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Business Operations

Fortune Brands Puts Sustainability Front and Center

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When it comes to making strides in sustainability, Fortune Brands Home & Security knows the power of small, steady steps. The company works to improve sustainability in a wide variety of ways, from water conservation to the recycling of ocean plastics and wood. We talked to two of its leaders recently to get the inside scoop.

Mission Moen: In 2020, the company launched Mission Moen, its commitment to conserving 1 trillion gallons of water by 2030. To meet that goal, Moen has employed cutting-edge innovation, explained Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Mark-Hans Richer.

  • Its Flo by Moen, for example, is a “smart water security system” that, through a mobile app, standalone sensors, detectors and other tech, allows consumers to monitor their water usage—and detect leaks they may not even know about.
  • “There is an immense amount of water that’s wasted every year in the United States … due to lack of knowledge,” said Richer. “Flo by Moen allows users to see where water use is any minute of any day.”

 “The key to saving water is in small fixes,” Richer emphasized. For example, “a faucet that has a little bit more managed gallon-per-minute flow can add up over the course of its use … to some pretty substantial savings.”

 Cleaning up the oceans: The second pillar of Mission Moen is the company’s commitment to cleaning up the world’s oceans—specifically, 2,000 tons of plastic that’s currently floating in them.

  • “We’ve found a lot of very useful, interesting things” that can be made with ocean-recycled plastic, Richer said. These include product packaging and components in showerheads.
  • “When you commit yourself to a large goal, then you start to look for ways” to meet that goal, he continued.

Recycled wood and plastic: FBHS’s dedication to conservation extends throughout the company. Recycled wood and plastic are used to create its Fiberon Balance composite decking, Fiberon President Fenton Challgren told us. It’s a complex process:

  • First, there is an “intensive search … for the right plastic, which comes in bales by the truckload,” said Challgren.
  • The company then must “sort the contaminants, contain them, grind them, get them into different extruders … and create a stable pellet” that can be used for the decking, he continued.

What should manufacturers learn from FBHS? Manufacturers seeking to reduce the size of their company’s environmental footprint should think of these efforts as a long-term investment, according to Challgren.

  • “On the water recycling side, have a really robust filtration system,” Challgren urged. “Spend the money, get the technology. It’s a big investment, but if you’re doing any type of high-volume water usage,” it will be less expensive in the long run.

The last word: As Challgren summed it up, “The impact your company could have by going down this path … will be worth it both financially and for the greater good.”

News

Still Leading the Way: Manufacturers Make Creators Wanted Live Possible

Through a global pandemic, manufacturers have led the way on health and safety measures, helping keep Americans working—for the U.S. and the world. Now the manufacturing industry continues that leadership while recruiting and inspiring the creators of the future.

On the road: Creators Wanted, the workforce campaign of the NAM and the MI, is getting ready to hit the road. The campaign formalized its COVID-19 safety protocols and is employing state-of-the-art technologies, like Sphere Synexis, provided by legacy sponsor Trane Technologies, to continuously fight viruses, bacteria and other hazards in the air and on surfaces. The mobile experience, along with other programming events and new online resources, will bring the story of modern manufacturing to communities across the country.

  • The experience, recently endorsed by The Dallas Morning News, is designed to capture the imaginations of students, teachers and parents and inspire the next generation of manufacturers.
  • It will complement the upcoming release of the NAM and MI’s innovative online resources for those seeking a career in manufacturing.

Coming to a town near you: The NAM and MI released the following Creators Wanted Live tour dates and stops.

  • Oct. 4–7: Columbus, Ohio
  • Oct. 12–15: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Oct. 20–22: West Columbia, South Carolina
  • Nov. 8–10: Pella, Iowa
  • Nov. 16–18: Freeport, Texas
  • Nov. 30 – Dec. 3: Dallas, Texas

Wait, there’s more! Community programming stops are also coming to Detroit, Michigan; Guthrie, Kentucky; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Carson City, Nevada. And a new suite of digital and online experiences and tools will bring the campaign to every state.

Thanks to strong support: “Our ability to mount this bold solution to the workforce crisis through the difficulties of a pandemic has been anything but certain,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and NAM Board Chair Mike Lamach said in a joint message to NAM membership. “It has taken the unwavering and strong support of some of America’s leading enterprises and business leaders to keep this campaign alive.”

See the full list of Creators Wanted sponsors here. Want to support the effort? Get involved—at any price point—here.

Workforce

From a Small Farm to a Global Manufacturing Company: A STEP Honoree Story

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Neha Phadke is a long way from home. Originally from a small farming village in India, Phadke grew sugar cane, onions, wheat and watermelon to support her seven-person family while she completed her bachelor’s degree. She moved to the United States to earn her Ph.D. in organic chemistry when Texas Tech University offered her full funding.

Today, Phadke works as a senior process chemist at Covestro, a high-tech polymer materials manufacturer that makes products used in industries including automotive, construction, health care, cosmetics, energy, electronics and sports. It’s her responsibility to find ways to improve production while maintaining quality.

Focused on manufacturing: Even when she was studying organic chemistry as an undergraduate and grad student, Phadke knew that she was more interested in applied science than academia. Near the end of her Ph.D. program in 2015, she received an internship opportunity at Covestro, which was then called Bayer Material Science. That internship turned into a job offer, and she has been working at Covestro ever since.

  • “I was asked if I wanted to go into research and academia or manufacturing, and I was 100% sure I wanted to go into manufacturing,” said Phadke. “I had a feeling that this was where I belonged.”

Everything’s bigger in Texas: Still, Phadke faced a learning curve when she shifted from academia to manufacturing, including the scale of the work she was doing.

  • “I had never seen big plants and reactors,” said Phadke. “I had worked on my Ph.D. in milligrams, and here I’m making more than 30,000 pounds of material in the reactors. It was fascinating, and I enjoyed the experience, process and learning through the new challenges.”

Standing up: Phadke may work in an environment that’s traditionally been male dominated, but she has never let that stop her before. Even when she was growing up, she knew that her ability to succeed should have nothing to do with her gender.

  • “I was always asked if I had a sibling, and I would say I have a younger sister—and I would get sympathy for not having a brother,” said Phadke. “As a kid, I wouldn’t understand why it should make any difference. And it pushed me to think: why can’t I do anything a guy can do?”

Serving as an example: The Manufacturing Institute recently selected Phadke as a 2021 STEP Ahead Award Honoree—an honor given to women leaders who have excelled both within their companies and in the industry as a whole. She encourages other women to get involved in manufacturing and says that, while the industry might seem daunting, she’s gotten plenty of support from her colleagues and her company.

The last word: “Anything is possible,” said Phadke. “Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you believe is right. Wear your courage, face your fears, lead your path, follow your passion and inspire others.”

Learn more about the STEP Ahead program, including how to honor remarkable women on your team, here.

News

How IPAK’s Diversity Sustained It Through COVID-19

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When COVID-19 swept through Camden, New Jersey, it hit the kit and packaging manufacturer IPAK very hard. The majority of IPAK’s nearly 100 employees are women and people from underserved communities, and like many other similarly situated groups, they suffered from particularly high case rates and economic disruption. But it was the company’s long commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that helped it get through this global disaster—and even allowed it to thrive.

We spoke to IPAK CEO Karen Primak about all the company did to safeguard its employees and serve its customers. Here’s what she told us.

Keeping employees safe: The early days of the pandemic were terrible; the company had four employees in the hospital on respirators “right from the beginning,” says Primak. But IPAK responded swiftly and comprehensively:

  • IPAK created an extensive COVID-19 action plan to prepare, inform and assist employees. This included an “ambassador” program so team members had a point of contact to ask about their virus-related concerns and receive answers and resources in the five different languages that employees speak.
  • The company rearranged schedules to allow workers without childcare to be home when needed. Managers spent an hour or two every morning discussing how they could accommodate everyone.
  • IPAK stayed current with the latest science and data, so that it could react quickly to the fast-changing pandemic. The company instituted an evolving set of daily cleaning protocols, social distancing measures, remote work provisions, masking and face shield requirements, vaccine information sessions and regular COVID-19 testing.

All these measures allowed IPAK to remain open and continue to deliver high-quality solutions to its customers throughout the pandemic. And here’s one last impressive detail: “We didn’t furlough or lay off anyone,” said Primak. “Despite all the craziness and the disproportionate impact on our employees and revenue, we remained committed to employing our workforce during this awful time.”

The “secret weapon”: How did IPAK cultivate the flexibility and dedication necessary to get through a global pandemic?

  • “Diversity, equity and inclusion have been our secret weapon,” Primak said. “If you hire people like you, all you get back is you. IPAK is equipped with a range of voices and perspectives, which helps us innovate and creatively solve problems. Our commitment to put employees first and understand their needs allowed us to come together and stay operational during such a difficult time.”

Success during upheaval: IPAK also went above and beyond for its clients, including nonprofit educational-content provider ACT, maker of the well-known college-entrance exam, whose supply chain was upended by COVID-19.

  • ACT was faced with shipping disruptions, shuttered test centers, constantly changing local conditions and testing center capacity constraints. It needed an agile partner who would be able to move quickly, adjust schedules and innovate in real time.
  • As a result, ACT pivoted early in the pandemic and massively expanded its contract with IPAK to include the handling of secure paper-based processing, which includes creating kits and manufacturing and distributing the ACT test.
  • Amid all this disruption and change, IPAK stepped up. Its staff worked tirelessly with ACT to deliver more than 2 million college-entrance exams during the pandemic.

“We worked nights and weekends and even hand-delivered some test booklets to make sure they arrived on time,” said Primak.

A great partnership: “We were the vendor that was willing to make huge and necessary changes alongside ACT during the pandemic so that many deserving students could take the ACT and benefit from the opportunities afforded by their hard work,” Primak said.

  • “IPAK asked so many questions about our organization and offered a unique process optimization perspective,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin. “It was clear they had deep knowledge of the education marketplace and cared about our mission—not just their bottom line. IPAK knocked its first assignment out of the park, catalyzing ACT to outsource additional critical programs to IPAK.”

NAM involvement: Primak also credits the NAM’s work with Congress and the administration with helping IPAK survive and succeed. She is grateful for government programs such as the employee retention tax credits, economic injury disaster loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans, which the NAM advocated for, and said that without such help, the company “wouldn’t be here.”

The last word: “Helping people achieve success and ensure equity, access and opportunity for all” is ACT’s mission, said Primak. It’s that type of commitment to equity and inclusion that also motivates IPAK’s whole team, in good times and in pandemics.

The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute are committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in the manufacturing industry. Visit the NAM Pledge for Action page to make your own commitment today.

Workforce

Manufacturers’ Job Training Gets a Federal Boost

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The Economic Development Administration has $3 billion to spend on job training—and manufacturers should start preparing now to attract some of that funding to their regions.

What’s happening: The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Biden in March, set aside $3 billion for a historic investment by the EDA in bottom-up economic development, according to a recent information session hosted by The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM.

  • Part of that money includes $500 million for the EDA’s Good Jobs Challenge, which helps fund job-training programs from design and development through implementation.

Applicants wanted: Applications for the funding—which can be spent by eligible recipients on a wide variety of expenses, including curriculum development, equipment purchases and training-facility leases—are due Jan. 26, 2022. (Read the Notice of Funding Opportunity here.)

“One of the key things we’re looking for in these proposals is a commitment to hire,” said EDA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Michele Chang. “We are in a time where we want to get folks back into jobs quickly.”

Who’s eligible? While nearly all types of public and private nonprofit groups are eligible, the EDA is seeking organizations that have strong credibility with employers and a proven track record of success.

  • How manufacturers can help: Raise this grant opportunity with your trusted economic development or workforce partner and encourage them to contact the MI at [email protected] to learn more.
  • A good fit: The EDA program is a natural fit for the MI’s efforts, according to MI Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Gardner Carrick. As he put it, “We are all working to attract more individuals to manufacturing.”

Boot Camp: Those who want to put their best foot forward during the EDA application process should consider the MI Boot Camp. These eight coaching sessions, which will run from mid-September to mid-December, will include workshops, discussions and expert mentorship designed to help applicants compete for the funds.

  • The MI Boot Camp is provided free of charge, but attendees will be selected via an application process. Email [email protected] for more information and how to apply.

Why it matters: Manufacturers are dealing with a worrying lack of skilled workers. As of July, the industry had a total of 889,000 job openings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This vacuum could grow to 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, according to a recent study by Deloitte and the MI—an excellent reason to expand training programs as fast as possible.

The last word: The MI encourages all those who meet eligibility requirements to apply for funds to support their job-training programs. Said Carrick: “The EDA has to be commended for what is really a very impressive grant program.”

Interested in more of the NAM and MI’s work to attract workers to the manufacturing industry? Check out our Creators Wanted campaign.

Policy and Legal

NAM Launches Manufacturers United

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With major policy issues coming to a head this fall in Washington, the National Association of Manufacturers this week launched Manufacturers United – a new digital platform to power the industry’s grassroots advocacy.

We spoke with some of the people behind the effort to learn more about what it does, how it works, and why manufacturers across the country should use it to highlight their priorities and make their voices heard.

What it does: Manufacturers United provides a clear platform and a wide range of easy-to-use tools for individual manufacturers to take action to advance the industry’s policy priorities:

  • “Manufacturers United is the central resource where manufacturers, those who work in our industry and everyday Americans who care about the future of manufacturing in the United States can come together and take meaningful action, said Assistant Vice President for Advocacy at the NAM Michael O’Brien. “Congress is currently working on urgent priorities ranging from infrastructure investments to revisiting tax reform. Manufacturers United gives you the tools and resources — from posting key messages to social media, sending a message to your representative, all the way to helping you attend a congressional town hall, or host a member at your facility — that help you take action.”

A helping hand: In addition to giving manufacturers the tools to advocate for their causes, Manufacturers United also offers access to members of NAM staff who can help you navigate and make effective use of these advocacy tools and opportunities.

Why it matters: Research shows that persistent, sustained advocacy is incredibly important – and that outreach from individual constituents has the most impact, especially when policymakers are undecided on an issue. MU unleashes the power of manufacturers who have been interested in advocacy, but haven’t known where to start.

“The NAM will always be there to serve up full and comprehensive information on policy matters and other leading issues, but we’re seeing a real hunger from our members to actually join the fight,” said NAM Grassroots Strategist Alex Przybelski. “Manufacturers United helps them scale campaigns themselves and move their issues forward.”

How it works: Manufacturers United is designed to help individuals take a number of actions in support of manufacturing priorities. A few ways to plug in are:

  • Get up to speed and take action on current issues like fighting new taxes on manufacturers, advancing historic infrastructure investment, and other major issues
  • Sign up by texting MU to 52886 for updates about the major issues MU is working on (or just visit the homepage and sign up)
  • Get to know the NAM staff who can help you put these tools to work

The bottom line: “Manufacturers United is about harnessing the power of manufacturing voices,” said O’Brien. “What’s at stake, fast facts and useful statistics, how to take action – it’s all there to help individual manufacturers find information and act on it to create an impact.”

Learn more: Find out more at www.manufacturersunited.org.

Business Operations

Hologic Supports Women’s Health via Innovation

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Nilo Caravaca, Hologic’s vice president of operations for Costa Rica and Latin America, says the company has an “important purpose”: to improve and save women’s lives around the world. At the Costa Rica facility that he manages, the company manufactures diagnostic and imaging equipment that protects women’s health, such as mammography systems and bone density scanners.

In pursuit of their goal, Caravaca and his team have embraced innovative technologies as well as best practices in talent management. For their achievements in attracting, upskilling and retaining a world-class workforce, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council awarded Hologic the 2021 Manufacturer of the Year award in the small and medium enterprise category. But the company is not stopping there. Caravaca anticipates further innovations, as Hologic keeps prioritizing efficiency, safety and growth.

Here is a snapshot of Hologic’s two award-winning projects and a look at things to come.

Supply chain innovation: Almost every product made by Hologic’s Costa Rica facility serves a patient with an urgent medical issue. That means its supply chain must be incredibly resilient and reliable.

  • To meet these critical needs, Hologic launched a project called “Impacting Lives Every Day,” which employed robots for moving materials and bots for automating processes, while improving operations using real-time data and analytics.
  • The project has resulted in a more reliable supply chain that gets products to patients faster while improving quality and safety.

Talent management: Caravaca believes companies need to focus on people in addition to technology to make the transition to Manufacturing 4.0, the next wave of technological progress.

  • To that end, his team developed a new set of talent management processes that helps attract and recruit the best employees on the market, as well as ensure they have the opportunity to perform at their highest level.

The last word: An engineer by trade, Caravaca has a simple “formula for the future” of manufacturing: “Find the right talent, fit that talent in the right position, engage it and add tenure over time.” That will allow people to grow into their roles and perform at their peaks—the best result for both the company and the employees themselves.

To learn more about the innovative technologies and processes at Hologic’s Costa Rica facility, read “Hologic’s Winning Formula” in the August 2021 issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal.

Business Operations

A Visit to Robinson Helicopter Company

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What’s it like to make machines that capture the news, fight crime and train pretty much every helicopter pilot? For Robinson Helicopter Company, a manufacturer of civil helicopters, that’s just another day at work.

NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer took a trip to the Robinson facility in Torrance, California, to get an up-close look at what they do. Here’s what he saw.

Attention to detail is a core value of Robinson’s workforce. Here, two of Robinson’s employees focus on the critical work they do to make sure Robinson’s helicopters can perform successfully and safely.

The people who use Robinson’s machines are precious cargo—and so employees are careful to make sure that every piece, no matter how small, is handled correctly.

Robinson’s employees work hard on their machines—inside and out.

With a few finishing touches—like the rotor blades—this R44 Raven II will be ready for flight.

At Robinson, the work is never done. Here, a group of helicopters-in-progress wait to join the more than 13,000 helicopters that the company has already delivered worldwide.

The last word: “We are proud to be the world’s leading producer of civil helicopters and take great pride in our employees and their commitment to quality,” said Robinson President and Chairman Kurt Robinson.

Business Operations

How Manufacturers Are Mastering Data

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When it comes to data management, most manufacturers are basically teenagers. They’ve gotten past the early stages but have yet to reach full maturity and mastery in their approach. In fact, it is often unclear what the data strategy is, who is responsible for it or even what the data is worth in the first place.

A new survey from the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council shows us how manufacturers are progressing in their quest to harness the power of data—a capability that could have transformative power for many manufacturers throughout their operations. Below are some highlights.

Data collection: Most manufacturers rate their organizational data skills as just average, saying they struggle to collect the right data and interpret it.

  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents said their company had just a moderate ability to collect data that is meaningful for their business needs.

Data analysis: If gathering data is a challenge, gaining insights from that data is an even bigger one.

  • Seventy-five percent of respondents ranked their organization as only somewhat capable in their ability to analyze their manufacturing operations data.
  • Even more worrisome, 11% of respondents said their organization was not at all capable of this type of analysis.

Applying insights: The practical application of data to create value is also a challenge for many manufacturers.

  • Almost one-third said they expend greater than 80% of their efforts on gathering and organizing data—as opposed to analyzing and applying insights from it.

Other stumbling blocks: The survey revealed additional impediments to using data:

  • The lack of systems available to capture the data (46%)
  • Data inaccessibility (43%)
  • The lack of skills to analyze data effectively (39%)

Opportunities: The good news is that even with these imperfect efforts, organizations are largely leveraging the data they do have to make informed decisions.

  • Forty-eight percent said their organization makes data-driven decisions frequently, while 18% said they make data-driven decisions constantly.

The bottom line: Seventy-five percent of respondents said data mastery will be essential for future competitiveness. Indeed, data mastery is crucial to the industry’s transition into Manufacturing 4.0—the next big wave of industrial innovation—and the MLC will be tracking the industry’s progress closely.

To see more insights from the latest MLC M4.0 Data Mastery Survey, read “Growing Pains” in the August 2021 issue of the Manufacturing Leadership Journal.

Policy and Legal

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Keeps Promises After Tax Reform

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Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, a West Columbia, South Carolina–based manufacturer, has been instrumental in helping American hospitals during the pandemic. The company produces inhalation solutions and suspension products, as well as prefilled sterile syringes, vials, IV bottles and IV bags. Meanwhile, Nephron also launched a COVID-19 diagnostics lab and vaccination center last year and recently announced plans for a new U.S. plant that will produce medical-grade nitrile gloves.

It is thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that Nephron has been able to keep investing in its workforce and facilities. Nephron President, CEO and Owner Lou Kennedy recently spoke to us about the company’s expansion and the benefits of the tax reform law’s provisions.

An early start: Nephron didn’t wait to begin sharing the benefits with its employees. Within days of tax reform’s passage, the company announced that employees would receive a 5% raise.

An expanded workforce: Tax reform also helped the company grow over time, from its pre–tax reform size of 485 employees.

  • Today, the company has nearly 1,200 full-time employees and almost 800 more part-time employees, including educators, interns and apprentices—a massive expansion that shows no signs of stopping.
  • In fact, Nephron expects to have 400–500 jobs to fill in the next 12 months alone.

In addition, the company skews young and diverse—around 53% of the workforce are women, more than 36% are people of color, and the average employee age is about 35.

Offering good jobs: The company now offers a starting salary in the range of $17 per hour. Meanwhile, it has also increased its long-term incentives and bulked up its 401(k) plan.

Growing operations: In addition to its workforce expansion, Nephron is using the benefits of tax reform to invest in its facilities and expand its footprint.

  • The company is in the midst of five multimillion-dollar projects, including one worth $215 million that Nephron has said was made possible by tax reform. This project will bring 380 new full-time jobs to the surrounding area by 2024 and add new office, warehouse and production space as well as a vaccine production facility.

How tax reform helped: Nephron is organized as a pass-through entity, which helped the company benefit from the lower top tax rate (37%) that tax reform offered. It also benefited from the 20% pass-through deduction and a full expensing provision that allows for the immediate deduction of equipment purchases.

  • The tax code’s research and development incentives, including R&D full expensing, have also been hugely important to Nephron, helping it develop the therapies that stop COVID-19 in its tracks.

The last word: “Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed, we have plowed dollars back into our businesses and our workers,” said Kennedy. “We would certainly have to pump the brakes if tax reform were to be rolled back. We’re hopeful that Congress and the administration will leave tax reform in place to incentivize domestic manufacturing.”

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