With thousands of new respirators and medical devices in production due to COVID-19, who makes sure they meet safety standards and regulations? Independent testing laboratories provide these needed services. Due to the pandemic, they’re working overtime, helping manufacturers produce equipment for doctors, nurses, other frontline workers and even the rest of us.
We talked to one company, Intertek, about how it’s responding to the new reality. Intertek is one of the largest testers of consumer and industrial products in the world, with a network of more than 1,000 laboratories in over 100 countries. It’s had to adapt to increased demand—and requests for help from companies trying to keep their employees safe.
Meanwhile, the company has also adapted to the restrictions imposed by the lockdowns.
- Curbside pickup: With some customers unable to travel from their facilities—or even their homes—Intertek began sending out vans from its labs to pick up samples from manufacturers across the country.
- Virtual inspections: Some of Intertek’s inspections and audits involve sending employees out to manufacturers’ facilities. As these in-person inspections became more difficult, Intertek created a virtual program called InView, through which inspectors can video chat with customers and inspect products and workspaces remotely.
- Online training: With everyone stuck at home, Intertek has also faced a surge of requests for online and remote training courses. Led by the company’s experts, these courses cover everything from best practices to new standards to product safety pitfalls.
The last word: Intertek’s Vice President of Marketing, North America Derek Silva says, “Intertek has been testing products for more than 100 years to help ensure people’s health, safety and well-being. We recognized early on that our greatest contribution to fighting the pandemic was to keep doing what we do best, only faster and with greater flexibility for manufacturers.”
This is a week of dramatic energy developments—some mostly good, some bad and some mixed. Here’s what manufacturers need to know.
The (mostly) good: The Jordan Cove liquid natural gas terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon, received approval from the Department of Energy on Monday, clearing the way for the West Coast’s first liquefied natural gas terminal capable of exporting low-carbon energy to Asia.
- Why it matters: The project offers increased energy security for the United States while also enabling a shift to cleaner fuels—the kind of modern initiative that will play a key role in climate action.
- A note of caution: The DOE approval isn’t the final word; activists will continue fighting the project in court and try to keep manufacturing progress from being made.
The bad: Even though the project won a 7-2 victory in the Supreme Court just three weeks ago, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy were forced to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on Sunday.
- Why it matters: The project was intended to energize Mid-Atlantic manufacturing with clean natural gas, but years of court battles and needless permitting delays exhausted it. As NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons put it on Twitter, “All those who depend on reliable sources of American energy are disappointed.”
The bad cont’d: On Monday, a DC court ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down until yet another additional environmental review is completed, on top of many previous reviews.
- Why it matters: This underground pipeline benefits communities across the Midwest and provides a clean, safe route for oil transportation.
The mixed: The Supreme Court refused to let the Keystone XL project start building again—but at the same time, it did reinstate a critical nationwide permit system for other new energy infrastructure projects.
- What to expect: Activists have already threatened to attack other projects with the same arguments they used against Keystone XL, which could hold up much-needed progress.
The last word: “At a time when we have faced record-breaking unemployment and our country is struggling to get back on her feet, we can’t tell families to wait through more unnecessary delays or until the courts sort things out in a few years,” NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones says. “We have run out of time for political wrangling. Manufacturers need policymakers to cut through the fighting so we can build more, do more and make more.”
The pandemic has brought many people around to that longstanding means of mobility and exercise, the bicycle. And for Kent International, a bicycle manufacturer with facilities in New Jersey and South Carolina, that has meant busy days as it works to meet newfound demand.
We checked in with Chairman and CEO Arnold Kamler, who told us all about the company’s response to high demand and its stringent requirements for worker safety.
The numbers: According to a study by market researcher NPD Group, demand for bicycles (and related items, like helmets) increased by 75 percent in April, compared to last year. At Kent International, they noticed, Kamler says.
- During the peak demand period in April and May, Kent’s customers were selling between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles per day, representing more sales than they typically see even in the 10 days before Christmas.
Strained supplies: Some of that demand has led to challenges, Kamler notes. With bicycles flying off the bike racks, Kent has put limits on what its biggest customers can order. A few months ago, one customer put in a request for about a million bicycles, to be shipped in one week—an order generated by algorithms and just not possible to fulfill, says Kamler. Meanwhile:
- The pandemic has interrupted global supply chains, making it difficult for Kent to get some required parts.
- It has also hampered transportation, preventing Kent from sourcing all the trucks required to deliver its products, particularly in the Los Angeles commercial zone.
Safety procedures: Kamler says the company is putting employees first, by designing rigorous standards to reduce risk and prevent COVID-19 transmission.
- Gloves and masks are mandatory in Kent’s facilities. (Protective eyewear was already a requirement.)
- Temperature monitors throughout the building are used to check for fevers.
- More spacing in the facility allows employees to practice social distancing.
- Testing is available at a local hospital, and Kent offers testing leave so that employees who are concerned they might be sick can get checked—even if they have no symptoms.
- Vigorous tracing ensures Kent can alert any employees who might have been exposed to a sick coworker, so they can get tested, too.
The last word: “We have a job to do: to protect our workers,” says Kamler. “We’re treating employees how we would want to be treated, and making sure they stay safe. We’re staying vigilant—because it doesn’t matter that you were perfect from April to June if you get sloppy in July.”
Dan Mitchell didn’t expect to join the Army, which means he couldn’t have expected to translate his military experience into a career in manufacturing. But thanks to The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program, that’s where he is now.
The son of Fish and Wildlife Service officials, Mitchell set his heart on the Army while a Boy Scout in high school. As he describes it, he entered West Point as “a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 17-year-old”—and faced a wake-up call. It wasn’t at all like the movies!
Instead, Mitchell learned that Army life involved doing a great number of small, important things effectively. He spent time in maintenance at industrial facilities, managing safety and operations, and tracking armored units and heavy vehicles. Whether he was keeping his room clean or doing inspections or ensuring the safety of weaponry, he learned that routines were vital. It was a lesson that would serve him well in his next career.
Heroes MAKE America: After eight years in the Army, Mitchell heard about the Heroes MAKE America program from some of the 145 soldiers under his command, and he quickly signed up.
- While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented his Heroes class from touring facilities—“I was excited for the Frito-Lay tour,” he says, “and that’ll stick in my craw for my entire life”—he calls his experience in the program “phenomenal.”
- From general career support, such as help with building a LinkedIn profile and drafting a resume, to the “invaluable” Certified Production Technician course, Mitchell saw Heroes MAKE America as a vital program that offered him critical tools.
- “It was eye-opening to see the level of skilled labor and craftmanship that’s involved in modern American manufacturing,” Mitchell says. “It spoke to me. I had no idea of the width and breadth of opportunities, or how interesting and dynamic and challenging the jobs are.”
A new job: As he begins his new role as a production supervisor at Daikin Applied Americas in Minnesota, Mitchell sees manufacturing as a natural fit. “What I did in the Army doesn’t directly translate to what I’m doing now, but it’s pretty darn close,” he says. “I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’d be way behind if I hadn’t gotten the Heroes training.”
Words of advice: “For anyone who has been a leader in the Army—as long as you’re willing to learn and put in the work—manufacturing is an obvious choice.”
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) goes into effect today—after years of advocacy by the National Association of Manufacturers and its partners.
So what does that mean for the American and global economies? NAM Senior Director of Trade Policy Ken Monahan’s answer: “The agreement will help strengthen supply chains, restore certainty, enable growth, bolster America’s competitiveness and support manufacturing jobs in the United States.” Here’s a condensed interview with Monahan that lays out the USMCA’s importance.
What’s in it: The USMCA updates and replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade agreement to ensure open, rules-based trade across North America. Monahan summarizes its long list of provisions: “intellectual property protections, new standards for the digital economy, reduction in red tape and unnecessary regulations, fair standards for competition and binding enforcement to protect all parties.”
Why it matters: The strength of America’s economy and markets is connected to the way we interact with our closest trading partners, Monahan emphasizes. Some numbers to keep in mind:
- Canada and Mexico alone purchase one-fifth of the total value of U.S. manufacturing output.
- Canada and Mexico purchase more U.S.-made goods than our next 11 trading partners combined despite representing only 6 percent of the world’s population.
- In addition to more than 2 million American manufacturing jobs, more than 40,000 small and medium-sized businesses depend on exports to Canada and Mexico.
What’s next: “Manufacturers are committed to working with the U.S., Mexican and Canadian governments to ensure that the USMCA is implemented in a manner that will support the recovery and renewal of the U.S. manufacturing economy,” says Monahan.
The last word: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons summed it up: “The landmark trade agreement we fought hard to secure now enters into force at a critical time. It will help restore certainty, ensure supply chain continuity and provide opportunities for economic growth—all of which will help our industry lead the nation’s recovery and renewal.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement on the entry into force of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.
“This is a milestone day for manufacturers, years in the making. The landmark trade agreement we fought hard to secure now enters into force at a critical time. It will help restore certainty, ensure supply chain continuity and provide opportunities for economic growth—all of which will help our industry lead the nation’s recovery and renewal.
“The United States, Mexico and Canada must continue working together to ensure that the USMCA is implemented in a way that will bolster that recovery and renewal and maintain broad support for open, rules-based North American trade—this year, next year and well into the future. The stakes have never been higher.”
Prior to the USMCA’s entry into force, the NAM’s effort to secure congressional approval of the agreement activated manufacturing workers and supporters across the country, reaching members of Congress with thousands of pro-USMCA letters, calls and meetings. In doing so, manufacturers drove the narrative, making the USMCA not about partisan politics but about good policy for growing manufacturing in America.
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 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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
Today, the National Association of Manufacturers announced the launch of NAM Cyber Cover, an exclusive cybersecurity and risk mitigation program for its member companies and organizations. This critically important and timely offering was developed in partnership with AHT Insurance and Coalition, which specializes in underwriting cyber and technology insurance.
“Modern manufacturers are deploying advanced technologies that are transforming what we make and how we make it. This rapid digitization and the workplace disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have created new and unprecedented risks for our members,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Our partnership with AHT and Coalition will help protect our industry from cyberattacks and ensure we can continue to lead our economic recovery and renewal.”
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, nearly two-thirds of manufacturers currently have no cyber insurance, and many manufacturers have no plans to invest in improved cybersecurity measures or data protection efforts. Recognizing the significant threat cyber vulnerabilities pose to its diverse membership, the NAM led the creation of Cyber Cover.
“The inimitable exposures manufacturers face, coupled with an unrelenting target on the industry, necessitates a pivot in how cyber programs are structured,” said AHT President and CEO David Schaefer. “We look forward to helping NAM members make that pivot to manage risks up front and protect themselves against cyberattacks.”
NAM Cyber Cover offers full support for responding to and recovering from potential risks and cyberattacks, differentiating it from traditional, standalone insurance.
“Manufacturers are more reliant on technology than ever before and more in need of a solution to survive catastrophic security failures and data breaches,” said Coalition Founder and CEO Joshua Motta. “We’re proud to partner with the NAM and AHT to revolutionize the way manufacturers mitigate cyber risk, providing security tools to prevent incidents and incident response support to mitigate losses, together with the safety of insurance.”
To learn more about NAM Cyber Cover, visit www.namcybercover.org
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 11.7 million men and women, contributes $2.37 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 63% 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 Manufacturers or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.
–About AHT Insurance–
AHT Insurance is a brokerage and consulting firm offering property and casualty, employee benefits, retirement, personal and international services for a wide range of industries—notably receiving national recognition for its practices in areas including technology, manufacturing, government contracting and nonprofits. https://www.ahtins.com
Coalition combines comprehensive insurance and free cybersecurity tools to help businesses manage and mitigate cyber risk. Backed by A+/A rated insurers Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and Argo Group, Coalition provides companies with up to $10 million of cyber and technology insurance coverage in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. https://www.coalitioninc.com
Manufacturers are looking to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive—but what steps should they take? Following the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests, many companies have supported the NAM’s own Pledge for Action, an agenda for advancing justice, equality and opportunity for Black people and all people of color.
As part of its Diversity and Inclusion pillar, The Manufacturing Institute has begun hosting roundtables, drawing on the expertise of D&I chiefs from across a wide range of companies. Below is a brief recap of a recent event.
The panel: Speakers included AAON Community Relations Director Stephanie Cameron, Dow Senior HR Director of Talent Acquisition/Pipelines and Corporate Director of Inclusion Alveda Williams and Trane Technologies Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Talent Management Michelle Murphy. Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee moderated the conversation.
The panelists focused on helping those who are just beginning this conversation as well as those who are working to accelerate their current efforts. A few of the suggestions included the following:
- Don’t rely on programs. Williams noted that programs can be cancelled when budgets are cut or an unforeseen situation arises. Instead, manufacturers should find ways to make D&I a part of their identity, ensuring that their work in the area won’t be scaled back or discarded.
- Emphasize inclusion. Inclusion drives innovation, productivity and team engagement, Cameron pointed out. While diversity can be considered a collection of unique differences, Williams added, you can’t capitalize on those differences unless you value inclusion. Achieving diversity is about the workforce, but inclusion is about the workplace, and creating a culture and environment that emphasizes a sense of belonging.
- Embrace change. Murphy emphasized that companies must be agile and adaptable not only to keep up with workplace changes, but also to promote positivity and lead with their values.
The conversation also included some concrete practices and initiatives, including:
- Companywide virtual conversations about issues like race, gender and LGBT inclusion to encourage learning and discussion;
- Internal leadership development programs to ensure that diverse leaders have opportunities to move up within the company, which might include English and Spanish courses on-site; and
- Employee resource groups and inclusion resource groups that bring forward ideas from diverse employees and allies to move the company forward.
The business case: Strengthening D&I isn’t just the right thing to do, participants said; it’s also the smart thing to do. Inclusion drives engagement, and engaged employees are more productive—making inclusive workplaces better for a business’s bottom line.
You can access a recording of the full conversation here.
Brittanee Sayer is the sixth of seven siblings who have served in branches of the military. Given her family’s example, she always knew she would serve her country. But what would come after that? The answer: manufacturing, thanks to training at The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program.
Her military experience proved useful to the career change. Sayer spent most of her seven years in the service working as a generator mechanic at Fort Riley. She was in charge of maintaining tactical, utility and precise power generation sets, internal combustion engines and associated equipment—a job that included running power for Fort Riley’s hospital. When she decided to leave the military, she wanted to keep employing these skills.
Heroes MAKE America: Prior to her Army service, Sayer had worked at Wolverine, which manufactures military boots—“I went from making the boots, to wearing the boots,” she says. Given her experience in the Army, she thought a return to the industry made sense, and that the training offered by the Heroes MAKE America program would help her advance further.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March required a few changes to ensure safety, but Sayer says the program adapted effectively. Adjustments included:
- Online learning, with Skype meetings once per week to ensure students could still engage with the material together;
- Smaller classroom meetings, with in-person tests offered to five people at a time; and
- Digital networking opportunities to help students and graduates connect with companies seeking employees and learn from manufacturing leaders.
The new career: Recently, Sayer accepted an offer of employment at a large U.S.-based food company, and expects to start by the end of the month. She says the Heroes program helped get her resume in front of every possible employer. Since she graduated from the program in May, she’s received a range of job offers from across the United States.
The last word: “I tell all my friends still in the Army: if you can do the Heroes MAKE America program, do it,” says Sayer. “It’s a great opportunity, and it really does help.”
ALOM President and CEO Hannah Kain has been playing one of the most complex games imaginable: trying to retool global supply chains during a pandemic. And meanwhile, she’s overseeing the supply chain management company’s “aggressive” production of COVID-19 testing kits, while also manufacturing protective equipment for its customers and employees. We talked to Kain recently about what these complicated operations look like from the inside—and how manufacturers can adapt to supply chain uncertainty.
The supply side: A single finished good—say a car—could easily require thousands of parts from multiple countries, notes Kain (who is also an NAM board member). Now imagine that every single one of those parts could be held up on its journey. And that’s only the beginning.
- Here’s a risk factor that no one is thinking about, Kain says: “If we are manufacturing overseas, who is governing those places?” Companies need to fly engineers out to their foreign facilities to check certifications, labor conditions, etc. And now they often can’t.
- Meanwhile, freight rates have significantly increased, with rates from China “multiplying by a factor of 5.”
- Plus, many companies operate in multiple locations, each with different COVID-19 rules and restrictions. ALOM, for instance, works out of 19 locations around the world, Kain adds.
Put it all together, and it’s a recipe for anxiety. Kain says, “I remember someone from an automaker saying once—it takes 2,500 parts to make a car; 1 part not to make a car.”
The demand side: COVID-19 has reconfigured the market, Kain notes. Demand for medical supplies and home electronics went “through the roof,” while demand for other products cratered. This situation created what she calls the “pulsing supply chain”—i.e., “the disjunction between demand fluctuations and ability to meet them.”
So what’s her advice? For other manufacturers and supply chain experts: “Anyone who can react faster is going to win the game.” Agility is a necessity, in other words. Here are some of the tactics that ALOM and its customers have tried:
- Keep products unconfigured (or un-customized) until as late as possible in the production process—so the same part can be used for different purposes. The finishing touches can be added the day of shipment. “Customers think the products are sitting on shelves, but in fact they shouldn’t be,” says Kain.
- Make sure you know as much as possible about demand. “Visibility is key,” she stresses. Companies should research what’s going on at the retail level and use business intelligence tools, such as AI that tracks keywords on social media. And don’t forget to track the analytics on your own website—“that can actually predict a lot,” says Kain.
- Be smart about contracts. “If you have a critical supplier, try to ensure you’ll be first in line if there’s a restriction.”
- Be good to your suppliers. “Don’t tell them things like ‘we’ll now pay you every 120 days instead of every 60.’ And pay people early if you can.”
The last word: “I saw myself pulling back from strategic work and going into crisis management,” Kain says. Only now is she beginning to get back to her usual routine.
At the end of this interview, Kain mentioned she was off for a restorative weekend in Yosemite. We think you’ll agree she deserved it.