Workforce

FAME Gets Some Fame

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Fittingly, The Manufacturing Institute’s FAME program has its name in the papers. This week, The Washington Monthly highlights this career-focused initiative that gives people the tools they need to succeed in the manufacturing sector.

How it works: The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education—founded by Toyota and now overseen by The Manufacturing Institute—is the nation’s premier manufacturing education program for training students seeking careers in manufacturing and upskilling incumbents and veterans.

FAME students earn a two-year associate’s degree while working in their sponsor’s manufacturing facility as advanced manufacturing technicians.

Core concepts: The program doesn’t just teach manufacturing-specific skills, it also helps students learn and apply behaviors that will help them make progress in any industry, including:

  • Safety culture
  • Professional behaviors
  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving
  • Visual workplace organization

The results: “First launched at a single Toyota factory in 2010, it has already grown to involve more than 350 manufacturers in 13 states, from large refrigerator makers to smaller plastics plants. Of the roughly 850 students who have graduated so far, 85 percent have been hired by their sponsoring employers with starting salaries at $50,000 or more.”

The grads: FAME’s graduates have nothing but praise for the program, crediting it with starting them on an excellent career path. Check out our recent profiles of graduates Brittanee Sayer and Chaise Blissett.

News

Say “Ahhh”: A Manufacturer Makes It Safe for Dentists to Reopen

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What do you do when a pandemic shuts down your customers? That was the problem faced by A-dec, a manufacturer of dental equipment and supplies based in Oregon, when dentists nationwide closed their doors back in March. 

In A-dec’s case, they developed products to help their core customers come back safely.  

The problem: Dentists and hygienists are at particular risk of contracting COVID-19 while treating patients, because their jobs require proximity to their patients’ open mouths.   

  • Dentists also use loupes with lights and magnifiers to see inside patients’ mouths—but wearing medical masks and traditional face shields makes it difficult to wear lighted loupes as well.  
  • Meanwhile, traditional face shields are open at the bottom—and because dentists work on patients who recline right below them, those shields provide limited protection. 

The solution: A-dec’s engineers got to work designing and producing a unique face shield for dentists that fits around the collarbone and opens upwards, providing a barrier between dentists and patient. The shield also leaves additional space around dentists’ eyes so they can use lighted loupes 

Image courtesy of Remote Area Medical

The process: The same pandemic that made this work necessary also made it difficult. A-dec had to overcome a series of complications:

  • Research and development: COVID-19 made the company’s customer focus groups impossible to do in person, so it designed and conducted remote focus group sessions. 
  • Sourcing of materials. Shortages and supply chain disruptions also caused problems, with some commodities becoming unavailable at the last minute. That meant A-dec faced delays and had to find alternate sources of materials at times 
  • Product construction. Like many other manufacturersA-dec had to figure out how to keep remote workers and on-site, socially distancing workers in sync with each other—all while creating a new product in record time.

By working around these setbacks and streamlining its processes, A-dec was able to go from the initial idea to the beginning of production in just two months—an extraordinary achievement.

The last word: According to A-dec Vice President of Manufacturing Wesley Snyder, the company benefited from its familiarity with medical regulations—but that doesn’t mean non-medical manufacturers can’t make a difference. “Everything is made by somebody, and the manufacturing industry is uniquely positioned to make tangible contributions to society in a crisis like this,” he said. So find those new points of need, and align them with your capabilities. 

Policy and Legal

How Manufacturers Can Work with the Government to Provide PPE

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Hospitals, businesses, schools and individuals will continue to need protective gear—but how much and for how long? The NAM has been working with the federal government to help manufacturers meet this urgent need, acting as a go-between to get millions of masks, gloves and more where they have to go. The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research have an estimate of how many disposable face coverings America’s workforce needs every month.

As part of a recent Department of Defense seminar, Herb Grant, the director of the NAM’s Creators Respond effort, outlined how manufacturers can get involved. Here is a brief recap of the event.

How much? Here’s what we know:

  • As of July 9, the DoD had already procured nearly 3 million gowns, nearly 140 million medical gloves, nearly 18 million surgical masks and more than 5 million N95 respirators (according to the DoD’s Joint Acquisition Task Force).
  • The NAM has estimated the demand for facial coverings approaches 1.7 billion pieces per month—and that’s just for industries that don’t typically use PPE. Meeting that demand will require manufacturers to add capacity by investing in new or retooling existing production lines.

The DoD says that information helped clarify that the total demand is not fully understood, but it is far greater than previously thought.

How long? According to Grant, the deputy director of the White House Supply Chain Task Force expects the demand for PPE to continue beyond next year, and perhaps even through 2023.

How can manufacturers get involved? There are three major ways in which manufacturers can help, said Grant.

  1. Increase your capacity to produce PPE: Manufacturers should evaluate whether they can shift capacity or invest in new capacity—which may involve talking to Creators Respond about how the government can support those investments.
  2. Sell PPE to the government: Manufacturers can find out how their production lines up with the government’s needs and consider participating in various federal programs.
  3. Sell PPE to the industry: As the 1.7 billion per month demand estimate shows, industries across the country need the PPE that manufacturers are producing—and will keep needing more.

How to sell to the government: There are three things manufacturers need to do before selling products to the government, Grant advises.

  1. Get a DUNS number: A Data Universal Numbering System number is a unique ID that is required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants (you can obtain one here).
  2. Register with SAM: The System for Award Management consolidates the capabilities of existing federal procurement systems—and you can register at www.sam.gov.
  3. Check for contracting opportunities: The webinar covered a range of sites that offer contracting opportunities, including:
    1. Beta.sam.gov; 
    2. USAspending.gov; and 
    3. Dibbs.bsm.dia.mil. 

The last word: “The bottom line is the manufacturing industry, which has been on the front lines, will continue to lead our country through recovery and renewal,” said Grant.

Check out a full recording of the event here.

Workforce

A “Once in a Lifetime” Opportunity: A Conversation with a FAME Grad

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As an engineering student at the University of Louisville, Chaise Blissett didn’t like the idea of a career where he would be sitting at a desk all day. He’s always been a hands-on learner and grew up working on trucks and tinkering with small engines. When a friend told him about his experience in the Federation for Advance Manufacturing Education (FAME) AMT program, Blissett knew it was the right program for him.

What is AMT? The Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) training program was developed by Toyota and is now overseen nationally by The Manufacturing Institute. It is a FAME maintenance training program and trains students of all ages and backgrounds, from recent high school graduates to experienced manufacturing employees looking to advance their careers. Students earn a two-year associate degree while working in their sponsor’s manufacturing facility as an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT).

What FAME AMT offers: Blissett showed up “eager and ready to learn,” and he’s thankful for all the support he received in the program—from his employer, from his teammates and from his mentors. Beyond the network he built, program highlights included:

  • On-the-job training: FAME AMT blends classroom studies with work experience. For a hands-on learner like Blissett, the FAME AMT program was a more effective learning environment than school alone would have been.
  • A technical degree: The associate degree and FAME certificate that Blisset earned set him apart from other job applicants and accelerated his career path.
  • Professional competencies: Beyond the technical skills, FAME AMT also teaches students the soft skills they need for working in a professional environment — the kinds of things “you don’t learn in college,” Blissett said. Students dress professionally for class and give regular presentations at both work and school. They also get regular practice working in teams, learning how to “work with all kinds of people in all kinds of different circumstances.”

What now: Blissett accepted a full-time technician role at Nucor Tubular Products, a manufacturer of carbon steel piping and tubing in Louisville, Kentucky. As he says, his journey has just begun—and he’s excited to see where the knowledge and skills he has acquired will take him.

Advice for FAME students: “The FAME program is what you make of it,” Blissett says.

  • “Be driven, show eagerness to learn, and do your work to the best of your abilities. If you do these three things you will receive endless support in your goals.”
  • “Be appreciative and show that you are hungry. Your mentors and professors are investing their time to mold you into the best possible student they can.”

The last word: “The opportunities presented to me during this program were once in a lifetime,” said Blissett. “I do not think I could have found a better fit for me.”

Business Operations

A Moose That Keeps You Safe: A Visit to a Sign Manufacturer

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moose inside a factory would usually be a major hazard—except when it’s on a COVID-19 safety sign made by LEM Products, Inc. The custom sign and label manufacturer created a range of ingenious signs for their own facilities to keep their employees safe and healthy. 

It was aLEM’s Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania, facility that NAM staff photographer David Bohrer snapped this moose in action, along with many other safety measures. Here’s some of what he saw.  

Throughout the facility, signs remind employees to maintain social distance, sanitize surfaces and wash their hands frequentlyThese decals show the appropriate distance: six feet of space.  

And aside from the moose, there are more eye-catching reminders of what six feet looks like 

In work areas, signs at a six-foot distance ask: Can you ask your question from here? 

Employees also wear masks while moving around the facility. 

In the break room, dividers create distance between workers eating lunchAnd another animal friend is here to help! 

Near high-touch points such as light switches, there’s a reminder to wash your hands.  

Disinfecting products, such as Clorox wipes, are available throughout the facility to sanitize surfaces, too 

With these precautions in placeLEM’s employees can safely produce custom safety identifications, labels and tags for its customers. 

CEO Maureen O’Connor emphasized that as a leading supplier of safety related signage, LEM Products takes it as a duty to lead by example in all aspects of safety and hygiene. “Our response to COVID-19 was emblematic of how we always approach safety issues,” O’Connor said. “We urge all who read this to do everything in your power to protect your employees and your company in combating COVID-19.” 

Workforce

Upskilling and Recruiting Veterans for Manufacturing Careers

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What can manufacturers do to attract and retain talented veterans? Samsung, the founding sponsor of The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America initiative, hosted a webinar to answer that questionwith industry leaders, government officials and veterans themselves all weighing in.  

The background: More than 200,000 men and women transition out of the military each year, and The Manufacturing Institute has estimated that manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs by 2028. With their technical skillsability to lead and follow under pressure and experience working in teamsveterans bring exceptional value to the manufacturing industryeven more so during these challenging times. 

The lineup: Titled “Veteran Reskilling in Today’s Economy,” the virtual event featured the following speakers 

  • Samsung Vice President of Strategic Communications Megan Pollock 
  • Manufacturing Institute Executive Director Carolyn Lee 
  • Assistant Secretary John Lowry, Colonel, USMC (Ret.), Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service   
  • Manufacturing Institute Vice President of Military and Veterans Programs Babs Chase 
  • Koch Industries Outreach Strategies Manager John Buckley 
  • SherwinWilliams Production Supervisor George Clay 
  • SHRM Director of Veterans and Certifications Affairs Andrew Morton

Industry: Pollock and Lee discussed the work that Samsung and the Institute have done to connect veterans with new careers through Heroes MAKE Americawhich offers training programs at several U.S. military basesHere are some key quotes:   

  • Pollock: “Service men and women have an incredible skill set that’s really specifically designed for the advanced manufacturing field. Hiring managers don’t always understand that, and oftentimes, veterans are not set up for success as they move into the manufacturing field, even though they’ve got all the skills they need. So…it’s not about reskilling; it’s about an understanding of the great skill set veterans have and how we can utilize them.”  
  • Lee: “We are training people in multiple branches, in multiple locations, with multiple skill sets, and helping the broader military community transition into the sector.” 

Government: Secretary Lowry, whose office helps support job counseling, placement and training services for eligible veterans, spoke about the value of the Heroes program, saying: 

  • “I’ve been incredibly impressed with the outcomes of the program—95% graduation rate, 8590% placement rate, and 25% placed in supervisory roles, which I think suggests some of the leadership traits people pick up in the military can be applied well in a manufacturing setting.”

Veterans: Chase moderated a panel of veterans—Buckley, Clay and Morton—who spoke about the Heroes program, the advantages of veterans in the workforce and the importance of engagement efforts. Here is some of what they had to say:  

  • Buckley: “The Heroes MAKE America program is very comprehensive, and it really does a great job of preparing our veterans.”  
  • Clay: When we start looking at what veterans are bringing to organizations, it’s a lot more than the common soft skills that you look at.” 
  • Morton: “Talent mobility is probably more important than acquisition and probably more important than workforce development, because that truly allows the employee to grow and to stay with the organization.” 

 Check out a recording of the event here 

Workforce

The STEP Ahead Awards Winners Show Their Excellence

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With nominations now open for the 2021 STEP Ahead Awards, it’s a perfect time to revisit the impressive stories about STEP winners that we’ve covered this year. 

A brief recap: The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards are designed to honor women who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in science, technology, engineering and production (STEP) careersThe awards are part of the STEP Women’s Initiative, which aims to shrink the gender gap in manufacturing, build women’s leadership skills and elevate extraordinary women to serve as role models for current manufacturers and the workforce of the future.  

The nominations process: If you have a peer or colleague who deserves recognition for her leadership, you can submit a nomination any time before October 2. Check out this handy nominations guide for more information.    

Since the awards began in 2012, The Manufacturing Institute has honored more than 1,000 extraordinary women across the manufacturing industry. Here some of their stories:  

  • Behlen General Manager for Customer Fabrication Heather Macholan (a 2013 STEP honoree) is working with school labs to 3-D print protective gear. 
  • AAON Community Relations Administrator Stephanie Cameron (a 2015 STEP honoree) is working with her company to clean medical facilities’ air during COVID-19. 
  • LAMATEK Vice President Laura Basara (a 2017 STEP Ahead honoree) has helped her company provide millions of pieces of foam for face shields. 
  • Galley Support Innovations CEO Gina Radke (a 2019 STEP Ahead honoree) wrote a book to inspire other women to get involved in manufacturing leadership. 
  • ID4A Technologies CEO and Founder Rania Hoteit (a 2020 STEP Ahead Awards honoree) is supporting the manufacturing and distribution of critical medical devices and health care products. 
  • Adafruit Founder and Owner (and 2019 STEP Ahead honoree) Limor Fried is making electronic components for essential medical machines. 
Policy and Legal

Payroll Tax Deferral Confuses Businesses

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President Trump’s plan to have businesses defer the employee’s share of payroll taxes is not going smoothly. The logistical difficulties are significant, and businesses have been expressing their frustration to the Treasury Department, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

The problem: Employers are worried about the administrative burden. Plus, they’re concerned they may be liable for the taxes of employees who have changed jobs. And lastly, if Congress refuses to forgive the taxes, companies will be on the hook for a huge tax bill next year.

While companies await guidance on how to implement the President’s executive order, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in an interview on Wednesday that he can’t force firms to stop withholding those taxes. Some tax experts say that companies will be disinclined to take the chance.

NAM involvement: In remarks yesterday to NAM members, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig urged companies to continue weighing in with policymakers.

Policy and Legal

China Turns Inward with Domestic Economy Plan

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Chinese President Xi Jinping has been outlining an economic plan that will focus more on domestic consumption and markets, easing back from China’s reliance on trade and foreign investment, the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

Xi has been speaking publicly about this “domestic circulation” (as it’s translated) since May, according to Chinese officials. The details haven’t emerged yet, but more news should come out of the October “plenum,” the meeting of the Communist Party’s top leaders.

The chips are down: U.S. sanctions are already having an effect, with telecom company Huawei reporting a shortage of processor chips that will stall production. The Chinese government recently announced it would provide tax cuts and other forms of financial help to its domestic chip industry.

What’s the prognosis? Some experts think these measures won’t make much of a difference, however. As Paul Triolo, head of the geo-technology practice at Eurasia Group, told CNBC, “The preferential treatment outlined in the new policies will help in some areas, but in the short-term will have only marginal impact [on] the ability of Chinese semiconductor firms to move up the value chain and become more competitive globally.”

Interpreting China: The Financial Times (subscription) gives another read on U.S.–China relations: that China has taken a much more cautious attitude toward confrontation in the past month or two. For example, top Chinese officials have seemed to suggest that China is willing to talk and unwilling to let the relationship degrade further.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan . . . U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar discussed a trade deal with Taiwan on a high-profile visit to the country (though he didn’t spell out the details). While he was there, Chinese fighter jets flew across the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

Business Operations

Consumer Prices Rose in July

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The prices of consumer goods increased this past month, The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports. According to the Labor Department, the consumer price index increased in July by 0.6%—the second month in a row of upward momentum.

Still, economists think that the increase is primarily a return to form, after the COVID-19 pandemic initially drove prices to artificially low levels. A rise in gas prices fueled about a quarter of the increase, along with the cost of clothes and used vehicles. On the other hand, grocery costs went down as millions of Americans ventured more confidently outside of their homes.

Economists also don’t see a risk of either sharp inflation or sustained deflation. Instead, they’re banking on some fairly gentle inflation that doesn’t cause any real alarm.

And speaking of alarm . . . The U.K. is feeling less than chuffed as its economy recorded the worst recession of any of its fellow world powers, according to U.S. News and World Report. The British economy fell behind countries like Germany, France and the United States, contracting by more than 20%, its largest drop on record.

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