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.
We all learn by example. That simple principle lies behind an ambitious undertaking by the World Economic Forum: to build a network of manufacturers that have succeeded in adopting Manufacturing 4.0 technologies, and that can act as ambassadors and educators for the whole global industry.
It’s called the WEF Global Lighthouse Network, and it’s already yielding fruitful partnerships and useful information. Recently, WEF Head of Advanced Manufacturing Francisco Betti sat down with the MLC to explain how it works.
Lighting the way: The Global Lighthouse Network emerged from a research partnership with McKinsey, which looked into what holds manufacturers back from embracing M4.0 technologies.
- After talking to more than 400 senior leaders, the researchers discovered that only 30% of companies were benefitting from technology adoption in their facilities and supply chains.
- As Betti puts it, “The majority were stuck in what we define as ‘Pilot Purgatory.’ There were massive investments being made in new technologies, and thousands of pilot projects underway, but very few were making it to the shop floor or delivering real operational financial value.”
That’s where the Lighthouse companies come in—the WEF decided to ask some of that 30% to open their doors and teach the rest of the industry how to make the digital jump.
How it’s going: Currently, the Lighthouse network has 69 members, assessed by a rigorous and independent review process. Betti says, “What is interesting is that we have companies from a large variety of sectors, and that is by design. . . . The opportunity for cross-learning here is massive.”
- The project is looking for use cases at factories, but also beyond. Many of the real winners in the digital game transform their entire supply chains, and the WEF is also looking to add those sorts of companies to their network.
Get involved: Companies can apply to be a part of the network, says Betti. The process involves an application, which covers both achievements and strategies, and culminates in a site visit.
- “The panel convenes on a quarterly basis to assess all the applications, vote and decide on those who finally get recognized as Lighthouses in the network.”
The transformation: Betti sees the M4.0 technologies as transforming whole economies and enabling “a new era of economic growth.” He makes a bold prediction about its effects on manufacturing leadership:
- “We are under the impression that there is a trend that we will most likely see going forward where chief operating officers will become the next generation of CEOs. Those who know how to successfully run operations by transforming them digitally are most likely going to provide top leadership positions in the near future.”
The last word: “If you transform digitally, and you do that by bringing your people on board, you have not only become more productive, you’re not only becoming more resilient, you’re not only becoming more sustainable, but you are setting your organization for growth in the years ahead.”
In a world that only ever speeds up, manufacturers need to embrace technologies that let them shift operations quickly and seamlessly. Manufacturing 4.0 technologies like machine learning and robotics provide that power, but the scale of the M4.0 transformation can seem overwhelming.
In a recent edition of the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Manufacturing Leadership Journal, Oracle Senior Director of Transformational Technologies Anant Kadiyala lays out six factors that make all the difference for successful M4.0 adaptation. Below is some of his advice.
Technology Adoption: Companies that consider the full range of technology’s benefits are setting themselves up for success. Some trends to consider:
- Software is becoming more integral to business operations and product functionality—allowing products to be configured and monitored in real time using analytics.
- On the operational side, the industrial internet of things and machine vision are enabling a whole host of advances in real-time monitoring, anomaly detection and worker safety, among other uses.
Data-Driven Decision Making: Companies that make good use of data achieve higher margins than their peers, according to a McKinsey study, but that requires some key ingredients, including:
- A unified data infrastructure, including APIs, applications, analytics, real-time systems and much more;
- The right tools to process the data; and
- Employees who are skilled in data-driven operations.
“In most companies, 90% of the data goes unused. In addition, more than 70% of the time and effort in data science projects is often spent on moving, cleaning and preparing data,” says Kadiyala.
New Business Models: “Modern technologies, such as cloud, IoT and AI/ML, enable every manufacturer to have the sophistication of business operations and real-time feedback loops that were only enjoyed by the big players,” says Kadiyala.
Innovation and Experimentation: Manufacturers can pursue different options for innovation, with partnerships being a common choice. Other methods might be design workshops or R&D investments, Kadiyala notes.
- “With the right people, processes and tools, companies can navigate faster and realize value quicker. The lean methodology that the manufacturing industry is renowned for also works very well for innovation.”
Well-Integrated Teams: The right talent is critical to business transformation—and good data, process automation and collaborative practices clear the way for employees’ success.
Culture: As Kadiyala puts it, “Successful companies start early innovation on the edges of their business, deliver a few wins and then gradually build their way into the rest of the organization. All successful transformations need employees to enjoy a strong sense of purpose and mission for the change.”
With 19 global locations, ALOM Technologies Corporation specializes in technology-driven supply chains for Fortune 100 companies. ALOM President and CEO Hannah Kain recently sat down with the Manufacturing Leadership Council to share her thoughts on the state of the industry and the keys to successful leadership.
Taking on challenges: Over the long term, Kain sees workforce development—finding and training the next generation of manufacturing leaders—as a significant priority. But in the short term, she cites COVID-19- and trade-related supply chain disruptions as the most pressing issues.
- “Shifts in demand have increased the need for agility in manufacturing, yet U.S. infrastructure, from ports and roads to cybersecurity, is under extreme strain, and geopolitics have made goods movement more complex,” she said.
Meeting the moment: During the COVID-19 pandemic, ALOM manufactured millions of COVID-19 test kits for the medical sector while ensuring its own workers remained safe, Kain said. The company also met the past year’s challenges by investing in digitization to improve its productivity.
Finding opportunities: Kain cites a range of opportunities for manufacturers of the future, from fast-improving technologies to the availability of new manufacturing talent—if manufacturers can find and harness it.
The importance of culture: Kain believes in what she calls “servant leadership”—seeing yourself as a supporter of stakeholders like customers, employees and suppliers and working to put their needs first. She strives to create a culture of collaboration within her own company.
The last word: “In the end, culture is the company, and the company is the culture,” said Kain. “Our culture is inclusive, collaborative, improvement-oriented and quality-focused, with a strong sense of ownership. Supporting that culture may be the most important thing I do.”
The shortage of semiconductors and its impact on all sorts of manufacturers have been making headlines for months. NAM Director of Innovation Policy Stephanie Hall spoke to us recently about what’s going on and how the NAM is helping.
What it impacts: Semiconductors are ubiquitous in manufacturing, showing up in all sorts of products, from cars and trucks to home appliances to personal electronics. That means a disruption in the semiconductor supply chain is not limited to any one sector but is widely felt across manufacturing.
- “The semiconductor issue has shown how one small piece of the supply chain can have ripple effects for customers and manufacturers,” said Hall. “They are literally a very tiny part of lots of things, but they are a critical part of processes and products in manufacturing.”
Why it’s happening: There are a few different reasons for the shortage of semiconductors—and most of the acute reasons are related to the COVID-19 pandemic, from changes in market demand to shifts in consumer needs.
- A few months into the pandemic, the demand for vehicles shot up, and manufacturers had to ramp back up from earlier slowdowns. At the same time, people were buying more devices to enable remote work, school and life.
However, the need for more chips isn’t going away. It will only increase as more technologies become essential to daily life and Manufacturing 4.0 advances in the industry.
A complex system: The nature of chips supply chains also poses challenges. For example, semiconductor products can cross international borders 70 times before the end product reaches a consumer, and the complexity of the process limits manufacturers’ ability to ramp up quickly.
An extensive impact: In addition to affecting the end manufacturers of products, the shortage has also created ripples across the supply chain.
- “If you supply chemicals that go into tires that make their way into autos, and then there’s a production slowdown in autos, that will impact the chemical and parts suppliers all along the supply chain,” said Hall. “That’s why it has an impact across the economy, and why it’s front and center for leaders in manufacturing and policymakers alike.”
What we’re doing: The short-term solution involves working with allies and partners across the globe to ensure an effective and efficient supply chain. Over the long term, the NAM is focused on increasing domestic chipmaking capacity here in the United States, and the government and industry are moving now to make that a reality. Congress recently passed a bill to create a significant incentives program for building out domestic capacity. Now, the NAM is advocating for Congress to fund the programs that were authorized—a proposal that has bipartisan support.
The last word: “This isn’t just about one product—it’s about the future of the manufacturing industry and whether we can be well-positioned to deliver on our innovation potential,” said Hall. “That’s why we need policies that strengthen our supply chain, promote our ability to compete and unleash the power of the men and women who make things in America.”
Vicki Holt wants to tell you about digitization. The recently retired CEO of Protolabs, Holt got her start in manufacturing more than 40 years ago and has seen the industry transformed by digital technologies. “By helping manufacturers seize the opportunities of digitization, I believe I am helping them innovate and solve some of the world’s problems,” she explains.
Over the course of her career, Holt led the glass division of PPG, making homes and buildings more energy efficient with solar glazing, then developed sustainable packaging as CEO of Spartech, and from there took charge of digital manufacturing powerhouse Protolabs. We talked to Holt recently about her career, as well as her tenure as the vice chair of the NAM’s Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturers Group, NAM Executive Committee member and as a board member of the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. Though she has retired from both roles, she remains a key figure in the NAM’s orbit, having recently become a board member at The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM.
Why the NAM? Holt explains that when she was asked to join the NAM in 2016, she saw it as an opportunity to help manufacturers learn.
- “It was a way for me to get involved and give back, at a time when manufacturing was on the cusp of a new technological revolution,” she says. “I didn’t get involved to influence policy in Washington, but to influence manufacturers themselves.”
By 2017, she had been elected the vice chair of the NAM’s SMM Group, a position she held until her retirement this year. As she notes, the collaboration between the big companies and the smaller ones at the NAM benefits everyone:
- “For example, the big companies were able to dedicate teams to figuring out COVID-19 safety in their factories, and the small and medium-sized companies learned from them. But the big companies also need the smaller ones, because they are essential to supply chains.”
An example of innovation: Holt holds up Protolabs as a prime example of what digitization can do.
- “It used to take companies a long time to innovate, which would stretch out the time for product development. It would take months to make a custom part. Protolabs’ founder broke apart all the things that go into manufacturing a custom injection mold tool and automated the process. What used to take weeks could now be done in a day or two, and all using e-commerce.”
Holt remains an avid watcher of digitization trends, observing that “COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to B-to-B e-commerce throughout the industry, making manufacturers more comfortable connecting to their suppliers digitally.”
Getting manufacturers together: While she was involved with the NAM, Holt also served as a board member of the MLC, which the NAM acquired in 2018 with her encouragement.
- “What I’ve learned through the MLC is that manufacturers are really generous in sharing their learning with other companies,” Holt says. “And that sharing fuels innovation and collaboration.”
- “The MLC complements the NAM,” she adds, “because the NAM is about creating a policy environment that nurtures manufacturing. The MLC is about sharing knowledge about the manufacturing process itself.”
What’s next? Holt is keeping active in retirement. She serves as a board member of several companies—including water heater and treatment maker A.O. Smith Corporation, Waste Management and financial services firm Piper Sandler.
- She is focusing on sustainability in several of these roles and was encouraged to see the Biden administration’s plan for emissions reduction. As she puts it, “If you can unleash manufacturers to innovate, we can reach those targets, even if we don’t have the answers today.”
Holt is also passionate about the mission of the MI:
- “If manufacturers are going to achieve our potential in innovation and digitization, we’ve got to attract people to the industry and show them it’s moved on since the 50s,” she says. “Our frontline employees now solve problems and improve operations in a high-tech environment.”
The last word: Holt says about her time at the NAM, the MLC and the MI, “I’ve just been so impressed with the leaders I’ve met there and their dedication to collaborating and tackling issues like diversity and inclusion. I really appreciate the opportunities afforded to me by being involved in these organizations.”
When COVID-19 upended their operations, LumenFocus—a manufacturer of LED light fixtures—saw an opportunity to be of service. It quickly pivoted to developing products that inactivate viruses and kill bacteria with certain UV wavelengths, called UVC wavelengths. These products, which may be used in businesses, schools and hospitals, can make shared environments safer for everyone.
The company’s new solutions also caught the attention of the military. Recently, the Department of Defense awarded LumenFocus a significant portion of a $2.3 million contract to develop a prototype for military operations. LumenFocus President and CEO Charles Kassay said after the announcement, “As an American company, we are thrilled at the opportunity to be developing products to help our servicemen and servicewomen.”
So how did LumenFocus come up with these virus-inactivating fixtures?
How they did it: Before the pandemic, LumenFocus had only manufactured LED light fixtures. But when COVID-19 hit, the company directed its R&D teams to research solutions for eradicating pathogens like COVID-19.
- “We knew about ultraviolet light and its potential for disinfection, but it wasn’t an avenue we had traversed before,” says Marketing Coordinator Eric Robinson. “Once we understood the science behind UV, we combined this with our knowledge and experience in engineering light fixtures, and our fabrication capabilities, to create products for pathogen eradication.”
What they’re making: LumenFocus speedily developed a range of products that offer different means of sanitization for different customers’ needs. Some include:
- The new PathogenFocus product line: These products use nonthermal plasma technology for continuous air and surface disinfection in buildings, either in conjunction with existing HVACs or as standalone units. They have been scientifically proven to reduce up to 99.99% of common pathogens (including bacteria and viruses) quickly and effectively, according to the company.
- Direct UVC units for unoccupied rooms: These products are intended for unoccupied spaces, as they provide a high dosage of UVC to eradicate pathogens quickly. The UVC fixtures can be ceiling mounted or recessed into grid ceilings.
- Germicidal upper air units: These fixtures can be used in occupied spaces, as the UVC treats only the upper zone in the room, not the lower zone where people are. As the air circulates, it flows into the plane of UVC irradiation, where the pathogens are killed or inactivated.
- A portable UVC Tower that can be wheeled around to unoccupied rooms, such as classrooms or offices, and which uses a higher dose of UVC to eradicate viruses and bacteria in a very short time.
The last word: As Kassay says, “The LumenFocus team has been tirelessly working on ways to implement pathogen-eradicating technology. Lighting is just one area where we can help—and that’s an area where we have a lot of experience. Our goal is to develop solutions that will help Americans get back to work in safer, healthier environments. And, if a similar unfortunate situation like COVID-19 arises in the future, we hope that these solutions can help us fight it.”
As manufacturing goes through digital transformation, small to medium-sized manufacturers have just as much opportunity to reimagine their operations as large businesses. And to help these companies think through their options, the NAM and Stanley Black & Decker got together to host a Creators Wanted virtual session on making use of “Industry 4.0” technologies.
Who participated: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree spoke at the event. Other business leaders and government officials, including Connecticut Business & Industry Association President and CEO Chris DiPentima, also joined the session.
Inside Manufacturing 4.0: “All of us want to be a part of Manufacturing 4.0, a fourth Industrial Revolution in manufacturing, powered by digital and smart technology,” said Timmons. “There’s literally no business that can’t benefit from tapping into digital transformation. And today’s event is about demonstrating that keeping your business state of the art, on the cutting edge, is truly easier than you think.”
Why now? U.S. manufacturing is at a pivotal moment and will play a central part in the ongoing economic recovery. Adopting digital tools should be a part of the strategy, according to Loree.
- “As every one of us strives to put the health challenges of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, we all have a responsibility to assist with the economic recovery that must follow,” he said. “Manufacturing must and will play a critical role, and we can supercharge it.”
Getting started: One key tool under discussion was the Smart Industry Readiness Index Assessment, a comprehensive technology evaluation and independent review that can help businesses modernize.
- Bead Industries CEO Jill Mayer said at the event that what she needs as an executive is a snapshot of the current technology landscape and an understanding of her company’s future needs. That’s what a SIRI assessment can deliver.
- The assessment, which takes roughly two days, can help identify technology gaps and inefficiencies, while also helping companies create structured plans for purchasing equipment. The reviews are conducted by certified assessors who understand manufacturing and can help businesses through this key transition.
A broader landscape: In addition to individual innovations and technology, Stanley Black & Decker Chief Technology Officer of Global Operations Sudhi Bangalore cited the importance of innovation and economic manufacturing ecosystems.
- A strong innovation ecosystem can include government experts, upskilling programs, a thriving community of small and medium-sized enterprises and more, according to Bangalore.
- Gov. Lamont added that Connecticut is home to one such ecosystem and cited manufacturing education as a crucial area where government and industry can work together to grow the economy.
Closing thoughts: “I would consider this next year an extraordinary opportunity as we change the way we do business in state government and what we do in manufacturing,” said Gov. Lamont.
To watch the whole session, click here.
More than half of all manufacturers will be testing or using fifth-generation cellular wireless technology (aka 5G) in some capacity by the end of 2021, according to a new study from The Manufacturing Institute. The big numbers:
- 91% of manufacturers believe 5G connectivity will be important to the overall future of their businesses.
- 91% of manufacturers indicate speed of 5G deployment will have a positive impact on their ability to compete globally.
- 88% of manufacturers indicate 5G connectivity will allow engineers to troubleshoot remotely.
All-encompassing: 5G is poised to help manufacturers in almost every part of their businesses, according to the study.
- Nine in ten manufacturers expect the utilization of 5G to lead to the creation of new processes (88%) and new businesses (86%). It can make supply chains more efficient and both machines and workers more productive. It also will likely lead to new improvements no one has anticipated yet.
Drilling down: Let’s look at just one facet of 5G’s potential impact: its effects on factory operations. This is how comprehensive the 5G transformation is expected to be:
- Four-fifths of manufacturers indicate 5G technology will be important to inventory tracking (83%), facility security (81%) and warehousing and logistics (81%) within their facilities.
- Three-fourths of manufacturers indicate 5G will also be important to inspection (76%) and assembly (76%) activities, with seven in ten saying packaging (72%) and employee training (71%) efforts will benefit from the deployment of 5G.
And let’s not overlook the fact that more than 90% of manufacturers expect cost savings of approximately 38% from their 5G connections.
Competitive advantage: “Manufacturers’ competitiveness depends on their ability to continuously improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations, and disruptive technologies are changing the way that firms innovate and produce,” said the Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research Director and NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray.
More information: You can join the Institute for a webinar on 5G technologies on Tuesday, April 6, at 2:00 p.m. ET. Register here.
You may not know it, but one company has the capacity to manufacture bulk drug substance for more than a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines annually: Emergent BioSolutions, a global supplier for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and U.S. supplier for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Emergent Executive Vice President of Manufacturing and Technical Operations Sean Kirk spoke with us recently to explain what goes into the heroic production of all these doses—in other words, what it takes to help defeat COVID-19.
How the vaccine works: The complexity begins with the vaccines themselves, which are amazing feats of bioengineering. The two vaccines have broadly similar structures, though they are made by separate, quarantined production lines in the Emergent facility. (As Kirk says, you can’t even take a wrench from one production suite to the other.)
You can think of this type of vaccine as a sort of beneficial Trojan Horse:
- Particles of a virus called an adenovirus, which usually causes cold and flu-like symptoms, are engineered to hold the DNA of SARS-CoV-2 (the official name of the coronavirus)—and to not be infectious themselves.
- Those adenovirus particles enter your cells and program them to produce a component of SARS-CoV-2 called a spike protein.
- That process provokes an immune response, teaching your system how to defeat the real COVID-19.
So how do you make it? As you might guess, making such a precise vaccine is itself a complicated and delicate process.
- You need to make a lot of modified adenovirus particles very fast, while ensuring they aren’t infectious and can deliver their payload of SARS-CoV-2 DNA.
- To cut a long story very short, the production process involves “infecting living cells [with the modified adenovirus] and turning them into virus factories,” as science writer Derek Lowe says.
Where Emergent comes in: Emergent handles the manufacturing process, which results in something called “bulk drug substance,” Kirk explains.
- “Our facility produces the high concentration active pharmaceutical ingredients, the viral vectors themselves,” he says. “Then we freeze them down and ship them out to what’s called a fill/finish facility, which dilutes the concentrate and fills vials or syringes with it.”
The numbers: That concentrate will eventually become part of the 100 million Johnson & Johnson doses and 300 million AstraZeneca doses purchased by the U.S. government.
What it takes: Kirk gave us a glimpse of just how much effort went into getting ready for a new vaccine.
- 6 or 7 months: That’s all Emergent had, for a process that normally takes years. Consider how much goes into it, Kirk says: ordering equipment, getting that equipment to work correctly and comply with regulations, “working out the kinks from the complex biological manufacturing process”—and then scaling it up and optimizing it to make large quantities of vaccines as quickly and safely as possible.
- 800 new jobs: Emergent had to increase hiring, adding approximately 800 new jobs in 2020, many of which were dedicated to COVID-19 response across three Maryland sites.
- Group effort: Emergent works incredibly closely with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, along with the U.S. government and the company’s own suppliers. “We have leveraged U.S. government rated orders to get access to critical raw materials and equipment. We’ve depended upon certain suppliers, who were likewise rallying to the cause, to really step up and ramp up their overall capability and capacity,” says Kirk.
Why can’t you go faster? Kirk says he gets this question all the time and wants to impress upon readers that these are very complex biologic manufacturing processes.
- “They are highly regulated, highly technical and have to be highly reproducible,” he continued. “We are growing living cells and then we are infecting them with these viral vectors.”
- Furthermore, everything that Emergent produces must have the same characteristics of the product used in the clinical trials—“that’s the essence of biologic vaccine development,” Kirk says. “That’s the only way you can ensure safety and efficacy.”
The last word: Kirk tells us what he tells his employees: “It’s unbelievably difficult, more difficult than anything I’ve done in my entire career. But I can’t think of a more awesome opportunity to leave an indelible mark on the course of human history. We are going to help return a degree of normalcy to society. We’re going to help reunite families, open up economies and put a smile on children’s faces when they go back to school. And that’s an honorable and amazing thing.”
This article is the first in an exclusive four-part series on Emergent’s accelerated production efforts.