment from an average of roughly $3 million per year between 2014 and 2017 to an annualized rate of more than $7 million per year since 2018.

What we’re doing: To support companies like Optimax and its customers, the NAM is leading the effort to ensure that the tax code continues to incentivize growth, as well as working to make manufacturers’ priorities and concerns known to the Biden administration and lawmakers. For companies like Optimax, maintaining the competitive tax rate is critical, which is why the NAM is vocal about the potential harm of tax hikes.

The costs of tax hikes: A new study conducted by Rice University economists for the NAM found that increasing the corporate tax rate along with other harmful tax changes could lead to 1 million fewer jobs in the first two years.

  • “As we slowly emerge from the economic catastrophe caused by COVID-19, American businesses are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Manufacturers can, and should, lead the economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. But this study tells us quantitatively what manufacturers from coast to coast will tell you qualitatively: increasing the tax burden on companies in America means fewer American jobs.”

The last word: “Optimax has a mission of enabling customer success and employee prosperity. We have learned, through 30 years of experience, that there is no better way to do this than to reinvest our profits back into the business and back into our people,” said Optimax Controller Tom Starin. “Tax reform has freed up an additional piece of the profit pie, allowing the company to double down, quite literally, on our mission of enabling customer success and employee prosperity.”

Business Operations

How PTC Onshape Powers the FireFly ESV’s Engineering Teams

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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.

Business Operations

Lilly Invests in the Health of Marginalized Communities

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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.

Business Operations

How to Talk to Employees About Vaccines

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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,” says Kefalas.

For more details on how to create communications for your employees, check out the whole presentation here.

Business Operations

For One Manufacturer, Vaccination Is a Personal Cause

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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.”

Business Operations

How Manufacturers Put Together 17 Vaccination Events

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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.”

Demystifying Data

How 5G Is Transforming Manufacturing

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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.

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