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.

Policy and Legal

Sharpening America’s Competitive Edge

Get the Latest News

Get involved

The Biden administration is making new commitments to semiconductor production and planning new policies designed to bring STEM talent to the United States—and manufacturing leaders are weighing in.

The background: Last week, the White House announced a series of actions to attract STEM talent, to strengthen the U.S. economy and to improve American competitiveness around the world.

What we’re saying: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons joined Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee in praising the actions, while also pushing for continued work on these critical issues.

  • “The supply chain and economic disruptions facing American families and the manufacturing industry are driven in part by the severe worker shortage and by the serious chip shortage,” said Timmons. “Today, the White House has announced promising developments on both fronts, and we will work with the administration and Congress to build on this progress even further.”
  • “Manufacturers are leading America’s recovery, but we still need to hire more than 800,000 workers right now,” said Lee. “And according to the MI’s research with Deloitte, we will have 4 million jobs to fill by the end of the decade, 2.1 million of which could go unfilled if current trends continue. That sustained need is why the NAM and the MI launched our nationwide Creators Wanted workforce campaign. It’s why we have long focused on programs and policies of all types that will grow the pool of STEM talent in America. We have to come at this crisis from every angle, and the MI and the entire industry will continue using every tool at our disposal to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of creators.”

The road ahead: Timmons highlighted the path forward and noted additional important actions to meet current and future needs.

  • On semiconductor production: “To ramp up domestic semiconductor production, we can’t stop at today’s action, though,” said Timmons. “Too many manufacturing sectors have been unable to deliver the products American families need because they lack key components. Manufacturers are working overtime to overcome this challenge, but Congress has to do its part, which means passing USICA. Doing so will not only shore up our recovery and ease supply chain strains but also strengthen our economy and national security.”

On attracting STEM talent: “These immigration policies will also undoubtedly sharpen America’s competitive edge and help us outpace and out-innovate the rest of the world,” said Timmons. “In far too many cases, we’ve seen brilliant minds educated at American universities leave because our outdated immigration system doesn’t let them put their talents to work for America’s future. Now we can start to reverse that trend, among other key policy changes. As part of ‘A Way Forward,’ our plan for comprehensive immigration reform, we have long called for immigration policies that are responsive to clear economic needs. These policies meet that test, meaning that they will benefit our workers, our communities and our industry, empowering us to create even more opportunities for the American people.”

Press Releases

Manufacturing Leaders Welcome White House STEM Policy Push

Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons and Manufacturing Institute President Carolyn Lee released the following statement on the administration’s announcements on semiconductor production and new policy efforts to attract STEM talent to the United States:

“The supply chain and economic disruptions facing American families and the manufacturing industry are driven in part by the severe worker shortage and by the serious chip shortage. Today, the White House has announced promising developments on both fronts, and we will work with the administration and Congress to build on this progress even further,” said Timmons. “To ramp up domestic semiconductor production, we can’t stop at today’s action, though. Too many manufacturing sectors have been unable to deliver the products American families need because they lack key components. Manufacturers are working overtime to overcome this challenge, but Congress has to do its part, which means passing USICA. Doing so will not only shore up our recovery and ease supply chain strains but also strengthen our economy and national security.

“These immigration policies will also undoubtedly sharpen America’s competitive edge and help us outpace and out-innovate the rest of the world. In far too many cases, we’ve seen brilliant minds educated at American universities leave because our outdated immigration system doesn’t let them put their talents to work for America’s future. Now we can start to reverse that trend, among other key policy changes. As part of ‘A Way Forward,’ our plan for comprehensive immigration reform, we have long called for immigration policies that are responsive to clear economic needs. These policies meet that test, meaning that they will benefit our workers, our communities and our industry, empowering us to create even more opportunities for the American people.”

“Manufacturers are leading America’s recovery, but we still need to hire more than 800,000 workers right now,” said Lee. “And according to the MI’s research with Deloitte, we will have 4 million jobs to fill by the end of the decade, 2.1 million of which could go unfilled if current trends continue. That sustained need is why the NAM and the MI launched our nationwide Creators Wanted workforce campaign. It’s why we have long focused on programs and policies of all types that will grow the pool of STEM talent in America. We have to come at this crisis from every angle, and the MI and the entire industry will continue using every tool at our disposal to inspire, educate and empower the next generation of creators.”

“All in all, it’s a day of positive developments for manufacturing in America,” added Timmons.

-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 12.5 million men and women, contributes $2.52 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.

-The MI-

The MI grows and supports the manufacturing industry’s skilled workers for the advancement of modern manufacturing. The MI’s diverse initiatives support all workers in America, including women, veterans and students, through skills training programs, community building and the advancement of their career in manufacturing. As the workforce development and education partner of the NAM, the MI is a trusted adviser to manufacturers, equipping them with resources necessary to solve the industry’s toughest challenges. For more information on the MI, please visit www.themanufacturinginstitute.org.

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.”

View More