NAM Tour in Poland: Strengthening Democratic Ties and Supporting Ukraine’s Rebuild
The NAM’s Competing to Win Tour in Europe continued this week with a stop in Poland, where NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons highlighted manufacturers’ support for Ukraine both in his high-level meetings and in media interviews.
Solidarity with Ukraine: At the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Timmons and U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski met to advance manufacturers’ shared solidarity with Ukraine and the importance of strengthening U.S. commercial relationships with Poland and other democratic allies.
- During a meeting with Poland’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology Waldemar Buda, Timmons discussed the direct support and investment by U.S. manufacturers in Poland, which they can use as a base for rebuilding Ukraine after Russia’s defeat.
Humanitarian work: A visit to UPS Poland highlighted the company’s humanitarian work to support refugees from Ukraine.
- UPS has suspended operations in Russia and Belarus and has partnered with several organizations on the ground in Ukraine to provide emergency funding, in-kind support and core relief supplies to refugees.
- UPS has transported and donated millions of meals, winter coats, medical supplies, blankets and other items to aid refugees, while also providing support to its Ukrainian employees and their families.
Interview on “Morning Joe”: Live from Warsaw, Timmons appeared on “Morning Joe,” where he emphasized the power of commerce, and manufacturers, to preserve, protect and expand democracy.
- “[T]he most important thing is to support our allies that believe in democracy. I’m very concerned right now that we have a divide between democracies and authoritarian regimes,” said Timmons. “And American business, I think, can help lead the way to strengthen and support democracy.”
- “I don’t think that there’s any threat quite as grave as what we’re seeing coming out of Russia right now,” he continued. “President Xi, and his visit from China to Moscow, I think really sends a pretty big warning signal for the West.”
- The show covered Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s recent address to the NAM Board of Directors and spotlighted the NAM’s leadership on the world stage—as well as that of individual companies.
Roundtable discussion: Timmons’ last event in Warsaw was a roundtable discussion at AmCham Poland with representatives of manufacturers in the United States that operate in Poland.
- The meeting highlighted the importance of supply chain resilience, energy security and robust, market-opening trade agreements in the work ahead in rebuilding Ukraine, which require a mobilization of capital, industry and governments not seen in Europe since 1945.
- The meeting also covered opportunities for American businesses to support Poland in these efforts and to promote democratic values.
The last word: “Forty years ago this month, President Reagan warned the world not ‘to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire,’” said Timmons. “A [statue of President Reagan] stands across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw.”
- “As Poland generously absorbs and supports nearly 2 million Ukrainian refugees who have been displaced by Russia’s barbaric and unprovoked war, Reagan’s words are just as important today as they were then.”
Competing to Win Tour Visits Merck KGaA in Darmstadt, Germany, and VDMA in Frankfurt
The NAM’s Competing to Win Tour in Europe continued with stops at Merck KGaA in Darmstadt and VDMA, the association of Germany’s engineering industry, in Frankfurt. The visit to Merck KGaA provided a firsthand look at the leadership, culture and operations that are producing about 300,000 products and that played an instrumental role in saving the world from the pandemic.
Living its values: Merck KGaA and its science and technology entities have 60,000 employees around the globe, with approximately 26,000 employees in 66 countries outside of Germany, including the U.S. Its products appear not only in healthcare settings, but in grocery stores where they ensure food and beverages are safe and in transportation where they monitor the air we breathe.
- Matthias Heinzel, CEO of the Merck KGaA Life Science business, and Thaddeus Burns, head of government and public affairs, welcomed the tour and provided insights into the company’s operations.
- The tour of the Merck Innovation Center showcased the company’s state-of-the-art design and technology, while the visit to the growing Membrane operations gave the tour group an opportunity to explore the latest developments.
- A brief stop in the company’s museum provided a historical perspective on the origins of the company, which was founded by the Merck family and began with a small pharmacy named Angel that is still in business today.
VDMA: The tour group also visited VDMA, the association of Germany’s engineering industry, which represents more than 3,300 companies in the sector and focuses on the advancement of trade opportunities.
The last word: The visit to Merck KGaA in Darmstadt underscored the importance of interconnectedness between the U.S. and Europe. It highlighted the vital role alliances play in strengthening enterprises that are essential to our democratic way of life and its protection worldwide.
- “Merck KGaA is a company that lives its values and is a strong champion of free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity, putting its aspirations into action,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
A One-Woman Workforce Solution: Meet Toyotetsu’s Leslie Cantu
Leslie Cantu has an unusual but effective method of stress reduction: cuddling with bovines.
“You can’t stay stressed or frustrated when you have a cow licking you on the cheek,” laughed Toyotetsu’s assistant vice president of administration.
Ranch life: Living on a ranch south of San Antonio, Texas, with 13 dogs, 15 cats, five miniature horses, multiple sheep and three newborn lambs might sound to others like a lot of work, but to Cantu, it is indeed a method of decompression.
- “I have five children and two grandbabies, and spending time with them out on the ranch, just being able to take care of the animals and enjoy time with the kids, it’s rewarding, it’s relaxing,” said Cantu.
- Life on the ranch sounds busy, but it’s nothing compared to work life for Cantu, a 2023 Honoree of the Manufacturing Institute’s Women MAKE Awards, which recognize top female talent in the manufacturing industry. She’s involved in a dizzying array of workforce programs both at the company and outside of it.
Finding FAME: Cantu, the first woman to be named an assistant vice president at the global automotive parts manufacturer, spends a lot of time making a difference for the company’s workforce.
- In 2016, her first year on the job, she helped Toyotetsu open the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education’s first Texas chapter, TX FAME – Alamo. Today, she serves as the chapter president.
- “Through FAME, we’ve really been able to build that multiskilled-technician pipeline to make sure we can meet those critical skills needed for our business,” Cantu said of the workforce development initiative for high school graduates, which was founded by Toyota and is now operated by the MI (the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate).
Seeking diversity: Cantu also helped Toyotetsu form a partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission and the local workforce development board to create a 12-week manufacturing apprenticeship program—the first of its kind in Texas—for individuals with disabilities. The inaugural class graduated in January.
- “It’s programs like this and FAME that help us find unique ways to fill those skills gaps and focus on diversifying the workforce,” she said. “There’s a lot to be said for diversifying the workforce, [including] improved morale and retention.”
A second chance: In 2018, in another bid to deepen Toyotetsu’s talent pool, Cantu spearheaded the launch of a second chance hiring initiative in partnership with the local county’s economic development board. The project now consists of seven manufacturers, all of whom regularly hire formerly incarcerated individuals—with great results.
- “Toyotetsu alone has hired about 140 ex-offenders and had tremendous success with that,” said Cantu.
- “Analyzing our data and metrics, we’ve been able to see that our second chance population has better performance and better retention than those who come to us through traditional recruiting. [Second chance] has effectively become a go-to, best practices strategy for us.”
Playing to strengths: Cantu credits some of her success in strengthening Toyotetsu’s workforce to her natural ability to think creatively.
- “As we continue to work through the national skills-force gap, hiring and COVID-19, it’s become important to think outside the box … to see how we could build our talent pipeline,” Cantu said.
- “That’s one of my strengths, tapping into those resources. Part of that is knowing what resources are out there, and thankfully, I’ve got a great boss and corporate office that support community involvement,” she added.
And if that wasn’t enough … Cantu is the chair of Workforce Solutions Alamo, and she sits on the board of the Texas Workforce Commission’s Adult Education & Literacy Advisory Committee and on the advisory board of a local high school.
The last word: Cantu has some encouraging words for women looking to follow in her (very energetic) footsteps:
- “Oftentimes there’s an image of manufacturing [as being] for men, or [that] it’s dark, it’s dirty, it’s dangerous. And that’s not what manufacturing is. There’s a lot of opportunity to use the skills that women bring to the table: multitasking, transferable skills,” she says.
- “It’s incredibly important that we mentor women thinking about careers in manufacturing, tell our stories and share the journey so that we can encourage others following the same path.”
The NAM Tours World’s Largest Chemical Complex
As part of the Competing to Win Tour in Europe, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons visited the world’s largest integrated chemical complex and the headquarters of BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, this week. The visit highlighted how BASF is addressing global challenges and providing a powerful example of manufacturers’ leadership.
BASF in North America: BASF employs more than 16,000 workers in North America. Its facilities include large, integrated, production-energy flow-logistics operations in Geismar, Louisiana, and Freeport, Texas.
- Led by BASF North America President and NAM board member Tobias Dratt, the company has been a strong supporter of the initiatives of the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate, to build the workforce of the future.
- This includes the Creators Wanted campaign, which aims to inspire the next generation of manufacturers and help companies source talent.
- BASF was among the first companies to advance the NAM and MI’s “This Is Our Shot” Project to increase awareness about COVID-19 vaccinations.
The visit: Timmons met with company leaders forging a path to the future.
- These included BASF Global Business Services President Marc Ehrhardt and Chief Technology Officer and Board of Executive Directors member Dr. Melanie Maas-Brunner.
- Timmons also had the opportunity to take part in a BASF immersive experience, one of the company’s innovative approaches to building community awareness about its impact and the promise of the chemistry industry.
The last word: “To fortify the global economy and strengthen the values of free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity—as well as the capacity for democracy to raise standards of living here at home and around the globe—it’s going to take action in the U.S. and Europe,” Timmons said after the visit.
- “Policymakers must continue boosting supply chain resiliency, energy security and regulatory certainty. The decisions that leaders on both sides of the Atlantic make will determine whether companies like BASF can continue to grow, invest and innovate for a better life for all.”
The NAM Talks Democracy, IP and Trade in Geneva
On the first two days of the NAM’s Competing to Win Tour in Europe, Timmons took part in “frank and engaging” discussions with global leaders in Geneva. The conversations focused on reinforcing transatlantic partnerships, bolstering democracy, addressing trade challenges and emphasizing the crucial role manufacturers play in promoting global stability.
The details: Timmons met with influential figures including WTO Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO Deputy Director General Angela Ellard, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein Scott Miller and U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Geneva David Bisbee.
- NAM representatives also participated in an event on intellectual property co-hosted by the NAM and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.
The substance: In the meetings, Timmons delved into the negative impact of the WTO/TRIPS waiver expansion, the need to restore the WTO dispute settlement system’s functionality and the crucial role of manufacturers in supporting democracies and global institutions.
- ‘“Frank & engaging discussion w/ @JayTimmonsNAM CEO of the US National Association of Manufacturers & his delegation. Focused on geopolitical tensions & impact of @wto, challenges w/ the TRIPS waiver extension to therapeutics & diagnostics, dispute settlement system & road to #MC13 [the WTO’s next ministerial conference in early 2024],” tweeted Okonjo-Iweala following the meeting.
Speech in brief: At the IFPMA event, first covered by Politico, Timmons stressed the significance of IP protections in driving innovation and developing new treatments, reinforcing the NAM’s opposition to an expansion of the TRIPS waiver to cover diagnostics and therapeutics. Attendees included Geneva-based government delegations, the WTO secretariat and NAM member companies.
- “In America, our industry works to advance the values of free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity—the values that keep our industry strong,” said Timmons. “But increasingly, we find these values, which so many of us share, under attack—in particular from authoritarian regimes that have little regard for free markets and little respect for an individual’s right to determine their own destiny. That’s why our transatlantic relationship matters more than at any time in recent memory.”
- “[O]ne of the most important ingredients for innovation is how a country protects intellectual property. IP enshrines the understanding that years or even decades of hard work and sleepless nights, millions and millions of dollars and so much more will be rewarded,” he continued.
- “Expanding this [WTO/TRIPS waiver of IP] would set a precedent that would spiral across the manufacturing sector,” he concluded. “Some voices—here in Geneva and around the world—are already expressing desires to implement similar waivers for renewable and green energy technologies, or to automatically trigger an IP waiver for any future pandemic. If we don’t draw the line now, the outcome is obvious: an anti-innovation domino effect that destroys jobs, livelihoods and lifechanging products.”
The big picture: More than a worldwide center for diplomacy, Switzerland is the seventh largest investor in the U.S. Timmons’s visit comes at a critical inflection point for the country and amid heightened stresses on global institutions, due to COVID-19, Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine and competition with China, among other geopolitical challenges.
News coverage: Politico’s Morning Trade newsletter spotlighted Timmons’s trip, while The Wall Street Journal (subscription) quoted him on the importance of new U.S. trade agreements.
Next up: The tour will continue in Frankfurt, Germany, where the NAM will further demonstrate manufacturers’ leadership and the potential for a more robust transatlantic alliance.
Senators Reintroduce Crucial R&D Bill
A bipartisan Senate duo introduced legislation on Thursday that would both allow businesses to once again fully deduct R&D expenses in the year they are made and expand the refundable R&D tax credit.
What’s going on: The American Innovation and Jobs Act, sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN), would restore the immediate deductibility of R&D expenses. Last year, a tax change went into effect requiring companies to amortize or deduct their R&D investments over a period of years, making R&D more costly.
Why it’s important: According to a recent NAM analysis, the sector would lose nearly 60,000 jobs and face an output decline of more than $31 billion this year alone if the change is not reversed.
- The U.S. has now become a global outlier, joining Belgium as the only other developed country requiring the amortization of R&D expenses.
- Meanwhile, China provides a 200% “super deduction”—20 times the amount allowed in the U.S. tax code—for its manufacturers’ research.
The NAM says: “Manufacturers applaud the introduction of the American Innovation and Jobs Act, which will help the U.S. out-compete China,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram.
- “Across the country, manufacturers are hiring workers, investing in communities and creating the products, materials and processes that drive us forward. Congress should approve the American Innovation and Jobs Act quickly to support critical research that allows manufacturers to improve lives in America and for people around the world.”
Learn more: Read our stories on how the 2022 expensing requirement is impacting International Paper, Marlin Steel Wire Products, Ultragenyx, Miltec UV and Brewer Science (whose story was also covered today by The Wall Street Journal, subscription).
NAM Goes to Europe to Strengthen Partnerships
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech at the recent NAM board meeting highlighted the importance of manufacturers in the U.S. to the world at large. But it also made another, implicit point—that the NAM has a robust platform for engaging global leaders on issues critical to the industry.
NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons heads across the Atlantic next week to bolster these strategic alliances, as well as advance key competitiveness priorities and elevate manufacturers’ role as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” While there, he will affirm the values shared by Americans and Europeans alike, including free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
The itinerary: The trip will take Timmons to Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, during a critical inflection point for U.S.–European Union and U.S.–U.K. partnerships.
- Timmons will take part in high-level meetings with government officials, international intergovernmental organizations like the World Trade Organization, U.S. embassies and European trade association counterparts.
- He will also meet with global manufacturing leaders, visit sites vital to the U.S.–European alliance and draw attention to the support manufacturers are providing in key countries like Poland.
The trade theme: Ahead of this trip, Timmons recently urged President Biden to resume forging trade agreements with our international partners, both in Europe and around the globe.
- As Timmons put it, “By advancing an ambitious trade agreement agenda, we can ensure that the U.S.—and not competitors like China—writes the rules for the global economy and trading system.”
- “At a time when democracy and free enterprise are under attack from forces around the world, America, as it has done in decades past, can provide the leadership needed to defend our values, our institutions and our way of life.”
The bigger picture: Timmons’ Europe trip follows many other NAM efforts to engage with international partners, which include recent meetings with Danny McCoy, CEO of the Irish Business Employers Confederation, and Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.
- It also follows Timmons’ trip to Mexico as a part of the U.S.–Mexico–Canada business delegation meetings at the North American Leaders’ Summit.
- Among other key moments, he communicated directly to new Mexican Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro the myriad of regulatory and trade policies that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.
The last word: “The NAM’s competitiveness agenda isn’t just something we can achieve here at home,” said NAM Executive Vice President Erin Streeter.
- “It requires action and partnership abroad, particularly in Europe. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and COVID-19 are just two examples of why the resilience and strength of the transatlantic alliance is so important.”
- “We’re looking forward to the impact we’ll make for manufacturers in the U.S. and in defense of our shared values.”
A Young Engineer Makes Herself Heard in Manufacturing
Rashmi Vadlakonda is a woman with a voice, and she’s not afraid to use it.
As a manufacturing engineer at Trane Technologies—a company focused on sustainable climate innovations—Vadlakonda is making advancements in engineering and paving the way for more women of color to join her. That’s why she was recently recognized by the Manufacturing Institute’s 2023 Women MAKE Awards as an Emerging Leader.
The award: The Women MAKE Awards, formerly known as the STEP Ahead Awards, honor top female talent in the industry while providing honorees with a platform to inspire other future industry leaders. Vadlakonda sees the honor as an opportunity to keep speaking up for people who are underrepresented.
- “I believe that for young women in manufacturing, especially for me as an immigrant young woman of color … a title helps,” said Vadlakonda. “This award gives me that title [and] the courage that I need to speak up and say, ‘Hey, I have something to share, and I want you to listen to me. There’s a reason I was recognized.’”
Starting out: Vadlakonda wasn’t immediately drawn to engineering, but when she was growing up in India, it was typical for young people to pursue engineering or medicine.
- Once she “fell into it,” she loved it, and took an especially strong interest in 3D printing while in graduate school at North Carolina State University. Her passion for 3D printing is what brought her to Trane Technologies.
Making the transition: When she first came to the company, she was responsible for operationalizing additive manufacturing throughout the company.
- She spent a few years in a corporate setting, traveling to different offices and introducing advanced manufacturing technologies—but when the pandemic hit and travel was largely suspended, she had plenty of time to think about what she wanted to do next. That’s when she decided to pivot to working in a factory setting.
- “The factory is a basic building block of the manufacturing industry,” said Vadlakonda. “Coming from a research background, I wanted to understand how a factory functions, how the people there think, how different groups interact with each other, and what it takes to actually deliver a good product.”
The factory floor: Vadlakonda is grateful she got a chance to work in both the corporate and factory environments. In a factory, she says, the pace is much faster, and you’re pushed to solve problems right in front of you. This was a challenge she found thrilling.
To women in the industry: When asked what her advice is for women in the industry, Vadlakonda first had advice for industry leaders. She believes they must create a comfortable environment for people from all walks of life.
- “Sure, you can get someone interested in manufacturing, you can help them come into the industry,” said Vadlakonda. “But we also have the responsibility of creating a welcoming environment where they feel like they can grow, so that they don’t leave, so that they’re happy here in the industry.”
The future: Vadlakonda, who is a champion of, and volunteer for, the industry’s Creators Wanted campaign to inspire the next generation of creators, believes it is vital that young people are exposed to manufacturing career options at an early age.
- “It doesn’t start with talking to women who have decided on a career path,” said Vadlakonda. “You have to start with kids. That’s why I like talking at Creators Wanted. Young people are naturally attracted to what they’re attracted to. Our job as adults is to help them see the options.”
The last word: “Manufacturing is very exciting,” said Vadlakonda. “It’s very interesting, you get to be creative and solve problems—and it’s such a satisfying feeling to solve problems.”
Arctic Drilling Gets the Go-Ahead
The Biden administration has given its approval of the Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
The gist: “The green light means Houston-based ConocoPhillips can start construction on its roughly $7 billion project in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, which the company expects will produce about 180,000 barrels of oil a day at its peak—equivalent to about 40% of Alaska’s current crude production.”
- “The Interior Department said it would allow drilling on three of the five drill sites proposed by ConocoPhillips, which announced the Willow discovery in 2017.”
The NAM’s take: The NAM expressed its support of the project to the administration last summer, pointing out that while manufacturers make full use of renewable energy sources, they also need oil and gas.
- “Manufacturers know that we must continue developing reliable sources of American energy and can do that in a way that still allows us to achieve critical environmental goals,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons today.
- “The Willow project is one such opportunity, which is why we advocated for its approval. Projects like this strengthen manufacturing’s competitiveness and are essential to bolstering domestic supply chains and job creation.”
NAM in action: The NAM has long been a vocal supporter of enacting permitting reform and making way for large-scale energy and infrastructure projects. Below, you can watch Timmons discuss the importance of overhauling the system during his 2023 State of Manufacturing Address:
The last word: Timmons recently hammered home the need for reform in a message to several U.S. House committees, saying, “Some of the biggest obstacles preventing manufacturers—and therefore the entire American economy—from reaching our full potential are the permitting delays, red tape and complicated bureaucracy that have plagued us for decades.”
AB InBev Uses Smart Manufacturing for Award-Winning Results
What does it take to be a digital transformation champion? Anheuser-Busch InBev can tell you.
The world’s largest brewer won four Manufacturing Leadership Awards in 2022, including the highly coveted Manufacturer of the Year. (The honors are given annually by the Manufacturing Leadership Council, the NAM’s digital transformation arm.) The MLC chatted with AB InBev Global Vice President Marcelo Ribeiro recently to get his insights on the processes, technologies and strategies driving the company’s success.
Business transformation drivers: “We have a dream at ABI, which is ‘to create a future with more cheers,’” said Ribeiro. “[That means] a clear strategy to lead and grow, to digitize and monetize our ecosystem and to optimize our business.” Here are a few ways AB InBev is pursuing that dream:
- Developing and delivering products that give consumers what they want, when they want it
- Making sure the supply chain can adapt quickly to consumer needs
- Increasing capacity without compromising safety, quality or sustainability
Rising to challenges: “The future is becoming less predictable,” Ribeiro said. “We need to prepare for that, so we have to build a more resilient, flexible supply chain.” Additional opportunities include:
- Moving from transactional relationships with vendors and suppliers to partnerships
- Looking beyond operations and across the entire supply chain to meet sustainability goals
- Creating a collaborative manufacturing ecosystem that fosters the sharing of ideas
Meeting the digital future: Ribeiro says that ABI’s digital strategy has three key aspects:
- Making data more accessible and available to frontline workers
- Creating a template for digital technology that can be easily tailored to the unique needs of each business
- Using advanced analytics to contextualize data and discover where it can best be applied to aid decision making
Leaders required: Ribeiro noted that leadership is essential for making this vision a reality.
- “It is critical to empower the front line,” he said. “Leaders should be focused on providing the resources to allow people to do the work and achieve excellence themselves. In the end, people are key for any business transformation.”
Find additional insights into AB InBev’s digital transformation in DIALOGUE: AB InBev’s Award-Winning Dream, or make plans to attend Rethink, where Ribeiro will present a keynote address on “Building Your Enterprise into a Digital Transformation Champion.”