Courtney Silver runs a precision machining company that has been in business for 75 years, so she knows how fast the manufacturing industry evolves. The Ketchie, Inc., president, who serves as the vice chair of the NAM’s Small and Medium Manufacturers Group, has a clear message for policymakers and manufacturers alike.
- To stay competitive, “manufacturers must have policies that incentivize us to save for emergencies, like pandemics, and to use profits productively to invest in machines, technologies and people,” she says.
- “Small manufacturers know what to do, to invest our profits and grow”—and policymakers should let them get on with it.
We caught up with Silver earlier this fall and chatted about her plans for Ketchie, the policies that would support manufacturers’ competitiveness and more.
The history: Seventy-five years ago, her late husband’s grandfather came home from World War II to work in a local textile mill, Silver tells us.
- The former Air Force captain quickly observed that local manufacturers needed a “job shop” to provide precision machined solutions. In 1947, he founded the company.
- Since then, and through many upgrades in technology, the business has grown considerably. It now supports several industries, including “textile, rail, heavy machinery, agriculture and industrial equipment,” says Silver.
In the family: Silver joined the business in 2008, then took over as president after her husband passed away in 2014. Through all her years there, she says, “investing in the lives of the people I work with and providing them with opportunities to develop and grow their God-given talents has been what matters the most” to her.
- That dedication spills outward into the community. Silver and the company are deeply invested in their work with the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute, numerous local schools, the local Boys & Girls Club and the Cooperative Christian Ministries.
What do small manufacturers need? To help small manufacturers stay competitive and keep contributing to their communities, “we need a tax structure that works for us,” says Silver.
- The 2017 tax reform law benefited Ketchie by allowing large manufacturers to expand, meaning they had more orders for Ketchie. The company was able to hire more workers as well as provide raises and bonuses.
- However, small manufacturers need further support from policymakers, according to Silver. “Smaller manufacturers have access to less capital,” she explains, so they must often use their profits for crucial short-term investments, like new equipment.
- But they also need help from policymakers for longer-term efforts, such as saving for emergencies (including pandemics) and using their profits to aggressively attract and retain a high-quality workforce.
The absence of a tax structure that supports all these endeavors together “hinders innovation and growth and limits our ability to compete,” Silver points out.
A promising future: When asked how new technologies are helping small manufacturers innovate, Silver responds enthusiastically: “That’s why I love the industry so much—the machining technology is transformational for small businesses in our industry.”
- Ketchie has kept up with the latest innovations throughout its history. Back in the 1980s, that meant purchasing its first CNC (computer numerical control) machines for more efficient, precise machining.
- Today, it’s automation. The company’s first machine-tending collaborative robot will debut on the factory floor in November, taking over machinists’ “least favorite” part of the job—changing parts while the machines run. The robot will free up workers for more challenging and skilled work around the shop, as well as dramatically increase productivity by running unattended after shift hours, Silver says.
- Technology has “opened up” manufacturing, as she puts it. Automation, 3D printing, additive machining and more have “sped up the lifecycle from the idea to the finished part.”
People first: Technology may be evolving rapidly, but the need for a high-quality workforce remains the same. When asked about her plans for Ketchie’s future, Silver says that “the number-one challenge, again and again, is workforce.”
- Silver aspires to strengthen Ketchie’s community outreach by teaching semester-long classes in the shop for high school students, which will include mentorships and a character development curriculum along with job shadowing on the shop floor.
- Ketchie also plans to continue its leadership role in its community as an active member of the school program board, and by continuing to open its doors to tours, interns and apprentices.
- “Making these long-term investments in our youth, in our industry and in our team is foundational to who we are, and we are thankful for all of the opportunities to help shape our future workforce in manufacturing,” says Silver.
The next generation: For the president of a family company, this question must be inevitable: Will Silver’s children run the business, too?
- “Time will tell for sure. They both show strong leadership qualities and are interested in what we are accomplishing at Ketchie. My son has a lot of fun with a 3D printer at home, and my daughter already has excellent problem-solving skills. It’s going to be interesting to see!”
At the NAM: About her work at the NAM, Silver says, “I want to see a genuine opportunity for small and medium manufacturers to grow, thrive and successfully compete.”
- “Each SMM member should feel truly valued and know they have a place at the NAM. Their story, and what they do every day, matters to manufacturing in America.”
When the new lunar mobility vehicle takes its first spin around the moon, it will be sporting a familiar logo on its wheels: Goodyear’s. But unlike the tires on your car, the lunar vehicle’s will be airless, made entirely of metal and clad in mesh.
Yet, the lunar tire isn’t entirely a separate beast, according to Goodyear Senior Program Manager for Non-Pneumatic Tires Michael Rachita. The tires might be rolling around the moon, but they are closely related to some Earth-bound technology—and will help that technology evolve even further.
- Rachita chatted with us recently about Goodyear’s contributions to the lunar mobility vehicle, which is being designed and built by Lockheed Martin and GM for deployment later this decade (read our interview with Lockheed Martin Vice President for the Lunar Exploration Campaign Kirk Shireman).
- It is intended to stay on the moon for years, both supporting NASA missions and functioning autonomously when the astronauts are not around. Here’s what Rachita told us about the tires that will make it all possible.
The design: A traditional rubber tire simply wouldn’t work on the moon, Rachita explains. It wouldn’t hold its air pressure in the vacuum of space, and without an atmosphere to filter out the sun’s radiation, the rubber would quickly degrade.
- Instead, Goodyear will be using metal alloys, such as aluminum and special steels. As Rachita puts it, “You can tap into the standard materials that are used in satellites as a starting point”—materials that are already tried and tested for space.
The environment: These are some of the environmental factors that engineers must consider, says Rachita.
- Temperatures: The moon undergoes extreme transitions in temperature, ranging from -280 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 260 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
- Gravity: At only 1/6th that of Earth’s, the moon’s gravity changes the calculation of flexibility. The metal tires act something like a spring, but since objects bear down with much less weight on the moon, the tires must be correspondingly more flexible than they would have to be on Earth, Rachita says.
- Moon dust: The lunar regolith is sharp, abrasive and electrostatic, says Rachita, and acts something like very soft sand. In designing these tires, Goodyear has taken inspiration from off-roading techniques used for sandy or rocky areas, such as deflating tires to create a soft, broad surface that almost floats over the landscape.
The tests: Some of the testing is familiar, including sessions on a traditional flat track at Goodyear’s headquarters in Akron, Ohio. The track has a rotating band like a treadmill, which the testers must slow down, as the rover will top out at 12 mph (for safety reasons). The engineers can still learn a lot from the tires’ behavior even in Earth’s gravity, Rachita says.
- For other tests, however, the company has had to “create an event,” he says. That includes finding facilities with cryogenic chambers to test the tires’ durability in extreme temperatures.
- To mimic the lunar surface, the company will use soil rigs filled with simulated lunar soil developed by NASA.
The big question: Rachita responds to our inevitable question—“How do you change a tire on the moon?”—with a simple answer: you don’t.
- In fact, he adds, the technology that gives these tires a high degree of redundancy—allowing them to sustain damage and still keep going—has important applications here on Earth.
- “This is where it all connects for Goodyear and its strategy,” he says.
A tire revolution: Goodyear is working to make products that are “maintenance free,” Rachita explains, which is essential to new developments in mobility. Airless tires have an enormous advantage for both electric and autonomous vehicles, he says.
- First, electric vehicles have far fewer parts to maintain (like spark plugs and oil systems), so it makes sense to eliminate another source of frequent maintenance—air-filled tires.
- Meanwhile, if an autonomous vehicle gets a flat, who’s going to fix it? As Rachita says, often no one will be around; AVs will spend a lot of time traveling without passengers to their next pickup points.
- Air-filled tires don’t have redundancy, as Rachita points out—you get a flat tire and it’s an immediate problem. But on an airless tire with a “tension bridge” that supports its structure, up to 20% of the spokes can break without requiring a change. And if the mesh covering the tire tears, you don’t immediately start losing all of the air inside it.
Just in case . . . The lunar mobile’s tires will be attached rather traditionally, with either multiple lugs or one lug (as found on racecars)—so they could technically be changed on the moon. But the plan is to ensure this never becomes necessary, says Rachita.
The last word: Creating tires for a long-lasting lunar vehicle is a “challenge to engineering thinking,” as Rachita puts it. It’s the sort of challenge that will pay off for the rest of us, too.
When astronauts return to the surface of the moon in 2025, they will find a car waiting to pick them up. The new lunar mobility vehicle, designed and built by Lockheed Martin and GM with tires by Goodyear, will be sent up prior to the humans—but more excitingly, it will stay there long after they leave. In fact, the vehicle will remain on the moon for many years, performing experiments and fulfilling commercial contracts autonomously in between NASA missions.
We were delighted to learn all this and more in a recent interview with Kirk Shireman, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for the Lunar Exploration Campaign, who told us all about the astonishing technology involved. Here’s what we learned about the vehicle, which will be the first on the moon since 1972. Though those rovers were the “finest technology” of their day, as Shireman says, the new lunar vehicle is certainly the finest of ours.
The new design: To withstand the moon’s environment for years on end, the vehicle will require state-of-the-art components and materials. The companies are still in the “materials selection phase,” says Shireman, but he did share several of the broad requirements.
- The vehicle will use the latest in battery technology, allowing it to power down almost completely during the long, frigid lunar night (which, like a lunar day, lasts for 14 Earth days). Temperatures will range from -280 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 260 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
- Not only must the materials hold up under the temperature shifts, which occur very rapidly, they must also withstand the sharp, abrasive electrostatic dust that “clings to everything,” says Shireman.
- In addition, the vehicle must be light—it’s tough to transport things to the lunar surface, and every ounce counts.
- And last, safety is of course paramount; the vehicle must be easy to enter and exit for the astronauts. The vehicle’s speed will top out at about 12 mph, also for safety reasons.
Testing: The moon has only one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity, and it’s pretty much impossible to simulate driving in such conditions while here on Earth. The engineers must rely on virtual reality as well as some physical tests, Shireman explains.
- GM’s “driver in the loop” simulator fulfills this function, allowing engineers to “drive” in the environment and gravity of the moon. (Shireman, who recently tried out the simulator, tells us that it is extremely challenging.)
- However, physical testing does have some important uses. Just like any other autonomous vehicle, the lunar vehicle must be tested to ensure it “can’t get into a place it can’t get out of,” as Shireman puts it—and that can be done in Earth’s gravity.
- Engineers will also perform other physical tests on the materials, including lighting tests to ensure the vehicle’s sensors can cope with the blinding light on the moon, where everything looks either white or black.
Advanced manufacturing . . . for the moon: Once the vehicle is on the moon, Lockheed Martin and GM will face a challenge very familiar to other manufacturers: deciding how to collect, organize and transmit data from their equipment.
- The vehicle will monitor its own performance and the lunar environment via a host of sensors. It can also physically carry other instruments for experimentation, says Shireman.
- However, the lunar program will “have more data than pipe” (i.e., the means of returning data to Earth) and will need to prioritize how much and how frequently it transmits information.
- And unlike manufacturers communicating with their equipment on Earth, the engineers will have to cope with delays in response time, which could take several seconds or longer, says Shireman. If the rover is located on the back side of the moon, the signal must go through a relay satellite before reaching Earth.
No garage: Out of curiosity, we asked Shireman an earthling’s question: will the lunar vehicle have some sort of garage where it can seek protection from the cold or sun?
- The answer to that is no—it will simply park itself wherever it happens to be to wait out the night. It’s “much more useful if you can avoid going back anywhere,” says Shireman, because that means the vehicle is not tied down to one spot.
- Even though it would be nice to be able to park it in a garage, which would keep the vehicle warm, the tradeoff is not worth it, he explains.
Moon activities: The lunar missions will have tremendous scientific value, not least because these vehicles can roam widely and produce granular maps of the moon’s landscape. However, they are designed for commercial applications as well.
- The companies are still exploring their options, Shireman says, but these may include transporting commercial lunar payloads and helping other companies (and countries) explore the moon’s resources.
- Then there is the “coolness” factor—people might pay just to interact with this technology, for example by driving the rover telerobotically from Earth. (Sounds like fun!)
The last word: As Shireman says, the rover itself is the foundation of a new venture, not an end point. “The rover isn’t just a thing to be manufactured; it will help us manufacture things on the moon”—and advance lunar exploration and commercialization where it hasn’t gone before.
Take a look: Check out the lunar mobile design in action here, in an animated video made by GM and Lockheed Martin.
Anheuser-Busch InBev recently got to raise a toast to its team members—not just once, but four times.
After being named a 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala winner in three categories—AI and Machine Learning, Digital Network Connectivity and Operational Excellence—the company took home the ultimate prize: the MLC’s Large Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year. (The MLC is the NAM’s digital transformation partner.)
Recipe for success: What’s brewing in AB InBev’s recipe for success? According to Global Vice President of Engineering and Operations Marcelo Ribeiro, a focus on world-class performance in all of the company’s operations.
- This means leveraging disruptive technologies and empowering frontline teams to drive sustainable and reliable performance, all with the dream of “to create a future with more cheers.”
Utilizing AI: One of AB InBev’s award-winning projects was its innovative use of AI to improve utilities performance. The company implemented a set of smart algorithms to optimize the performance of its air compressors and boilers, giving managers and operators a real-time, utilities-performance dashboard that alerted them when a target was not being hit.
- Started as a pilot in just five breweries, the project was so successful, the company rolled it out to more than 30 other breweries worldwide.
- AB InBev plans to expand the algorithm beyond boilers and compressors to provide utilities usage forecasts and prediction models.
Preventing downtime: Another AB InBev winner was the firm’s approach to attaining 100% reliability and optimization of all equipment and processes. This led to the development of a tool that monitors equipment performance and prescribes maintenance actions, both of which minimize downtime.
- The company’s ambitious reliability goal also creates safer working conditions in breweries and maximizes sustainability by reducing consumption of raw materials, packaging and spare parts.
Lessons on digital transformation: While technology can provide solutions to problems, resist the urge to simply “do” technology for technology’s sake, Ribeiro cautioned. First identify a problem, then determine how technology can help fix it. Don’t work the other way around.
- “One thing we have learned in recent years is that future is becoming less predictable,” Ribeiro said. “Manufacturing needs to create an ecosystem in the future where we can learn from each other. And we have to actually enable that to happen as becoming more resilient will require building a collaborative ecosystem.”
Nominations are being accepted now for the 2023 Manufacturing Leadership Awards. Find complete details here.
For Sealed Air Corporation, the $1 million annual savings it will realize from its recent investment in an 11-acre solar farm is just a perk that goes along with doing what’s right.
Toward a goal: “We always have sustainability in mind with everything that we do, whether it is a new product or a new facility,” said Sealed Air President of the Americas Tobias Grasso. “We always ask, ‘What is this bringing to us?’ and ‘How is this advancing our mission to leave our world better than we found it?’ Because we have a stated goal to be net-zero carbon neutral in our operations by 2040, we want to make sure that all our investments are in line with that strategy.”
- Earlier this year, a $9 million solar installation at Sealed Air’s Madera, California, manufacturing facility began generating electricity—at a rate capable of fulfilling 98% of the plant’s electricity needs, according to company calculations.
- The solar farm is integrated into the legacy power system so that system has a backup energy source when needed.
The right site: Sealed Air, the maker of the iconic Bubble Wrap® original cushioning and numerous other automation, packaging and digital printing solutions, started making plans for the 8,975-solar-panel farm in 2020. It chose the Madera location as the site for several reasons.
- “We have fairly extensive energy needs for that facility,” Grasso said. “And we had the available land and a good number of hours [of available sunlight] to provide the solar energy.”
- The manufacturer partnered locally with a team from TotalEnergies—a French company that recently acquired SunPower Commercial and Industrial Solutions—on the project.
The impact: Though the company got its solar installation up and running in less than two years, its effect on the environment will be long-lasting and far-reaching.
- The solar panels will prevent 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in just their first year in operation.
- Over the course of 15 years, that’s the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of driving 15,000 cars for one year, Grasso said.
Solar-power advice: Manufacturers with the right energy needs, land and daily hours of sunlight could benefit from investment in their own solar installations, according to Grasso.
“First, you have to look at the dimensionality of your power needs; you have to look at the economics,” he said. “It’s a good idea to have a partner like TotalEnergies because they can help you through their experience so you model it the right way.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons addressed the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturers’ Summit today, where he made another call for policymakers to act on immigration, saying it is time to “fix this problem now.” Timmons called on Congress to act in the year-end government funding bill. His remarks come as the NAM rereleased its immigration proposal “A Way Forward.”
Excerpts from Timmons’ speech:
“First and foremost, this is a humanitarian issue. We see it play out in tragic ways—including family separations at the border and confusion as families seek to reunite following a harrowing journey.”
“But as manufacturing and business leaders, we also know there are serious economic consequences. Research and development—the cornerstone of innovation and our industry’s success—depends on access to the best and brightest from across the world.”
“The broken immigration status quo is also preventing us from growing our talent pool, leaving jobs unfilled. There are around six job seekers for every 10 job openings in the U.S., and our population growth is slowing. Last year, the U.S. population grew at its slowest rate ever.”
“Last year’s infrastructure law and this year’s CHIPS and Science Act prove that Congress can still get bipartisan things done—and immigration should be next on the list, whether it’s one bill or multiple bills. We would absolutely support a long-term, comprehensive legislative fix that addresses all of these issues, but we also want to be realists. We have a workforce crisis that needs to be addressed now, so let’s take action where we can. We want to focus on the art of the possible. One approach would be to address some of these issues in the year-end government funding bill.”
First released in 2019 and updated to reflect current challenges, the NAM’s “A Way Forward” proposal identifies seven core areas of action for Congress and the administration to take:
- Strengthen border security through physical infrastructure and best-in-class technology.
- Prioritize America’s workforce needs through reforms to the legal immigration system.
- Reform nonimmigrant visas and temporary worker programs to reflect employer needs, including a fund to support STEM programs so that we can reduce the need for these types of visas in the future.
- Provide a permanent and compassionate solution for populations facing uncertainty, including the Dreamers, who were brought here as children and know no other home.
- Reform asylum and refugee programs for a more orderly and humane system, including asylum standards consistent with our values.
- Fix the problem of the unauthorized population with a firm reset, requiring an orderly process of review, including financial penalties for those who seek to become legal and deportation for those who choose to stay in the shadows.
- Strengthen the rule of law so that it is respected and followed by all, with a focus on gang violence and also on requiring localities to cooperate to advance the enforcement of immigration priorities.
View “A Way Forward” in full here.
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 more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.77 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 58% 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
The NAM is constantly working to support and strengthen the men and women who make things in America. That mission is upheld by outstanding members of the NAM Board of Directors and their commitment to promoting the industry’s competitiveness on the global stage—a goal laid out in the NAM’s “Competing to Win” agenda.
Welcoming new faces: A number of new members have been elected to the board and will begin their two-year terms in January. They come from many sectors of the industry and companies both large and small, holding an array of leadership roles and boasting a wide range of experience. All of them are dedicated to ensuring that manufacturers in the U.S. have the tools they need to prosper.
The new members include the following:
- Edward Blair, president, Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
- Sara Beth Burton, senior vice president, global supply chain, Hallmark Cards, Inc.
- Richard Cammarano, president and chief executive officer, Tech-Etch, Incorporated
- Karl Ehemann, vice president, global manufacturing and quality, Corning Incorporated
- Ed Elkins, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation
- Cynthia Farrer, senior vice president, global operations and integrated supply chain, Allegion plc
- Aimee Gregg, vice president and general manager, containerboard and recycling, International Paper
- John Hartner, founder, Digital Industrialist LLC
- Christopher Kastner, president and chief executive officer, Huntington Ingalls Industries
- Ram Krishnan, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Emerson
- Reece Kurtenbach, chief executive officer and president, Daktronics, Inc.
- Rose Lee, president and chief executive officer, Cornerstone Building Brands
- Thomas Long, co-chief executive officer, Energy Transfer LP
- Michael McGarry, chairman and chief executive officer, PPG
- Lori Miles-Olund, president, Miles Fiberglass & Composites, Inc.
- Christopher Perkins, president North America and senior vice president Taste & Beyond North America, Firmenich, Inc.
- Kimberly Ryan, president and chief executive officer, Hillenbrand, Inc.
- Karin Shanahan, executive vice president, global product development and supply, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
- Matt Shields, senior vice president, global animal health manufacturing, Merck & Co., Inc.
- Sachin Shivaram, chief executive officer, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry
- Shruti Singhal, chief executive officer, Chroma Color Corporation
- Mark Smucker, president and chief executive officer, The J.M. Smucker Company
- Matt Wood, national industry leader, commercial products practice, FORVIS
- Brent Yeagy, president and chief executive officer, Wabash
- Renée Zemljak, executive vice president, midstream, marketing & fundamentals, Ovintiv USA Inc.
What we’re saying: “The diverse backgrounds of our new board members, and their varied experience across many manufacturing sectors, make their counsel invaluable to the NAM in its efforts to bolster the industry’s competitiveness,” said NAM Chief of Staff Alyssa Shooshan. “We are counting on their insights and dedication to help steer manufacturers through this turbulent time and into a position of even greater strength.”
Hurricane Ian’s devastating landfall in Florida Wednesday afternoon marked the second significant storm to hit the U.S. and territories in less than two weeks. But as is usually the case when catastrophe strikes, manufacturers are already among those leading the charge to help the communities affected.
Manufacturers mobilize: In Puerto Rico, where approximately one-third of all residents remain without power following Hurricane Fiona Sept. 18, manufacturers including Dow, UPS, Coca-Cola, Ecolab and Toyota are funding product donations across the island through NAM partners Good360 and SBP.
What’s happening: These NAM partner organizations are providing on-the-ground updates and working to get products where they’re needed most. Items of greatest need include:
- Solar-powered power generators;
- Nonperishable foods and ready-to-eat meals;
- Mold remediation products;
- Oxygen tanks;
- Hygiene kits and supplies;
- Drinking water;
- New clothing; and
- School supplies.
Meanwhile, the work is just beginning in Florida to respond to Hurricane Ian, with anticipated items including drinking water, nonperishable foods, hygiene kits, tarps, blankets and mold remediation products.
NAM in action: The NAM’s Emergency Response Committee is an employee-led, volunteer group that works year-round with nonprofit partners, including Good360, SBP and Project HOPE, to provide NAM members with disaster-preparedness resources and training.
- These resources, which include e-learning modules, fact sheets and webinars, enable manufacturers to support their employees ahead of, during and in the aftermath of disasters.
- The NAM’s ERC also helps manufacturers activate to aid their communities when disaster strikes—and it works to identify and highlight members that are leading this critical work.
Be prepared: In a 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, gave their suggestions for hurricane preparation.
For businesses: Woodruff provided some commonsense advice for employers:
- Have a plan: Have a hurricane-preparedness plan and ensure that all employees understand it—before hurricane season starts.
- Make a list: Create a checklist of tasks that must be done during the season, starting with the first day.
- Set up: Create and offer remote work sites for affected communities and employees.
- Support: Provide support to the families of employees who live in disaster-hit areas.
The last word: “The NAM stands ready to provide resources and support for its manufacturing members and the communities in which they operate in all conditions,” said NAM Director of Member and Board Relations Isabelle Powell.
- “We urge members to contact their membership directors with questions on how to better prepare their team or support people in their communities.”
For more information on manufacturer disaster preparedness or to be added to the NAM’s ERC mailing list, please email [email protected].
In late 2021, the Manufacturing Leadership Council launched the Manufacturing in 2030 Project, a comprehensive examination of the factors that will influence the industry leading up to the year 2030 and beyond. The latest milestone in this sweeping project is the release of The Next Phase of Digital Evolution.
This groundbreaking white paper examines the global megatrends like population, the economy, sustainability demands, and technology development – all of which will impact business decisions and are essential for manufacturing competitiveness.
Data’s Growing Role: Data is perhaps manufacturing’s most important asset, tracking everything from individual machine performance to the status of global supply chains. Developments in digital systems for factories, high-powered industrial networks and advanced communication technologies are giving rise to the ability to collect data.
Combined with a rise in analytics capabilities, manufacturers are now able to apply that data in powerful ways to improve processes, speed innovation, find new business opportunities and ultimately create conditions for greater competitiveness.
A Rising Middle Class: Population trends will influence where manufacturers build new factories, who they hire, the products that they make, organization for supply chains and who they are selling to.
Africa and Asia are projected to have the strongest population growth, and while traditional middle-class markets in the U.S., Europe and Japan are expected to grow at only modest rates, 88% of the next billion entrants into the middle class will be from Africa.
What’s to Come: Manufacturers will also need to consider their role in creating sustainable business practices and how they will overcome persistent workforce challenges. Institutional investors are pressuring businesses to significantly improve environmental practices, while the already yawning gap in skilled workers is expected to skyrocket to 2.1 million unfilled openings by 2030.
Technology could have a role in solving both of those issues. On the sustainability front, data can be key to monitoring emissions, utility consumption and waste, while also giving rise to new processes that improve on those metrics. For the workforce, data can empower workers to make more informed decisions, automation can eliminate repetitive tasks, and technologies like augmented and virtual reality can enhance training and upskilling.
To learn more about these and other insights, download the full white paper here.
A word of caution about the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s plant tours: Attending one could make you rethink your manufacturing operations.
Inspiration abounds: The MLC, the digital transformation arm of the NAM, recently hosted a plant tour of Lincoln Electric’s headquarters in Cleveland. Inspired by the innovation on display, one attendee vowed “to go back to my own company and start asking what’s stopping us from implementing similar technologies and practices.”
- The two-day Lincoln Electric event included visits to the company’s welding and training center, its machine division, its 3D printing facility and its automation-solutions center.
- Tour participants also learned how the business is overcoming workforce shortages through culture and technology solutions.
What is Lincoln Electric? Lincoln Electric was founded in 1895 as an electric-motors manufacturer. Today it is a global industry leader in welding equipment and consumables, additive manufacturing and automation solutions. The company has locations in 19 countries and serves customers in more than 160.
Welding school: The first stop on the tour was Lincoln Electric’s world-class welding school, first opened in 1917 and relaunched in 2018 as the 130,000-square-foot Welding Technology & Training Center.
- Students at this state-of-the-art facility begin their training at virtual welding stations before moving to one of 150 training booths to use the real “arc.”
- Lincoln Electric also offers virtual classes, a turnkey curriculum for customers and “train the trainer” courses for welding instructors.
3D printing: Tour participants also got a look at the company’s Additive Solutions Center, the largest platform of its kind, which boasts 18 3D printing cells. It serves customers in the automotive, aerospace, marine and energy industries.
- The equipment prints replacement parts, molds, tooling and prototypes measuring up to eight feet long and weighing more than 8,000 pounds.
- It can print in a variety of metals, including mild steel, stainless steel, nickel alloys, bronze and Inconel.
Automation solutions: The Automation Solutions Center tour stop demonstrated Lincoln Electric’s twin answers to the manufacturing skills gap: innovation and tech solutions that increase productivity.
- The technology on offer includes automated arc welding products, collaborative robots, metal fabrication and assembly line solutions.
- Demand for Lincoln Electric’s collaborative robots is up as manufacturers cope with workforce shortages, tour participants learned.
High-performance culture: Tour attendees also learned about Lincoln Electric’s high-performance culture, which rewards success and provides employees with opportunities for growth and development.
- The company’s Incentive Management System for the production workforce includes output-based pay to maximize personal earnings potential, an annual profit-sharing bonus, a no-layoffs policy and an open-door policy.
- “I found the networking time to be highly valuable and came away with several ideas on employee retention,” said a tour participant.
Future focus: Looking ahead, Lincoln Electric leadership said the company’s core focus must and will be on its people—to continue to build a pipeline of talent and attract and develop the next generation of leaders.