When COVID-19 swept through Camden, New Jersey, it hit the kit and packaging manufacturer IPAK very hard. The majority of IPAK’s nearly 100 employees are women and people from underserved communities, and like many other similarly situated groups, they suffered from particularly high case rates and economic disruption. But it was the company’s long commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that helped it get through this global disaster—and even allowed it to thrive.
We spoke to IPAK CEO Karen Primak about all the company did to safeguard its employees and serve its customers. Here’s what she told us.
Keeping employees safe: The early days of the pandemic were terrible; the company had four employees in the hospital on respirators “right from the beginning,” says Primak. But IPAK responded swiftly and comprehensively:
- IPAK created an extensive COVID-19 action plan to prepare, inform and assist employees. This included an “ambassador” program so team members had a point of contact to ask about their virus-related concerns and receive answers and resources in the five different languages that employees speak.
- The company rearranged schedules to allow workers without childcare to be home when needed. Managers spent an hour or two every morning discussing how they could accommodate everyone.
- IPAK stayed current with the latest science and data, so that it could react quickly to the fast-changing pandemic. The company instituted an evolving set of daily cleaning protocols, social distancing measures, remote work provisions, masking and face shield requirements, vaccine information sessions and regular COVID-19 testing.
All these measures allowed IPAK to remain open and continue to deliver high-quality solutions to its customers throughout the pandemic. And here’s one last impressive detail: “We didn’t furlough or lay off anyone,” said Primak. “Despite all the craziness and the disproportionate impact on our employees and revenue, we remained committed to employing our workforce during this awful time.”
The “secret weapon”: How did IPAK cultivate the flexibility and dedication necessary to get through a global pandemic?
- “Diversity, equity and inclusion have been our secret weapon,” Primak said. “If you hire people like you, all you get back is you. IPAK is equipped with a range of voices and perspectives, which helps us innovate and creatively solve problems. Our commitment to put employees first and understand their needs allowed us to come together and stay operational during such a difficult time.”
Success during upheaval: IPAK also went above and beyond for its clients, including nonprofit educational-content provider ACT, maker of the well-known college-entrance exam, whose supply chain was upended by COVID-19.
- ACT was faced with shipping disruptions, shuttered test centers, constantly changing local conditions and testing center capacity constraints. It needed an agile partner who would be able to move quickly, adjust schedules and innovate in real time.
- As a result, ACT pivoted early in the pandemic and massively expanded its contract with IPAK to include the handling of secure paper-based processing, which includes creating kits and manufacturing and distributing the ACT test.
- Amid all this disruption and change, IPAK stepped up. Its staff worked tirelessly with ACT to deliver more than 2 million college-entrance exams during the pandemic.
“We worked nights and weekends and even hand-delivered some test booklets to make sure they arrived on time,” said Primak.
A great partnership: “We were the vendor that was willing to make huge and necessary changes alongside ACT during the pandemic so that many deserving students could take the ACT and benefit from the opportunities afforded by their hard work,” Primak said.
- “IPAK asked so many questions about our organization and offered a unique process optimization perspective,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “It was clear they had deep knowledge of the education marketplace and cared about our mission—not just their bottom line. IPAK knocked its first assignment out of the park, catalyzing ACT to outsource additional critical programs to IPAK.”
NAM involvement: Primak also credits the NAM’s work with Congress and the administration with helping IPAK survive and succeed. She is grateful for government programs such as the employee retention tax credits, economic injury disaster loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans, which the NAM advocated for, and said that without such help, the company “wouldn’t be here.”
The last word: “Helping people achieve success and ensure equity, access and opportunity for all” is ACT’s mission, said Primak. It’s that type of commitment to equity and inclusion that also motivates IPAK’s whole team, in good times and in pandemics.
The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute are committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in the manufacturing industry. Visit the NAM Pledge for Action page to make your own commitment today.
Nilo Caravaca, Hologic’s vice president of operations for Costa Rica and Latin America, says the company has an “important purpose”: to improve and save women’s lives around the world. At the Costa Rica facility that he manages, the company manufactures diagnostic and imaging equipment that protects women’s health, such as mammography systems and bone density scanners.
In pursuit of their goal, Caravaca and his team have embraced innovative technologies as well as best practices in talent management. For their achievements in attracting, upskilling and retaining a world-class workforce, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council awarded Hologic the 2021 Manufacturer of the Year award in the small and medium enterprise category. But the company is not stopping there. Caravaca anticipates further innovations, as Hologic keeps prioritizing efficiency, safety and growth.
Here is a snapshot of Hologic’s two award-winning projects and a look at things to come.
Supply chain innovation: Almost every product made by Hologic’s Costa Rica facility serves a patient with an urgent medical issue. That means its supply chain must be incredibly resilient and reliable.
- To meet these critical needs, Hologic launched a project called “Impacting Lives Every Day,” which employed robots for moving materials and bots for automating processes, while improving operations using real-time data and analytics.
- The project has resulted in a more reliable supply chain that gets products to patients faster while improving quality and safety.
Talent management: Caravaca believes companies need to focus on people in addition to technology to make the transition to Manufacturing 4.0, the next wave of technological progress.
- To that end, his team developed a new set of talent management processes that helps attract and recruit the best employees on the market, as well as ensure they have the opportunity to perform at their highest level.
The last word: An engineer by trade, Caravaca has a simple “formula for the future” of manufacturing: “Find the right talent, fit that talent in the right position, engage it and add tenure over time.” That will allow people to grow into their roles and perform at their peaks—the best result for both the company and the employees themselves.
To learn more about the innovative technologies and processes at Hologic’s Costa Rica facility, read “Hologic’s Winning Formula” in the August 2021 issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal.
What’s it like to make machines that capture the news, fight crime and train pretty much every helicopter pilot? For Robinson Helicopter Company, a manufacturer of civil helicopters, that’s just another day at work.
NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer took a trip to the Robinson facility in Torrance, California, to get an up-close look at what they do. Here’s what he saw.
Attention to detail is a core value of Robinson’s workforce. Here, two of Robinson’s employees focus on the critical work they do to make sure Robinson’s helicopters can perform successfully and safely.
The people who use Robinson’s machines are precious cargo—and so employees are careful to make sure that every piece, no matter how small, is handled correctly.
Robinson’s employees work hard on their machines—inside and out.
With a few finishing touches—like the rotor blades—this R44 Raven II will be ready for flight.
At Robinson, the work is never done. Here, a group of helicopters-in-progress wait to join the more than 13,000 helicopters that the company has already delivered worldwide.
The last word: “We are proud to be the world’s leading producer of civil helicopters and take great pride in our employees and their commitment to quality,” said Robinson President and Chairman Kurt Robinson.
When it comes to data management, most manufacturers are basically teenagers. They’ve gotten past the early stages but have yet to reach full maturity and mastery in their approach. In fact, it is often unclear what the data strategy is, who is responsible for it or even what the data is worth in the first place.
A new survey from the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council shows us how manufacturers are progressing in their quest to harness the power of data—a capability that could have transformative power for many manufacturers throughout their operations. Below are some highlights.
Data collection: Most manufacturers rate their organizational data skills as just average, saying they struggle to collect the right data and interpret it.
- Fifty-eight percent of respondents said their company had just a moderate ability to collect data that is meaningful for their business needs.
Data analysis: If gathering data is a challenge, gaining insights from that data is an even bigger one.
- Seventy-five percent of respondents ranked their organization as only somewhat capable in their ability to analyze their manufacturing operations data.
- Even more worrisome, 11% of respondents said their organization was not at all capable of this type of analysis.
Applying insights: The practical application of data to create value is also a challenge for many manufacturers.
- Almost one-third said they expend greater than 80% of their efforts on gathering and organizing data—as opposed to analyzing and applying insights from it.
Other stumbling blocks: The survey revealed additional impediments to using data:
- The lack of systems available to capture the data (46%)
- Data inaccessibility (43%)
- The lack of skills to analyze data effectively (39%)
Opportunities: The good news is that even with these imperfect efforts, organizations are largely leveraging the data they do have to make informed decisions.
- Forty-eight percent said their organization makes data-driven decisions frequently, while 18% said they make data-driven decisions constantly.
The bottom line: Seventy-five percent of respondents said data mastery will be essential for future competitiveness. Indeed, data mastery is crucial to the industry’s transition into Manufacturing 4.0—the next big wave of industrial innovation—and the MLC will be tracking the industry’s progress closely.
To see more insights from the latest MLC M4.0 Data Mastery Survey, read “Growing Pains” in the August 2021 issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal.
As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps changing, plenty of manufacturers are looking for answers on how to protect their employees. To help clarify where we stand and what comes next, the NAM hosted a town hall on the strategies manufacturers are deploying to keep workplaces safe as well the vaccine policies some companies are implementing in response to the delta variant.
Who participated: Moderated by NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling, the webinar featured Dr. Michael Ybarra of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PhRMA); NAM Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary Linda Kelly; Senior Director of Global Compensation & Mobility R.J. Corning of Whirlpool Corporation; and Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Shannon Lapierre of Stanley Black & Decker.
The vaccination deal: Dr. Ybarra gave a rundown of the current state-of-play in the pandemic, detailing the various kinds of vaccines—protein-based, viral vector, and mRNA—and laying out which vaccines have been approved for use in the U.S. (Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna). He explained the reasons why variants are occurring, and the possible need for booster shots as the effectiveness of vaccines wanes and variants create further challenges.
- Who’s at risk: “It’s still the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Ybarra. “It’s people who are young and think they’re invincible and don’t need the vaccine, and people who maybe just got one dose of the vaccine and didn’t complete their series. That’s the super high risk.”
- Masks on: “Even if you’re vaccinated, you should wear a mask indoors,” said Dr. Ybarra. “You don’t want to stress test the vaccine.”
- An important reminder: Ybarra noted a “humbling reality”: that almost all of the current COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated people.
“The best thing you can do right now is get the vaccine if you’re not vaccinated,” said Dr. Ybarra. “It’ll provide protection against the worst impacts of COVID-19. And if you’re in that high stress environment of being indoors with people whom you don’t know are vaccinated, it’s important to wear a mask because it will provide that extra layer of protection.”
An NAM policy rundown: Kelly provided an overview of the NAM’s policies and explained its phased approach to a vaccine mandate for all employees.
- A vaccine mandate: In July, the NAM made a decision to require all NAM employees to be vaccinated or to seek accommodations for medical or religious reasons by September 20.
- A NAM, a plan: “This decision was not taken lightly,” said Kelly. “We talked about it for a long time, we worked through a lot of issues, we sought outside legal advice on it. But we saw it as the next evolution on our ongoing workplace safety posture during the pandemic.”
- Good feedback: “As we have been rolling this out…we’ve actually heard from a number of employees who have thanked us, because the policy has made them feel safer about being in the office,” said Kelly.
- Useful advice: “No matter what you’re doing on your vaccine policies, you need to have your HR, your legal team, and your communications team working very closely together,” she added.
Cases in point: Corning and Lapierre discussed the actions they have taken at Whirlpool and Stanley Black & Decker to prioritize employee health and safety.
- Masking up: Both Whirlpool and Stanley Black & Decker have responded to the increase in cases by re-imposing mask mandates.
- Incentivizing vaccines: While vaccines are not yet mandatory for employees, Whirlpool is focused on making it easy for people to be vaccinated—in particular by holding large onsite vaccination clinics where possible. It is also providing $250 to people who get vaccinated. Stanley Black & Decker has sent its chief medical officer and local doctors to facilities where vaccine uptake is low to answer questions and provide encouragement. The company has also set up on-site vaccine clinics where possible.
- Collecting data: Whirlpool is working to collect data from its employees to better understand who is getting vaccinated, and to gather information on any breakthrough infections. Stanley Black & Decker, meanwhile, surveyed its employees early on in order to gauge interest in vaccinations so it could target its efforts appropriately. Both are taking care to protect their workers’ confidentiality.
The last word: “We’re not going to have all the answers, but we can help guide people in the right direction and help them make the best choices for their circumstances,” said Boerstling.
For almost two decades, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council has been showcasing the best-performing, most innovative and most influential manufacturers in the field. Its yearly Manufacturing Leadership Awards recognize organizations of all sizes and from all sectors, along with the individual leaders who are spearheading their transformations. Now, your company or leader could be among the next cohort of winners: nominations for the 2022 season opened on Aug. 16.
What’s involved: Since 2005, the ML Awards have recognized more than 1,000 outstanding leaders and projects that have sped the transition to Manufacturing 4.0, the next wave of industrial progress created by digitization.
- Nominations are judged by a group of seasoned industry executives with expert knowledge of digital transformation. Past judges have come from companies such as Lockheed Martin, GM, Merck and 3M.
- Any manufacturing organization is eligible, and all may apply through the MLC’s online application process. Project nominations include a timeline and written overview of a project’s business and operational impact, while individual nominations ask for details about a leader’s achievements and influence on his or her organization and the manufacturing industry at large.
Highlights of the 2022 season: This year, the awards will feature 11 categories, nine for projects and two for individuals.
- Digital Transformation Leadership: This category is for accomplished operations leaders who have transformed their companies through technology adoption, performance and process improvements or business culture changes. Leaders at any level of the organization may apply.
- Next-Generation Leadership: This category honors remarkable manufacturing professionals aged 30 or younger who demonstrate the leadership needed in the digital manufacturing era. If you have a young, inspiring leader on your team who acts as a role model within and outside your organization, nominate him or her today.
- Project categories: This year’s awards recognize excellence in artificial intelligence/machine learning, supply chains, business culture transformations, organizational collaboration and more. The complete list is here.
Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic only reinforced how much manufacturing matters to our entire society, at every level and in every household. The 2022 ML Awards will recognize many of its most remarkable accomplishments, showcasing an industry that remains unceasingly dynamic even in the midst of crisis.
Don’t wait: Nominations are due Dec. 20. They can be submitted directly by manufacturing organizations or by their consulting partners or PR and marketing firms. You can complete your application here.
Hundreds of manufacturing leaders came together this summer to discuss the industry’s next century of technological dominance. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and more were all on the schedule, with companies unveiling their cutting-edge techniques and exchanging invaluable knowledge.
This premier gathering of talent is called Rethink, and it is the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s yearly conference on Manufacturing 4.0—the next wave of industrial progress created by digitization. It offers manufacturers a range of ways to engage with leaders and experts, including interactive case studies, collaborative think tank sessions and keynotes.
This year’s Rethink showcased a number of innovative technologies that are already transforming companies around the world. Here are some highlights.
Augmented reality is the new reality: PTC President and CEO Jim Heppelmann explained the benefits of augmented reality, which can give much more information to frontline workers and help manufacturers bridge the skills gap—the lack of sufficient skilled workers to fill available jobs.
- For example, augmented reality allows companies to record the expertise of workers who may soon retire, thus improving the training programs for new workers, Heppelmann pointed out.
Read more of Heppelmann’s expert advice here.
Robotics will support workers: In a keynote address, MIT’s Dr. Daniela Rus explained the coming evolution in human-machine relationships. She predicted that robots will enable workers to control production lines more precisely and configure them for rapid, customized production.
Read more about Dr. Rus’s predictions here.
Intelligent platforms are key: Intelligent platforms help manufacturers capture and understand data—the key to success in manufacturing’s digital era, according to Sid Verma of Hitachi Vantara and Mike Lashbrook of JR Automation.
- One of the biggest challenges is learning how to collect data strategically—because a plant floor can generate tons of it. “Just collecting data on the [operational] side does not work for us,” said Verma. “We have seen horror stories where people spent their entire IT budget just collecting data because they didn’t know where to start.”
Read more of Verma and Lashbrook’s insights here.
The bottom line: No matter where you are in your digital transformation, Rethink can help you move forward. It is the perfect place to discover new technologies and learn best practices for implementation.
For more information about the MLC, including Rethink 2022, email [email protected].
There’s no better way to see innovation at work than to visit a manufacturing facility. There’s also no better way for manufacturing leaders to learn from one another. The Manufacturing Leadership Council’s plant tours are designed to give manufacturers unparalleled insight into each other’s innovations—and you won’t want to miss the next one.
The MLC’s plant tours have long been some of its most popular offerings. Back before COVID-19, these multiday events included a site visit, an executive roundtable discussion and ample time for networking and exchanging ideas. Now the events take place virtually, a change that has several advantages: more manufacturers can conveniently attend from their desks, and companies can showcase several facilities (and more innovation) in the same tour.
But most importantly, whether online or in person, an MLC plant tour offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect and collaborate. The adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies can be dauntingly complex, and the best guides are those who have already done it.
Here’s just a taste of the innovations that participants get to see.
A whirlwind tour of IBM: This past April, participants took a virtual tour of IBM’s high-end storage facility in Vác, Hungary. They got to see how IBM uses automation, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, IoT technology and data visibility throughout its operations.
- Among the many innovations that IBM’s executives discussed on the tour were its acoustic insights products. The company trains AI models to recognize sounds that could indicate a potential machine failure so that it can be fixed preemptively—a technology it developed in house.
MxD x 2: Participants also attended two tours through MxD’s facilities earlier this year, each of which showcased a number of different innovations.
- Teaching old systems new tricks: On the first tour, visitors got a look at MxD’s Innovation Center in Chicago, a facility where manufacturers conduct experiments and demonstrations. They saw how MxD retrofits legacy equipment to keep up with the digital times—such as by outfitting a type of manual milling machine in use since the 1930s with digital sensors. The total cost of the upgrade? Less than $150.
- Cybersecurity in action: On a second trip through MxD’s Chicago facility, visitors saw the company’s cybersecurity demonstration areas. One of them included the excitingly named Cyber Wall, which helps manufacturers understand and guard against threats to their operational technology systems.
Sign up for Nexteer: You won’t want to miss the MLC’s upcoming tour of Nexteer Automotive, coming up on Aug. 11 (from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT). Nexteer is a global leader in the steering and driveline business, serving such major customers as BMW, Ford, Toyota, GM and more.
This virtual trip will take you inside the company’s Saginaw, Michigan, facilities and show you how Nexteer uses data to manage and improve its processes and products. Sign up today!
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.
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.”