Research, Innovation and Technology

Manufacturing doesn’t just use cutting-edge technology—we create it. The manufacturing sector accounts for three-quarters of all private-sector research and development in the nation, giving our industry a critical competitive edge and providing our highly-skilled employees with vital support.

Business Operations

“What’s Ahead for 2022?” Predicts Growth, Continued Challenges

Get the Latest News

Get involved

Remote work, digital twins, an increased focus on sustainability and continued talent shortages: these are just some of the trends affecting manufacturers that we’re likely to see in 2022 and beyond, according to a group of expert panelists on the recent Manufacturing Leadership Council’s “What’s Ahead in 2022?” Critical Issues Panel. The NAM’s MLC is a global business leadership network dedicated helping to senior executives leverage digital transformation in the manufacturing industry.

We rounded up some of the top predictions as they pertain to manufacturers.

Economy

  • Manufacturing production will continue to be strong, said panelist and NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. Toward the end of 2021, it was 2% above February 2020, “a sign that we’re continuing to move in the right direction despite … continuing supply chain challenges.”
  • S. labor-force participation is not likely to return “where it was pre-pandemic,” Moutray said. “A fair share of that is coming from retirement … [and] some people who are continuing to worry about child care and schooling.”
  • The economy will grow about 4% in 2022, Moutray predicted.

Policy

  • Washington will make moves to ease supply chain problems. “Congress knows they must do something to unleash the bottlenecks,” said panelist and NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse. Legislation could involve workforce-participation incentivization in the form of training programs, as well as giving additional resources to ports.
  • The vaccination and testing Emergency Temporary Standard will be “an area for continued movement” in 2022, Newhouse said.

Technology

  • Technology will find ways to cope with what are likely to be ongoing workforce shortages, IDC Energy and Manufacturing Insights Group Vice President Kevin Prouty said. These will include automation and technologies to enable virtual and remote work.
  • More manufacturers will begin using vision analytics, Prouty said, owing to the increased affordability of cameras and the ease with which footage can be analyzed, shared and moved in the cloud.
  • Use of artificial intelligence will start to become the norm among manufacturers rather than the exception, panelist and MLC Content Director Penelope Brown said. “We’re seeing manufacturers move away from that research phase and much more toward a roadmap” for how they’re going to use AI in their plants.

Environment

  • There will be greater, more widespread movement toward sustainability. In a recent MLC survey of manufacturers, 87% said they believed manufacturing had a responsibility to society to be more sustainable, Brown said.

Dive in deeper with the MLC’s recently redesigned website, and ensure your team has access to the MLC’s full network and suite of intel, events and other resources.

Business Operations

When and How Will Manufacturing Achieve Net-Zero Emissions?

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

When it comes to sustainability, the question is no longer whether manufacturing needs to work to create a greener industrial future—it’s when.

To help manufacturers advance their sustainability efforts and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council has dedicated the December/January issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal to Manufacturing 4.0 sustainability.

Key Highlights from the Latest ML Journal

  • Sustainability survey: Review the results of the MLC’s latest M4.0 sustainability survey to understand manufacturing-leader sentiment about climate change. Learn how the pandemic is changing the way leaders prioritize sustainability and net-zero strategies. Plus, find out how sustainability can affect future growth and competitiveness.
  • Practical examples: See what forward-thinking companies such as Procter & Gamble are doing to slash emissions and fight climate change. Also, discover M4.0 strategies and technologies to help you develop your own net-zero action plan.
  • Current conversation: Understand the successes, opportunities and challenges in the race to achieve net zero by 2050. Hear from thought leaders such as MLC Co-Founder David Brousell and Lisle Corporation President Mary Lisle Landhuis.
  • Potential obstacles: Learn the roadblocks to developing a sustainability program and how to overcome them. Know the challenges of adopting a circular-economy mindset and why it’s well worth having.

Why the ML Journal matters: Sustainability is just one of the exciting topics discussed in the ML Journal. Throughout the year, you’ll find case studies, interviews, technology showcases and deep insights on M4.0 from manufacturers working on the front lines. The Journal is a quick, easy way to stay current on the digital revolution—and sharpen your company’s competitive edge.

Click here to receive trial access to the entire December/January issue on M4.0 sustainability or to browse articles on a range of topics from past issues.

Policy and Legal

Global Semiconductor Shortage Leads to Backordered Gifts

Get the Latest News

Get involved

A shortage of semiconductors continues to roil manufacturers across the country. NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling joined us to discuss what’s going on, why it matters and what the NAM is doing to help.

What semiconductors are: Semiconductors are critical components for all types of manufactured products. Essentially, they serve as the “brains” of medical devices and electronic devices from automobiles to home appliances to personal electronics. A shortage in semiconductors creates ripples across the manufacturing industry.

What we’re seeing: Christmas is around the corner, and American consumers are discovering that some backordered products may have delivery dates up to a year away. But the chip shortage also has longer-term implications. As more technologies become essential to daily life and Manufacturing 4.0 advances in the industry, a reliable supply of semiconductors will be more important than ever. Manufacturers will need steady, secure supply chains in order to guarantee smooth production.

What we can do: For now, there’s only so much policymakers can do to speed up production. Most semiconductors are manufactured in Asia, and deliveries are being hindered by everything from COVID-19 impacts to natural disasters. According to Boerstling, the eventual goal should be to create a robust semiconductor industry in the United States so that U.S. manufacturers are less reliant on foreign supply chains.

  • “This is a global crisis,” said Boerstling. “We need to be thinking about how to build resiliency in the supply chain. COVID has taught everyone the importance of manufacturing domestically and ensuring that we have the supplies we need to make products in the United States. That will require rebuilding our semiconductor manufacturing capacity through a combination of grants and incentives to make sure it’s competitive globally.”

Congress’s chance: Legislation to buttress the U.S. semiconductor industry has made it to both the House and the Senate, but differing bills have left Congress with a mismatch. The House passed a bipartisan CHIPS Act in an authorization last year, but it lacked funding. Meanwhile, the Senate passed funding through the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, but the legislation hasn’t been taken up in the House. Action is urgently needed, and Congress has the tools to move forward. Now, they need to act.

NAM’s role: The NAM is deeply engaged in conversations with lawmakers in the House and Senate to help shape a way forward that supports manufacturers and delivers the help American consumers need.

  • “The NAM is working with people in Congress and with manufacturers across the country to make sure lawmakers understand how important this is,” said Boerstling. “We’re looking forward to the House and Senate coming to an agreement.”
Business Operations

9 Key Considerations for Digital Twins in Manufacturing

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

Many manufacturers are ahead of the curve when it comes to digital 4.0, but not all may know about the numerous potential benefits of digital twins. A virtual replica of a physical product, asset or system, a digital twin makes the physical computable. It offers manufacturers a range of advantages, including better business visibility, increased product reliability and new revenue streams.

Is digital twinning right for your business? Below are some key considerations to weigh as you think about adopting this advanced manufacturing technology.

  1. Digital twins are not complete representations of a product.
    Digital twins are akin to algorithms. They are highly reliant on data input, and since it’s nearly impossible to turn every aspect of a physical product into data, digital twins are not precisely twins, though they are pretty close. A digital twin is created by outfitting a product with sensors that can track functionality. These can then be used to study simulations of the product’s performance. So digital twins are made up of models and data, but their complexity is reliant on the data used to create them.
  2. Digital twins evolve over time.
    As a product moves through its lifecycle, the information in its digital twin will shift in response to its performance, technical configurations and environmental parameters.
  3. Information and data are key across a product’s lifecycle.
    For a digital twin to remain relevant and useful over time, make sure you are utilizing a data structure that can be easily used and exchanged over different systems and applications.
  4. You can use digital threads to enable digital twins.
    Digital threads are a communication framework that link all elements of a product’s data, from design to obsolescence. Using them reduces the complexity of digital-twin implementation and increases digital twins’ accuracy.
  5. Transparency is critical.
    Identify, classify and correlate data across various sources so there’s transparency and automated information-identification processing. These are crucial for smooth digital-twin deployment.
  6. Open format is best.
    In contrast to a proprietary system, which ties an organization’s data to specific systems, limiting its use, an open format ensures that your digital twins can be easily updated, scaled and extended when new models and data representing new outcomes become available.
  7. Your device management plan matters.
    In addition to ensuring that data is in a format that can be accessed and used over time, you should make similar considerations for devices that will access that data (i.e., phones, tablets and laptops). Make sure that your device plan can keep up with your needs for monitoring, updating and security.
  8. The cloud is your friend.
    Cloud-based computing, storage, analytics and artificial intelligence/machine learning services enable operational technology and information technology managers to build, deploy and grow solutions quickly and affordably.
  9. There are costs and benefits.
    Digital twins today may be expensive to build and maintain, but they enable technical agility and speed that foster easier scaling—and save money in the long run to boot.

Learn more about digital twins: As decision-makers in manufacturing embrace digital transformation, it is imperative to consider digital twins as key pieces of the process. For more insights on digital twins in manufacturing, read Digital Twins: The Key to Unlocking Value and Innovation.

Business Operations

AI Roadmap: How Manufacturers Can Amplify Intelligence with Artificial Intelligence

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

Artificial intelligence offers manufacturers a host of benefits. These include better visibility into supply chains, insights from predictive analytics and the ability to respond to unexpected changes in demand more efficiently and quickly. Here’s a six-step roadmap for manufacturers looking to integrate AI into their business.

Six-Step AI Roadmap for Manufacturers

  1. Acknowledge AI’s potential
    Engage the C-suite in dialogue about how best to use AI. Allocate resources for specific AI projects and set priorities across the business. Pick company AI “agents” who can create business cases, develop metrics and put AI solutions into action.
  2. Transform and plan
    Create an AI plan that includes key performance indicators in line with your business strategy. Establish a special data unit to address needs AI could help support, such as data collection and cleansing.
  3. Build your data foundation and structure
    Convert any remaining nondigital data, “clean up” other data sources so they don’t contain errors or duplicates and add structure to boost your data quality and effectiveness.
  4. Create an external “partnership ecosystem”
    If your business doesn’t have in-house AI expertise, engage outside experts such as start-ups, academic specialists and consultancies.
  5. Leverage in-house AI expertise
    Employ outside AI experts to teach other staff members about data science. Your existing workforce will need this information to learn new skills and fulfill new responsibilities.
  6. Create architecture and infrastructure
    Consider using standardized infrastructure service offerings that can slot easily into your existing business setup. This will make integration much smoother.

Why does AI matter? Manufacturers that create AI-friendly cultures today are positioning themselves to boost customer and employee satisfaction tomorrow—and they’re gaining a competitive edge to boot.

Business Operations

How BASF Uses Enhanced Reality to Help Workers Learn

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

The human side of digital transformation was on full display at a recent virtual plant tour of BASF Chemical Intermediates Geismar, Louisiana, facility. Hosted by the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council, the tour gave participants an inside look at how the company is using Voovio’s enhanced-reality technology to transform employee training.

Who they are: BASF Chemical Intermediates, a division of German multinational chemical manufacturer BASF, makes approximately 600 distinct products sold worldwide to the chemical, plastics, agricultural and consumer goods industries, among others.

What is Voovio? The company has partnered with simulation-software maker Voovio to design a customized training solution for its employees: a virtually accessible digital replica of the BASF plant.

  • Using a computer or other digital device, employees can select plant components such as valves, pumps and control panels to get a detailed view of each. These components respond and perform virtually the same way they would in real life.
  • Using the software, trainees can click on any piece of equipment in any workflow to see how it fits into each process.

Why use it? BASF wanted to make worker training faster, more interactive and more self-directed so employees could learn new skills and review existing ones more quickly and easily.

Scalable training model: The tailorable Voovio software offers different training-module levels based on each worker’s experience level and skills.

  • Training modules include an equipment replica, tasks to be performed and an action checklist for completing a series of tasks.
  • Employees get feedback from the software as they perform each virtual procedure, letting them know whether they’ve performed a task correctly.

Real-world application: Voovio also lets companies take the training into the production facility. Using an approved digital device, employees can perform test runs at any time to ensure they’re prepared to complete a job on the ground.

The verdict: BASF has already begun to reap the benefits of the software. Since implementing Voovio, it has seen a marked increase in both worker competency and productivity.

Sign up for a virtual plant tour: Don’t miss the MLC’s upcoming tour of Johnson & Johnson’s facilities on Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. You will see how Johnson & Johnson uses mobility tools, advanced robotics and material handling, as well as adaptive process controls to drive improvements. After the tour, stay for the panel discussion on how to scale advanced manufacturing technologies to ensure a sustainable, reliable and adaptable product supply chain. Sign up today!

Business Operations

How Cloud Computing Could Help Chip Manufacturers

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

One small component is creating big delays in global supply chains: the ubiquitous semiconductor or chip. These components are not only essential to our phones, laptops and other electronics, but to the production process in just about every sector of the manufacturing industry. So, what would help us produce more of these desperately needed parts? According to Birlasoft Vice President and Global Business Head of Communications, Media & Technology Nitesh Mirchandani, the answer is cloud computing.

Why the shortage? As COVID-19 unfolded, millions of consumers purchased new laptops, smartphones, game consoles and other devices as they spent more time at home. This shortfall was compounded by the existing high demand for chips brought on by the growth in smart products—everything from thermostats and appliances to robot vacuum cleaners and GPS-enabled dog tags. COVID-19 also caused a wave of semiconductor factory closures that also exacerbated the problem. The result? A shortage that industry experts say could last through 2022.

Why the cloud? Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of resources like data storage, software, networking and other services via the internet. Users either purchase a set subscription or pay by their level of usage—both cheaper and more flexible options than maintaining an on-site IT team for all needs. Cloud computing has several advantages for semiconductor manufacturers, according to Mirchandani:

  • It speeds up time to market through swifter design and development. Because they can be accessed anywhere, cloud services enable teams to connect and collaborate more easily. Development cycles become quicker as teams connect better internally and with other parts of the business, including partners and suppliers.
  • It enables data-driven business decisions. Thanks to the faster processing and analysis of cloud computing, manufacturers can get instant information on things like factory performance, supply disruptions or customer demand. Likewise, workers can be alerted to a machine that needs maintenance or to potential defects in materials or products.
  • It provides service continuity. Internal IT teams often have limited resources. Cloud infrastructure is managed by specialists who can ensure uninterrupted service, so in-house IT teams don’t need to continuously maintain software through updates and patches.

Why it matters: Semiconductor shortages threaten to drag down the economy just as recovery is getting underway. Businesses rely on chip-enabled technologies for creating products, managing operations and maintaining the flow of goods and services. Consumers rely on them for smarter, safer homes and connections to work or school. Unless chip manufacturers can shore up production to meet demand, the ripple effect will create added distress for many sectors of the economy.

Business Operations

A Manufacturer Goes Lean and Wins Big

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

Consumer goods manufacturer Church & Dwight found that it needed to boost performance to meet customer demand. To meet this goal, it embarked on an ambitious Lean initiative at all of its 13 production facilities.

“We look at all challenges through the lens of Lean manufacturing—it’s the only way that we can operate,” said Bruno Silva, vice president of manufacturing operations.

What’s Lean? Researchers James Womack and Daniel Jones first defined the concept of Lean manufacturing as “a way to do more with less … while coming closer to providing customers exactly what they want.” Many manufacturers see mastering Lean as an essential springboard to operational initiatives like digital manufacturing and other advanced production practices.

Setting the stage: In developing its Lean program, Church & Dwight first held a weeklong leadership summit to decide on standards and expectations. The company’s leaders came up with a Lean assessment system with 16 standards and a definition for achievement at the gold, silver and bronze levels. But the essential part was ensuring frontline employees were driving improvement from the bottom up—not the other way around.

  • “This is not corporate pushing it down,” said Felipe Vilhena, director of Lean manufacturing – global operations. “We help workers overcome challenges and give them the right tools to do that. We created a mindset and expectation that improvements are part of the work.”

Putting it into practice: Initially, each worker was asked to list five potential improvements at his or her site, and then go out and make them. The company provided training and support to help with these fixes, while managers kept employees fully informed of their progress according to key indicators.

  • Workers formed self-directed teams and continued to seek out improvements, which they began making more and more frequently. Thanks to the trust and autonomy that employees were given, engagement and retention measurably increased at the same time.

Receiving recognition: The company’s achievements have received recognition from its peers in the industry. One of its top-performing facilities in Green River, Wyoming, earned the company a 2021 Manufacturing Leadership Award in the Operational Excellence category from the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council.

The last word: “It was important to create the right expectation and mindset,” Vilhena said. “From big to small improvements, we are seeing them happen every day.”

Business Operations

Nexteer Displays Advanced Manufacturing in Action

Get the Latest News

Sign up here

Would you like to see the latest advanced technologies exhibited and explained for your benefit, all without leaving your office? The NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council’s virtual plant tours provide just such an opportunity, taking you inside cutting-edge processes and complex systems at manufacturing facilities across the country. Most recently, the MLC dropped in on Nexteer Automotive, where tour participants got to see its innovative Digital Trace Manufacturing™ (DTM) System in action.

Who they are: Nexteer specializes in electric and hydraulic power steering systems, steering columns and driveline systems, as well as advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving-enabling technologies. The company serves more than 60 customers around the world, including BMW, Ford, GM, Toyota and Volkswagen.

What is DTM? Nexteer’s DTM System connects and standardizes the company’s entire operations—including thousands of data-production components in 27 manufacturing plants around the world. To showcase the system’s capabilities, Nexteer took tour participants inside its Saginaw, Michigan, site, which includes six manufacturing plants comprising 3.1 million square feet of manufacturing floor space.

Tour highlights: Participants learned about the complexities of running a large-scale automotive component manufacturing plant, as well as how Nexteer uses the DTM System to maximize efficiency.

  • Nexteer team members explained how they design and program machines for data processing, showing how they determine where data will be sent and how they use barcode scanners and other methods to track components’ serial numbers.
  • Participants also got a virtual walk-through of Nexteer’s tracking system, which follows material from receiving and shipping through the production line with single-box precision. They also learned how Nexteer uses its Center of Analysis to correct any issues that arise.

Why it matters: It’s one thing to have a large system collecting data, and it’s another to be able to use that data effectively. The Nexteer virtual plant tour provided participants with practical takeaways, which will help them adopt similar innovations at their own facilities—for the benefit of employees, customers and shareholders alike.

Coming soon: Don’t miss the MLC’s upcoming tour of Johnson & Johnson’s facility on Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. You will see how Johnson & Johnson uses mobility tools, advanced robotics and material handling and adaptive process controls to improve its operations. After the tour, stay for the panel discussion on how to scale advanced manufacturing technologies to create a sustainable, reliable and adaptable product supply. Sign up here.

Press Releases

New NAM Report Highlights the Impact and Importance of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Timmons: Pharmaceutical manufacturers are essential to America’s health and well-being and to the success of our economy.

Washington, D.C. – After the publication today of the National Association of Manufacturers’ latest report, Ensuring a Healthy Future: The Impact and Importance of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement:

“Pharmaceutical manufacturers are essential to America’s health and well-being and to the success of our economy. They have helped lead our country through crisis, fight the pandemic and drive our recovery. The sector creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the work its quarter of a million employees perform is literally lifesaving, improving society in ways that are almost impossible to overstate.”

The report finds that not only have pharmaceutical manufacturers been pioneers in improving the human condition, but the industry also fuels other sectors of the economy.

According to the report:

  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing directly employs an estimated 267,000 workers in the United States and supports nearly 1.9 million more jobs across the country.
  • One job in the industry helps support six other jobs in the overall workforce.
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing generates nearly $339 billion in output. Further, $1.00 in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing output generates $1.09 in output elsewhere in the economy.
  • For every $1.00 earned by an employee within the industry, $2.42 is earned by others elsewhere in the economy.

“The American public and policymakers too often overlook these accomplishments,” Timmons added. “Traditional economic analysis ignores the way this industry extends and enriches lives, and the public is not fully aware of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ constant focus on innovation and improving the quality of life for everyone. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are always researching, discovering and developing new medicines and treatments, operating at the core of our modern health care system. Their products make it possible for medical professionals to introduce and manage innovative new therapies, and of course, these manufacturers helped create lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. Moreover, the industry has high economic multipliers that drive production and job creation in other industries.”

Additional Key Findings:

  • A successful pharmaceutical ecosystem requires strong private-sector investment. 
    • In 2019, American pharmaceutical companies invested more than $83 billion in research and development, topping off nearly $1 trillion in R&D investment over the past 20 years. A recent study from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics estimates that the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing sector alone accounts for roughly 17% of total R&D investment in the United States.
    • The pharmaceutical industry invests nearly 11.4% of its sales back into R&D. Indeed, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry invests on average roughly three times more in R&D as a percentage of sales than all other manufacturing industries.
  • The industry creates valuable STEM jobs.
    • While roughly 6.7% of the U.S. workforce has a STEM occupation, 29.9% of all jobs in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing are STEM related. The pharmaceutical manufacturing sector employs more than four times the percentage of STEM workers employed in the overall workforce.
  • Industry employees are highly productive.
    • Industry employees produce $1.3 million in output per employee. This is nearly seven times greater than the U.S. economy’s average output per employee ($188,000).

-NAM-

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 12.4 million men and women, contributes $2.44 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector 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.

View More