The U.S. and Europe are working to address “China’s accelerated push into the production of older-generation semiconductors,” Bloomberg (subscription) reports.
What’s going on: Last year, the U.S. imposed restrictions on the export of certain advanced technologies to China. Beijing has reacted by investing heavily in building facilities making older chips that do not face such U.S. restrictions.
- Legacy chips—those produced using 28-nanometer-and-larger equipment—remain critical in the global economy as components of everything from electric vehicles to military devices.
- China is on track to build 26 semiconductor factories through 2026, while the U.S. is forecast to construct 16 facilities “that use 200-millimeter and 300-mm wafers.”
Why it’s a problem: “Senior EU and U.S. officials are concerned about Beijing’s drive to dominate this market for both economic and security reasons, [sources] said. They worry Chinese companies could dump their legacy chips on global markets in the future, driving foreign rivals out of business…”
- If that were to happen, Western firms could become reliant on China for the chips, the sources say, and that could pose a national security risk.
Importance of legacy chips: The global pandemic demonstrated that older-model semiconductors remain important, as chip shortages hit companies’ bottom lines.
- The U.S. and Europe have been trying to expand their own chip production to avoid a repeat. Efforts have included the 2021 CHIPS and Science Act, which set aside $52 billion to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.
A problem to solve: “Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo alluded to the problem during a panel discussion last week at the American Enterprise Institute. ‘The amount of money that China is pouring into subsidizing what will be an excess capacity of mature chips and legacy chips—that’s a problem that we need to be thinking about and working with our allies to get ahead of,’ she said.”
With increased pressure from customers, regulators and even shareholders, sustainable business practices are no longer optional for manufacturers. From reduced energy and materials consumption to lower emissions and ethical sourcing, manufacturers are expected to meet ambitious new goals. Luckily, the Manufacturing Leadership Council has established a new member working group devoted to helping manufacturers reach these objectives.
Support set-up: With five virtual meetings each year, the M4.0 Sustainability and Net Zero Decision Compass Group will explore key issues, best practices and challenges related to creating sustainable, compliant and environmentally friendly operating strategies.
- At the first meeting, “Next Steps in Manufacturing 4.0 Sustainability,” on March 10, attendees heard from 3M Senior Vice President of Environmental Strategies and Fluorochemical Stewardship Dr. Rebecca Teeters and Lexmark International Chief Sustainability Officer John Gagel. Both speakers are also MLC board members.
Why the new group: The MLC decided to create the group after a survey of their more than 3,300 members revealed sustainability was a top member business concern.
- “We decided that given the intensity of interest in sustainability and related subjects, such as net zero and the circular economy, this was an opportunity to dedicate a whole new group to the topic,” said MLC Co-Founder, Executive Director and Vice President David Brousell.
Good for business, too: While manufacturers have been discussing and working toward sustainability for decades, recent growing concerns about climate change and other environmental issues are making the matter increasingly urgent.
- Manufacturers that take on sustainable business practices are seeing competitive advantages ranging from cost savings to higher product quality to increased shareholder and employee satisfaction.
Lessons from manufacturing peers: The new Decision Compass group will share sustainability strategies, the real-world achievements of manufacturing companies, knowledge about the use and application of advanced technologies and timelines for implementation.
- Participants will also be able to see how they stack up against other manufacturing companies.
Get involved: The MLC offers resources to help manufacturers improve their operations and learn about digital manufacturing. To learn more about the sustainability group or find out about MLC membership, email [email protected].
Wyoming is partnering with Battelle Energy Alliance to “‘collaborate in the research, development, demonstration and deployment of advanced energy technologies and approaches,’” including nuclear power, according to The Casper Star-Tribune (subscription).
What’s happening: Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon intends for the state to “establish a nuclear industry and a sophisticated and advanced manufacturing capacity using Wyoming uranium, Wyoming technology and Wyoming workers,” according to a statement.
- Wyoming is the chosen home for the planned Natrium project, an advanced nuclear reactor to be developed by TerraPower.
- Battelle operates the Idaho National Laboratory.
Memorandum of understanding: A five-year memorandum of understanding between the Wyoming Energy Authority and the Idaho National Laboratory “specifies 14 shared areas of interest,” many of which are related to nuclear and hydrogen power.
Common goal: “According to the memorandum, the shared target is to ‘collaboratively develop a path to global leadership in a carbon-constrained economy ’ and place the state ‘at the forefront’ of the advanced energy sector.”
The Manufacturing Institute’s 10th annual STEP Ahead Awards took place in Washington, D.C., last week, honoring some of the most impressive and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry today. The Awards are part of the STEP Ahead program, which is designed to help advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production.
- The event highlighted the 2022 STEP Ahead Honorees (100 women who are leaders in manufacturing) and the 2022 STEP Ahead Emerging Leaders (30 women under 30 years old who have already had a significant impact on the industry).
The awards ceremony took place on Thursday night, with hundreds of guests in attendance at the National Building Museum and hundreds more viewing the ceremony online. The program featured:
- 2022 STEP Chair and former 3M Senior Vice President Denise Rutherford;
- 2022 STEP Vice Chair and Cornerstone Building Brands President and CEO Rose Lee;
- MI President Carolyn Lee;
- MI Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Inclusion AJ Jorgenson; and
- NAM President and CEO and MI Board Chair Jay Timmons.
Sponsors included an all-star roster of manufacturers, including Arconic Foundation, BASF Corporation, Cornerstone Building Brands, PTC, Trane Technologies, ABB, Molson Coors, Novelis, Rockwell Automation, SABIC, Sherwin-Williams and Toyota.
What they said: Carolyn Lee lauded the Honorees and spoke about the importance of closing the skills gap by bringing more women into the manufacturing industry.
- “My hope is that 10 years down the line, when we meet here for the 20th anniversary of these awards, the young women we will honor won’t have even heard of the glass ceiling, because it’ll be ancient history,” said Lee.
- “And that will be thanks to the support system, the mentorship and the sterling examples set by the women in this room and the support from our allies.”
Rutherford spoke about leaders’ opportunities to work together to make important progress.
- “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that being a great leader, as an individual or as a company, means that we don’t go it alone,” said Rutherford. “True change only happens when we work together as trusted allies, advocates and sponsors.”
Rose Lee laid out the qualities that all the Honorees showed and highlighted their shared successes.
- “The STEP Ahead Awards recognize women in science, technology, engineering and production who exemplify leadership within their companies and within their communities,” said Lee. “Tonight is their night to celebrate their accomplishments.”
Timmons praised the STEP Honorees and called on allies to continue supporting women in the manufacturing industry.
- “Your achievements, your success and your dedication are showing women what’s possible in manufacturing,” he said. “If you can see it, you know you can be it.”
35×30: Carolyn Lee and Jorgenson spoke about the 35×30 initiative—a program designed to close the skills and talent gap in manufacturing by adding half a million women workers to the industry, increasing women’s representation in manufacturing from 29% today to 35% by 2030.
- The campaign will train more than 1,000 women mentors, build new tools and resources and work with manufacturing leaders to deploy proven strategies to attract and retain female talent.
- It will also support young women throughout their education by offering best-in-class leadership development programming and creating a STEP alumnae-funded scholarship.
- “Tonight, we are done with waiting for other leaders to ‘change things,’ to make society better, more equitable,” said Jorgenson. “We are the leaders. So, tonight, we ask you to join us, to lead.”
New commitments: To help this new initiative along its way, Arconic Foundation President Ryan Kish and Ketchie CEO Courtney Silver stood up during the ceremony to pledge new financial commitments to the program.
The last word: The gala featured a stellar musical performance by award-winning singer–songwriter Rachel Platten, which left not a dry eye in the house. Inspired by the women of STEP, she surprised the audience by singing a new song she’d written for her daughters. It captures what the women leaders of today want to tell the girls who will someday be their heirs:
Girls, you were born to run. To reach the stars and chase the sun.
Girls, you’re wild and free. The wind is at your back, the world is at your feet.
Regulatory inertia on self-driving cars is putting manufacturers in the U.S. at a disadvantage, but Congress can help by expanding automakers’ ability to test and ultimately sell the vehicles, industry advocates said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday, according to ABC News.
What’s going on: “Currently [automated vehicle] manufacturers can deploy a maximum of 2,500 self-driving vehicles for testing, provided they have permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. AV advocates have complained that the limits represent a bottleneck that is holding back the growth of the industry at a crucial time.”
What’s being requested: One of the bills considered during Wednesday’s markup is an updated version of a 2017 measure on AV regulations that passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
- AV advocates point to data that shows reports of accidents involving these cars are exaggerated and the cutting-edge safety technology can be more reliable than human drivers in avoiding crashes.
- The issue of liability in case of an accident, however, remains a major point of contention in legislative progress. “Each one of these [crashes] is still going to be subject to a plaintiff’s lawyer, an insurance company and a defense lawyer,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) said. “And until we’ve figured that out, this is just a science project.”
Safety data: An analysis of the first 1 million miles of AV use by Cruise AV—the self-driving vehicle unit of General Motors—showed the cars to have a significantly better safety record than human drivers, CEO Kyle Vogt said on an earnings call this week.
- There were 54% fewer collisions and 92% fewer crashes in which the AV was at fault, Vogt said.
The last word: “The expansion of AVs into our national transportation system is an opportunity to lead by enhancing safety on our roadways, improving transportation mobility and increasing efficient goods movement across our strained supply chains,” said NAM Director of Transportation Policy Ben Siegrist.
- “Manufacturers are on the cutting edge of vehicle technology research and development, and improving the federal regulatory landscape is a necessary step to grow the American AV industry into a global economic engine.”
Bluffton, S.C. – Today, the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce was honored with the 2023 Leadership Award from the Conference of State Manufacturers Associations, whose members also serve as the National Association of Manufacturers’ official state partners and drive manufacturers’ priorities on state issues, mobilize local communities and help move federal policy from the ground up in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. WMC was recognized for their work to attract and maintain the manufacturing workforce.
“We congratulate Kurt Bauer and the entire team at WMC for their incredible work this year to not only educate the next generation of manufacturing workers in Wisconsin, but also engage the business community at large to help spur investment in the state,” said Utah Manufacturers Association President and CEO, NAM board member and COSMA Chair Todd Bingham. “Their work shows the impact that we can all have to help make the United States the top destination in the world for manufacturing investment.”
The Leadership Award recognizes the achievement of a state manufacturing association that has developed impactful initiatives to support manufacturers and strengthen manufacturing in their state. Some of the initiatives that set WMC apart were their Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin and Business World, which teach young people about entrepreneurship and free enterprise and promote manufacturing job opportunities in the state. Additionally, as part of WMC’s official mission to make Wisconsin the best place for business, the Future Wisconsin Project brings together diverse interest groups to identify and address the state’s long-term economic challenges and opportunities, including solutions to workforce challenges.
“The work of WMC to inspire the workforce of the future is a prime example of what’s needed to address the critical challenges that our sector faces today,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Under Kurt Bauer’s leadership, the WMC is advancing the solutions needed to make manufacturers more competitive and ensure manufacturing remains a key driver of Wisconsin’s economy.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.91 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 55% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.
For Ketchie President and Owner Courtney Silver, retention all starts with culture. “I’m really happy to be here” is a phrase she hears often on her shop floor—and it tells her that the work culture at her company is in good shape.
- “A culture of empowerment that’s built on trust really fuels our team I think,” said Silver, who is the chair of the NAM’s Small and Medium Manufacturers Group. “They find so much dignity and purpose in fulfilling our mission here at Ketchie.”
Maintaining a high-performing, motivated and engaged workforce is a top priority for the third-generation precision machine shop in Concord, North Carolina, and Silver has implemented a number of strategies to keep it that way.
Team recognition: Every Wednesday, during Ketchie’s shift meeting, employees have the opportunity to recognize their team members for any achievement, big or small.
- “Recognition can be about anything,” says Silver. “It can be ‘Fred over there was able to cut five minutes of cycle time off this particular part because he changed the process’ or ‘Mary saved us money by switching out some tooling.’ We then post the feedback in the break room and email it out to the entire organization.”
- “There are so many things that can go wrong in manufacturing just trying to get a part out the door, and this is an opportunity to think about all the amazing things we’re doing,” she explained.
Silver also posts worker productivity charts every week. If workers meet their productivity goals and their indirect time goals, they get performance points, which are redeemable for gift cards.
- “I think people want to know if they’re on a winning team,” Silver said. “If you’re winning, it feels good. We’re all on the bus going in the same direction.”
Motivator Award: Each year, employees can also nominate a peer for the “Motivator Award,” which goes to the employee who best exemplifies Ketchie’s core values: to do the right thing, be agile and embrace continuous improvement.
- To honor the winner, Silver puts together a tribute video of team members sharing their thoughts about the employee and hosts a company brunch in celebration (to which the employee’s family is invited).
- “The winner also receives their own special parking spot, an extra day of vacation and a $1,000 gift certificate to the Marriott to take vacation with their family,” says Silver.
- “The team member that won the award last year had tears in his eyes, so I know that it’s been really impactful,” she continued.
Community service: Ketchie’s employees are passionate about giving back to the community. Through service projects, Ketchie supports the Boys & Girls Clubs of America as well as Cooperative Christian Ministry, which offers programs that relieve hunger and food insecurity and address homelessness and housing costs.
Opportunity Knocks: Silver isn’t only working to retain and support current employees, but also to train and mold the young people who will be tomorrow’s machinists.
- This year, Silver started an internship program for high school students named Opportunity Knocks. It allows students to shadow experienced machinists in factory environments while earning school credit.
- The interns go through a curriculum created by Edgerton Gear, Inc., called Craftsman with Character, a 16-week course that helps students explore the role of character in a professional trades environment. Silver said the course, which includes leadership and manufacturing-focused exercises, is taught at Ketchie four days a week in two-hour sessions. Three days of the week are job shadowing machinists on the shop floor, and one day is in a classroom setting at the shop discussing character traits and soft skills. The conversations lean on discovering what’s important in life and what might make them happy.
- “They absolutely love these high schoolers,” said Silver about the two mentors at Ketchie, who each have more than 30 years’ experience. “It gives them an opportunity to share their entire work career: what they’re doing, experiences learned along the way. It’s been neat to see.”
Investing in technology: Silver knows her team wants to work for a company that’s growing and investing in technology. She recently purchased a machine-tending collaborative robot, which takes over machinists’ “least favorite” part of the job—changing parts while the machines run.
- “I interviewed somebody recently who said to me in the interview, ‘It’s really good to see that you want to grow and that you’re making these big investments,’” said Silver. “You’re buying new technology that excites them. They want to be part of that mission and growth.”
The last word: Silver shared some advice for companies that might be struggling with workforce retention.
- “Use employee surveys, focus groups or roundtable discussions to see what you need to do or should do. Everyone wants to be heard. It’s important to listen.”
The NAM’s workforce development and education affiliate, the Manufacturing Institute, has many initiatives to help employers retain and develop their teams. For a deeper dive, check out this study by the MI on improving retention and employee engagement. The MI will also explore retention challenges and solutions at its Workforce Summit in Atlanta on Oct. 16–18. Click here for more information.
Lack of flexibility is a top workforce challenge for employees, according to a recent report released by the MI. To address this concern and help employees attract and retain more workers, the MI has been convening manufacturing leaders to discuss flexibility solutions, identify what’s working and share insights. Here are some of the key takeaways.
The shop floor challenge: Flexible work arrangements for shop floor workers are different from those offered to office staff or remote workers, as manufacturers must fulfill in-person production requirements and timelines.
- Companies have gotten creative, testing out different options including compressed work weeks, rotating schedules, flex scheduling, shift swapping and phased retirements.
A data-driven approach: Participants in the MI’s working group conducted surveys to gauge the types of flexibility their employees wanted. Companies then assessed production needs before determining what flexibility options they would test, sometimes with the help of a consultant.
- One company collected data on recruitment and retention as part of their pilot to help evaluate its effectiveness.
- Other companies utilized employee engagement surveys to assess the success of their pilots.
Support system: Companies in the working group talked about the importance of creating support structures for flexibility plans.
- For example, one company hired a training and scheduling coordinator to manage their new systems. Others employed technology platforms to organize shifts.
- Supervisors also needed to be trained to handle new systems and manage flexibility requests while meeting production demands, the participants noted.
Stay tuned: The MI is planning to release a white paper based on the working group discussions in the fall.
For Michael Canty, president and CEO of Alloy Precision Technologies, Inc., of Mentor, Ohio, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed air quality regulations are likely to backfire. They would put a significant burden on the natural gas industry, which has played a large part in America’s efforts to reduce pollution to date.
- “Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it’s one of the cleanest fossil fuels,” said Canty. “It’s one of the reasons why this country has met clean air standards over the years.”
This is just one of the reasons why Canty, whose company produces industrial bellows, is concerned that policymakers haven’t fully considered the rules’ consequences.
Unintended consequences: Part of the problem with the EPA’s proposed regulations, according to Canty, is that they are likely to promote production in less regulated countries around the world and contribute to more emissions overall.
- “With some of these costly regulations, we’re driving our energy prices to a much higher level and driving production of business to places like China that are creating more emission,” said Canty. “So we’re creating worse air quality control around the world while losing jobs and stifling growth in our country.”
A push for innovation: Canty wants policies that spur innovation and tech development to achieve cleaner air, rather than imposing restrictive regulations.
- “The focus should be on encouraging new technology to drive efficiencies and reduce air pollutants,” said Canty. “If the cost of doing business goes up, you have less cash to put in that innovation. As the cost of energy goes up, the amount of energy innovation goes down—especially when you talk about small businesses.”
A plea for consistency: Businesses like Alloy Precision Technologies are also frustrated by the unstable regulatory environment, which seems to shift every few years.
- “When these policies change it makes it impossible for companies to make decisions about investing in equipment and smart manufacturing,” said Canty. “It disrupts the business marketplace, and it greatly affects our ability to produce and compete around the world.”
The last word: “Do I believe we ought to continue investing in newer technologies that will improve our air quality? Absolutely,” said Canty. “These regulations are well meant, but the end result will be disastrous for businesses and the United States.”
Today’s atmospheric pollution could become tomorrow’s building materials.
In February, Central Concrete, a subsidiary of Vulcan Materials Company, and carbon-removal firms Heirloom Carbon and CarbonCure, achieved an industry first: permanently trapping carbon dioxide from direct air capture in concrete using reclaimed-water technology.
How they did it: The firms took carbon dioxide captured from the air by Heirloom’s technology to a Central Concrete plant, and in a process developed by the Nova Scotia–headquartered CarbonCure, injected it into water that had been used to wash out concrete trucks. That water was then used to make new concrete.
- “Carbon dioxide reacts with calcium ions in the cement mix and turns into limestone—calcium carbonate,” said Alana Guzzetta, manager of Vulcan Materials Company’s National Research Laboratory in San Jose, California. “Once it’s there, it is very stable and stays as that limestone throughout the life of the concrete, even after demolition.”
Why it’s important: “Concrete is the most-used manmade material in the world,” Guzzetta said. “One reason is its versatility. We can take the same core ingredients and get a variety of capabilities and any shape. That’s where the topic of reducing embodied carbon [the greenhouse gases emitted during manufacturing and construction] becomes a big one.”
- The February demonstration captured approximately 66 pounds of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of a car driving about 75 miles, according to reporting by Reuters.
- The process is also “going to better allow us to reduce the potable water demand,” Guzzetta said. “We’re implementing it and doing testing to figure out the right levels of carbon dioxide [to get] the best reclaimed water consistency, CO2 sequestering and performance with the potential to reduce embodied carbon.”
Sustainability-minded: February’s direct-air capture demonstration is one of many efforts that builds on the company’s decades-long dedication to environmental sustainability. In 2022, Vulcan also:
- Met its goal of securing 5% of all electricity from renewables;
- Supported biodiversity by maintaining projects certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council at 40 sites;
- Sustained a 98% environmental compliance rate across its 22-state footprint; and
- Supplied 2.1 million tons of recycled asphalt pavement and 1.7 million tons of recycled concrete to projects.
Moving forward: Vulcan Materials’ National Research Laboratory continues to test new products and form collaborations with other entities to develop lower carbon concrete and concrete with more sequestered CO2.
- “Any way that we can continue to trap additional carbon dioxide on the production side continues to offer us more ways to do lower-carbon construction projects,” Guzzetta said. “It just keeps moving us forward.”