The creation of several safe and effective vaccines within a single year is historic. But what can we expect to happen next? NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling spoke to us about the vaccine rollout—and what this achievement tells us about the state of American public policy.
What’s next: For Pfizer and Moderna, the next step is to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. In fact, Pfizer is set to do so today, though the approval process is likely to take a few weeks.
The vaccine manufacturers are also focusing on the rollout process.
- That includes not only mass production, but also mass distribution across 64 jurisdictions that include every state, territory and tribal nation in the United States.
- Those jurisdictions have submitted plans to the Department of Health and Human Services for consideration, and manufacturers will work with all governments to make the process go smoothly.
How they’ll do it: In some cases, this will involve a public–private partnership with manufacturers through Operation Warp Speed, which will help distribute kits that include needles, vials, alcohol wipes and other important elements.
- It will also involve a system for ordering and tracking vaccines that allows the federal government to keep tabs on who is getting the vaccine and when.
- Some vaccines require two doses, which means that coordination is especially key—local governments and manufacturers must ensure that patients can get a second dose at the right time.
It takes a village: Boerstling emphasized that the vaccines’ development relied not just on a few pharmaceutical companies, but on many manufacturers—as well as an ecosystem that supports innovation, collaboration and discovery.
- “The fact that our biopharmaceutical manufacturing community had the platforms to do what it has accomplished in a very short time is nothing short of amazing,” said Boerstling.
- “But given the expertise, research and development investment, access to capital and all the things that make our industry competitive in the United States, it’s also something that we can expect in this ecosystem. It’s a testament to our ability to mobilize quickly and create progress.”
The bottom line: Most importantly, Boerstling emphasizes, vaccines protect us against this virus—and manufacturers must get the word out. “Vaccines work,” she says. “They protect Americans from adverse health events. And COVID-19 is the most adverse health event in our lifetime.”
As more women enter the manufacturing industry every day, they need guidance from those who have already succeeded. Luckily, BASF Corporation Senior Vice President of Chemical Intermediates North America Erika Peterman is happy and proud to show the way.
Peterman is the 2020 chair of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards, which recognize accomplished women in manufacturing from the shop floor to the C-suite. She also works with BASF to increase the number of female leaders within the company, recognizing that strong female leadership brings value to corporations, as a study from MSCI shows. BASF is also a proud sponsor of the STEP Ahead Awards and participates in many programs that encourage women and girls to enter this rewarding field.
So what does Peterman have to say to women who are just starting out? Here is her advice, courtesy of a recent email interview.
1. Don’t underestimate your abilities.
As a young engineer, I was once called in to solve a problem affecting distillation operations. After chatting with the control room technician, I asked her to run a little test, opening and closing various valves while also recording process flows and temperatures. It took only 20 minutes (enough time for a pleasant conversation about weekend plans), after which I shared the solution with my boss.
That 20-minute test had a big impact on my career. Later that afternoon, my boss told me that the team had struggled with this problem since before I took the job. Had I worried about how my solution measured up to previous ideas, I may never have solved it at all.
2. Be prepared to be tested, but stay calm and trust you belong.
Women have earned a seat at the table, but unfortunately, some people will challenge you anyway. Later in my career, when I worked in product management, my boss’s boss told me my salary was “much higher” than my counterparts’. I was thrown, but I knew my response would matter not only to me, but to other women who looked up to me as a role model.
I told myself to stay calm and responded that he should consider placing me in a higher-level role commensurate with my compensation. Of course, I’d done the market research and knew I wasn’t overpaid. I also knew this boss had a reputation for trying to catch people off guard—but this time, he was the one who didn’t know what to say! To this day, I’m proud of how I managed that conversation. I knew I had to defend myself, because if I didn’t, no one else would.
3. Learn to listen and become comfortable with not being the expert in the room.
I have so many examples for this that it’s hard to choose just one. Everyone has points in their career when they do not know all the answers, and that is okay. The key is to be confident in what you do know and comfortable going to others to ask for assistance.
Considering multiple perspectives and forging strong alliances within your organization are the keys to driving progress and innovation. Let go of your ego to allow for clarity of thought and action, and it will set you apart from others.
Check out the STEP Women’s Initiative and the STEP Ahead Awards here.
Manufacturing needs skilled workers to innovate in the United States and compete globally—and immigrants fill a variety of critical roles. For this and many other reasons, the NAM has been a longtime advocate of bipartisan, sensible immigration reform.
NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons reinforced manufacturers’ commitment to immigration yesterday at a panel event hosted by the National Immigration Forum, which was moderated by Axios reporter Stef Kight and also featured Tyson Foods Chief Sustainability Officer John R. Tyson. Here’s what he said.
The skills gap: Immigration is crucial to many sectors in manufacturing, Timmons stressed.
- “High-skilled immigration professionals fill critical roles across the country,” he said. “You think about researchers and scientists and technicians. Workers for these roles are in very high demand, and H1-B visas and employment-based immigration are one way manufacturers fill these immediate needs while we work to strengthen our domestic talent pipeline.”
And the pandemic hasn’t changed things—this is a long-term skills shortage that will continue even after the industry bounces back completely.
- “Even though manufacturers lost 1.3 million jobs during the pandemic—we’ve filled back about half of those—we still have 460,000 jobs that we can’t fill,” said Timmons. “Legal immigration programs are absolutely critical for that workforce development, and to allow manufacturers to grow their operations in the United States, and also expand their global footprint.”
The ecosystem: Immigrants aren’t just important for manufacturing jobs; they’re also critical for the support jobs that make manufacturing work.
- “Our employers know that our economy depends on immigrants in a multitude of support functions to enable our economy to succeed,” said Timmons. “Think of an ecosystem of educators and childcare providers, health care workers, transportation professionals, agricultural workers and countless others. They enable our sector, and they enable our economy, and they enable our country to function.”
The NAM’s plan: The NAM has long called for commonsense immigration reform, which includes creating an employment-based immigration system that prioritizes America’s workforce needs. Its comprehensive immigration plan can be found in the policy blueprint “A Way Forward.”
You can watch the full event here.
Steve Schulte began his career running Porta-King Building Systems, a portable building manufacturer, five decades ago. At the time, the Montgomery City, Missouri, business had just 10 employees—but as it grew, Schulte decided to offer health insurance to his employees to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.
Over time, Schulte became an advocate of providing benefits like health care to manufacturing employees—and when the NAM started developing NAM Health Care to extend affordable coverage to small manufacturers, Schulte wanted a seat at the table. Today, he serves as the chair of the NAM Health Care program’s governing committee.
“I thought it was very important for small businesses to be part of a larger group to help improve the cost of their health care,” said Schulte. “Knowing how expensive it is in today’s market—as a small manufacturer, it’s very difficult to get a competitive rate. Being a part of a larger group offers a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to get involved.”
How it works: NAM Health Care is an association health plan created by the NAM, Mercer and UnitedHealthcare. It allows manufacturers with fewer than 100 employees to band together to purchase affordable coverage that is usually available only to larger companies. Offering a range of benefits and savings, the program is tailored to manufacturers and provides tools that make the process of offering health benefits easy.
NAM Health Care is operated by the plan’s governing committee, which is made up of mostly small and medium-sized manufacturers. The committee manages the NAM’s medical, dental, vision and life plans with the support of Mercer and UnitedHealthcare.
The benefits: While Schulte’s company is too large to take advantage of NAM Health Care, he knows that the initiative still provides important benefits for his company. By helping his smaller suppliers attract and retain high-caliber employees, he can strengthen his own supply chain and the manufacturing workforce as a whole.
The last word: “As time goes on and it becomes more well known in the manufacturing community that the NAM has this offering, it will continue to grow,” said Schulte. “I’m a believer in the program. I’m delighted to be a part of the beginning stages and to be able to see the success we’ll continue to have.”
To learn more about the program, go here.
How are supply chains holding up under the stresses of COVID-19? How are companies preparing their supply chains for the future? As manufacturing endures a difficult year, these are key questions for all of us.
Fortunately, the new 2020 Digital Supply Chain Survey—a research initiative from Grant Thornton, the Manufacturing Leadership Council and the NAM—is here to tell us what we need to know.
The good news: While COVID-19 has caused widespread disruption in economic activity—and three-quarters of survey respondents reported some level of supply chain disruption—60% of respondents say that the disruption was only “minor.”
Still, according to the report, “around half had to rapidly reforecast demand, almost a third had to reduce production and two in five began to identify new suppliers as their existing global networks tried to cope with the initial disruption.”
The growth areas: The survey also identified a few areas where companies need to invest or make further progress:
- There’s room for growth in identifying supply chain risks (only 23% of companies called themselves “very capable” of doing so) and in accelerating digital maturity (just 17% of companies say their supply chains are fully integrated).
- More than half of companies—approximately 53%—say they are already beginning or considering redesigns of their entire supply chain processes.
Transformational tech: Companies are increasingly focused on making use of new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning systems and advanced analytics that would allow them to respond better to challenges—from shifts in markets to disasters like COVID-19.
The bottom line: “While transformational initiatives were already underway in many manufacturing supply chains before the COVID crisis, the lessons learned so far this year have clearly given those plans a new sense of urgency and a clearer focus for the years ahead.”
Now that most of the election results are in, we can ask the next important question: were the congressional elections good for manufacturers?
The NAM’s political action committee, known as NAM-PAC, has an unequivocal answer: absolutely. In fact, nearly all of NAM-PAC’s bipartisan picks for Congress are returning to Washington.
The results: 48 of the 49 NAM-PAC-supported members of the U.S. House of Representatives have been reelected so far, with successful candidates on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, 13 of the 15 NAM-PAC-endorsed Senate candidates won or are currently leading their challengers.
With some races still being tallied, the number of NAM-PAC success stories may grow—but the results already testify to the NAM’s influence and America’s desire to support manufacturers.
The criteria: How do we know a candidate is good for manufacturing? NAM-PAC looks at a variety of factors, including:
- The candidate’s history of supporting policies that are important to manufacturing;
- The manufacturing footprint in the candidate’s state or district;
- The candidate’s history of engaging and working with the NAM and member companies; and
- The committees the candidate serves on and his or her leadership roles.
The growing clout: NAM-PAC has seen extraordinary growth over the past few years. During the 2019–2020 election cycle, NAM-PAC contributed nearly $300,000 to the campaigns of manufacturing champions on Capitol Hill, which is almost a tenfold increase from the previous election cycle in 2017–2018.
The last word: “In looking at the results of House and Senate elections, it’s clear that candidates who focused on manufacturing priorities won the night on Tuesday,” said NAM Vice President of Government Relations Jordan Stoick. “That’s a good thing for getting good pro-manufacturing legislation accomplished whether it’s infrastructure investment, defending pro-growth tax policy or passing immigration reform.”
While everyone is talking about the election results, let’s not forget about the slow and steady slog for better government—by which we mean, a stable and predictable regulatory system that encourages manufacturing growth instead of hampering it.
Recently, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons made the case for government-wide regulatory reform in a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Here’s what he had to say.
The numbers: If you had any doubts that manufacturers pay a lot for regulatory compliance, lay them to rest:
- “On average, manufacturers pay $19,564 per employee to comply with federal regulations, or nearly double the $9,991 per employee costs borne by all firms as a whole.”
- “This burden falls heavily on small businesses; of the 248,039 firms in the manufacturing sector in 2017, all but 3,914 had fewer than 500 employees, with three-quarters of these firms having fewer than 20 employees.”
- “For the smallest firms (i.e., those with fewer than 50 employees), regulatory costs equal $34,671 per employee.”
A recap: Timmons also reminded the House that many of the NAM’s regulatory recommendations have already become policy—and that it’s working just as hard to support manufacturers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In 2017, the NAM submitted a list of 132 suggested reforms to the Trump administration—and since then, 89% of those suggestions have been addressed or adopted.
- In April of this year, the NAM released the “American Renewal Action Plan,” which included regulatory proposals designed to strengthen America’s response to COVID-19 and ensure manufacturers are poised to lead the recovery and renewal of the American economy. Dozens of these proposals have also been adopted—and the NAM is working on more.
What’s next: Timmons’ letter came with a list of proposals for further reforms, which will support manufacturers while benefitting consumers and protecting our environment. These include:
- Modernizing the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs federal rulemaking;
- Providing clarity on the difference between legally binding rules and nonbinding guidance;
- Ensuring that regulatory enforcement and adjudication is fair, efficient and transparent;
- Tackling the growing trade of dangerous counterfeits and other illicit goods; and
- Addressing international regulatory burdens.
The last word: “These proposals serve as a roadmap to smart regulation,” said NAM Director of Regulatory Policy Graham Owens. “These bipartisan measures would create a more effective and efficient regulatory system better equipped to protect worker safety, public health and our environment—while providing manufacturers with the regulatory certainty and uniformity necessary to unleash our country’s economic potential.”
You can read the full letter—and the entire list of recommendations—here.
The U.S. Department of Labor has adopted a final rule that requires pension plan managers to make investments based solely on financial implications, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
What it does: The rule clarifies that pension plan managers can only consider “pecuniary” factors—that is, factors relating to the financial performance of the plan—when making investment decisions on pensioners’ behalf.
- Existing standards hold managers to a fiduciary duty to represent pensioners’ financial best interests; the new rule cautions plan managers against considering so-called environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors unless they would have a financial impact on plan performance.
- The goal of the rule is to prevent investment decisions based on non-pecuniary metrics rather than on the financial interests of the workers whose savings are at stake.
A win for the NAM: The NAM sent a comment letter supporting the DOL’s proposed rule in July, arguing that fund managers should be required to look out for the financial interests of pension plan participants.
The last word: “This is a positive outcome for manufacturing workers across the country,” said NAM Director of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Charles Crain. “Pension plan participants should be able to trust that their long-term savings will be protected over any other considerations so that they can enjoy a stable and secure retirement.”
In any other year, a hurricane might be the worst catastrophe facing a manufacturer. And though all bets are off in 2020, hurricanes are still a major hazard. So how can leaders protect their operations and help their employees stay safe?
The National Association of Manufacturers’ Emergency Response Committee hosted a webinar recently to answer these important questions. It featured speakers from SBP, which works on the ground to support preparedness and resiliency; Kirby Corporation, a tank barge operator based in Texas; and Good360, a leader in philanthropy and purposeful giving. Here is some of their advice.
For workers: SBP Community Engagement Manager Amanda Gallina laid out important steps that individuals can take—and that companies can promote to their employees. These include:
- Collecting hazard and emergency information from local and national sources like news and weather apps, NOAA Weather Radio and the Red Cross Emergency app.
- Making a household emergency plan, which should include stockpiling supplies, establishing communication methods and emergency contact numbers, and creating an evacuation and sheltering plan.
- Identifying and protecting important documents by storing them in a fire- and water-proof box, while giving extra copies to a trusted attorney or friend. You can also use secure online cloud storage as another backup.
- Getting the right insurance by identifying any gaps in coverage and asking your agent the right questions.
- Protecting your property by taking a home inventory of your possessions using tools like myHOME, UPHelp Home Inventory and Sortly. You can also make proactive improvements to your home, such as flood protections and green infrastructure, using tools like the FEMA Property Protection Toolkit or dontgoof.org.
For businesses: Kirby Corporation Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Matt Woodruff shared what his company learned while mobilizing for Hurricane Sally in New Orleans. Here are his recommendations for other companies:
- Make sure new employees understand the hurricane plan well ahead of hurricane season.
- Create a checklist of duties for that must be performed, starting with the first day of hurricane season.
- Set up remote work sites for affected areas and employees.
- Provide support to the families of employees who live in affected areas to ensure their safety.
Woodruff also provided recommendations specific to his industry, including:
- Create vessel and facility inspection and response teams that can be repurposed to support affected families after a hurricane or other disaster.
“A lot of what you heard about preparing for your home is also what you do to prepared for your company,” said Woodruff. “You need to have a plan. That plan needs to be written, communicated, understood and exercised. And you need to be prepared to implement that plan early.”
Helping others: There are also plenty of ways for manufacturers to support people and companies after a disaster. Good360 Vice President of Disaster Recovery and Philanthropy Jim Alvey discussed how his organization partners with socially responsible companies, sourcing much-needed goods and distributing them through a network of diverse nonprofits.
“The goal for Good360 with the NAM members is to make it easy to donate products,” said Alvey. “And I’m talking about year-round—not just in a knee-jerk reaction to disasters. . . . If you have product in your warehouses taking up space, or you’re paying for disposal, Good360 can turn it into products that can help the community.”
The current mission? Getting large quantities (15,000 -20,000) of cleaning products—including buckets, cleaning supplies, cleaning tools and garbage bags—to aid the Hurricanes Laura and Delta recovery efforts in Louisiana. You can contact at Alvey at [email protected] to help.
In a victory for the NAM, reports suggest that the Securities and Exchange Commission has abandoned a planned rule that would have decreased market transparency and made it more difficult for public companies to communicate with shareholders.
The background: Form 13F requires asset managers to report their holdings in public companies. Under current law, if an institution manages more than $100 million in assets, they are required to report the businesses they hold shares in. Companies use that information for investor relations, outreach and communication with shareholders—and because there is no other way for public companies to know who their owners are, it’s fundamental to the day-to-day operations of businesses across the country.
The proposal: This summer, the SEC proposed changing the Form 13F disclosure threshold from $100 million to $3.5 billion—a 3,500% increase. The change would have exempted 89% of current filers from the 13F reporting requirement, preventing businesses from communicating with many owners and disproportionately affecting small public companies that tend to be held by small investment managers.
The result: The NAM strongly opposed the SEC’s proposal and led an aggressive response that included direct outreach from the NAM and NAM members to the SEC, as well as multiple official submissions to the comment file. In the face of this strong opposition from manufacturers, recent news reports indicate that the SEC will abandon the rule.
The word from the NAM: “This is a critical victory for manufacturers—from large corporations to small and mid-sized businesses,” said NAM Director of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Charles Crain. “We are proud of the extraordinary work from so many NAM members who mobilized to fight this rule—and we are pleased that the SEC now intends to preserve vital transparency for manufacturers and their shareholders.”