Business Operations

How a Manufacturer Left Landfills Behind

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Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems sends almost none of its waste to landfills. A manufacturer of safety, air management and braking system technologies, the company cut its energy use by 14 million kilowatt-hours over the past six years. And it’s now building a 1.168-megawatt solar array near its Indiana facility.

That’s only the start for the Ohio-based manufacturer. In the past few years, Bendix has become a leader in sustainable manufacturing, adding sustainable design to its buildings and emphasizing sustainability in everything from employee training to production. The company has also been recognized for its achievements: In April 2020, Bendix received an award for “environmental excellence” from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and recently the company won an award from the U.S. Department of Energy for its outstanding energy management.

“Even during a year when many activities had to be modified, curtailed or held remotely, our team members stayed true to our sustainability mission and to our overall energy strategy,” said Bendix Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Maria Gutierrez.

So how did they do it?  

What it takes: “Our approach is built on a hierarchy that calls for each location to first eliminate, then reduce, reuse, recycle and reclaim—and as a final option when these strategies are not available, to utilize waste-to-energy technologies or incineration,” said Bendix Corporate Manager of Environmental and Sustainability Bill Schubert.

  • The entire company sent fewer than 16 tons of material to landfills in 2020, a 97% decrease from the 508 tons in 2019.
  • Bendix has done everything from eliminating plastic water bottles and Styrofoam to conducting “spent material audits”—more commonly known as dumpster dives—to ensure recyclables don’t go to waste.
  • Its 4,100 employees are also chipping in: worker-led teams coordinate “green” projects, which continued even during the pandemic.

What’s next: At its Huntington, Indiana, manufacturing campus, Bendix is constructing a solar array that is expected to be operational in September 2021. It will produce more than 30% of the site’s electricity requirements and is slated to save $140,000 in utilities annually.

  • Bendix also aims to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 across its entire North American operations. The larger goal: to be entirely carbon neutral by 2050.

The last word: “Taking a creative approach to addressing challenging waste and improving energy efficiency remained a key theme for Bendix during all of 2020, and our efforts certainly paid off,” said Gutierrez. “Now, we’re focused on the next steps of our long-term energy plans, which are just as exciting.”

Policy and Legal

A Bottleneck at California Ports Squeezes Manufacturers

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The ship stuck in the Suez Canal may have gotten all the attention, but it wasn’t the biggest shipping problem of the year. That honor goes to the massive traffic jam at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which has dragged on since late 2020.

As NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Ben Siegrist tells us, this bottleneck is a huge problem for manufacturers in the U.S.—one that is costing our economy many billions of dollars. Dozens of ships are waiting in the harbor for days before they are able to unload, exporters are struggling to get their goods out of the country, and other manufacturers are waiting months for parts or finished goods to arrive.

The problem: The numbers tell the tale: at one point in mid-April, there were 23 ships waiting to dock at the ports, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription), down from around 40 back in February. For comparison, Siegrist explains, the normal number of ships waiting in harbor is somewhere between 0 and 1.

Why it’s happening: Much of the congestion results from the pandemic—there has been an uptick in e-commerce during the lockdowns, and the economic stimulus has boosted consumption. Meanwhile, the typical increase in shipments during the holiday season just made things worse.

However, other factors are making this congestion particularly hard to fix, says Siegrist. These include:

  • A shortage of shipping containers: First of all, shippers don’t have enough containers in the absolute for all of these goods. But in addition, some of them are finding it cheaper to unload in the U.S. and then send the empty containers back to Asia—to the disadvantage of U.S. manufacturers that want to load those containers with exports.
  • A shortage of chassis: The trucks that transport containers to warehouses require special chassis to move the containers, but the ports also don’t have enough of these.
  • A labor shortage: Like many other Americans, port workers had to deal with COVID-19 infections or exposures as well as cope with family responsibilities during the pandemic.

Logistical complications: Meanwhile, the logistics of international shipping are incredibly complicated, Siegrist explains. There are fewer ocean carriers today—only nine, down from more than 20 a few decades ago—which means manufacturers have fewer competitive shipping options. And the complex relationships between the multiple carriers, port operators and equipment owners are not easy to disentangle or control.

What do we do? Thanks in large part to the complexity of international shipping, there’s no easy answer, says Siegrist. Right now, the NAM is in discussions with the many federal agencies involved in international commerce, including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Commerce, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and a lesser known but vital agency called the Federal Maritime Commission. “We’re trying to create opportunities for our members to have a dialogue with policymakers,” says Siegrist.

  • The eventual policy options might range from fines or fees for international carriers to legislative updates to the 1984 Shipping Act.
  • It will also be important to strengthen the domestic supply chain for equipment like containers—almost none of which are now made in the U.S. The NAM is “talking more holistically about supply chains with the Biden administration,” notes Siegrist.

Stay tuned: The FMC will release its investigation into pandemic-related shipping delays in the coming weeks.

Business Operations

How One Manufacturer Inactivates COVID-19

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When COVID-19 upended their operations, LumenFocus—a manufacturer of LED light fixtures—saw an opportunity to be of service. It quickly pivoted to developing products that inactivate viruses and kill bacteria with certain UV wavelengths, called UVC wavelengths. These products, which may be used in businesses, schools and hospitals, can make shared environments safer for everyone.

The company’s new solutions also caught the attention of the military. Recently, the Department of Defense awarded LumenFocus a significant portion of a $2.3 million contract to develop a prototype for military operations. LumenFocus President and CEO Charles Kassay said after the announcement, “As an American company, we are thrilled at the opportunity to be developing products to help our servicemen and servicewomen.”

So how did LumenFocus come up with these virus-inactivating fixtures?

How they did it: Before the pandemic, LumenFocus had only manufactured LED light fixtures. But when COVID-19 hit, the company directed its R&D teams to research solutions for eradicating pathogens like COVID-19.

  • “We knew about ultraviolet light and its potential for disinfection, but it wasn’t an avenue we had traversed before,” says Marketing Coordinator Eric Robinson. “Once we understood the science behind UV, we combined this with our knowledge and experience in engineering light fixtures, and our fabrication capabilities, to create products for pathogen eradication.”

What they’re making: LumenFocus speedily developed a range of products that offer different means of sanitization for different customers’ needs. Some include:

  • The new PathogenFocus product line: These products use nonthermal plasma technology for continuous air and surface disinfection in buildings, either in conjunction with existing HVACs or as standalone units. They have been scientifically proven to reduce up to 99.99% of common pathogens (including bacteria and viruses) quickly and effectively, according to the company.
  • Direct UVC units for unoccupied rooms: These products are intended for unoccupied spaces, as they provide a high dosage of UVC to eradicate pathogens quickly. The UVC fixtures can be ceiling mounted or recessed into grid ceilings.
  • Germicidal upper air units: These fixtures can be used in occupied spaces, as the UVC treats only the upper zone in the room, not the lower zone where people are. As the air circulates, it flows into the plane of UVC irradiation, where the pathogens are killed or inactivated.
  • A portable UVC Tower that can be wheeled around to unoccupied rooms, such as classrooms or offices, and which uses a higher dose of UVC to eradicate viruses and bacteria in a very short time.

The last word: As Kassay says, “The LumenFocus team has been tirelessly working on ways to implement pathogen-eradicating technology. Lighting is just one area where we can help—and that’s an area where we have a lot of experience. Our goal is to develop solutions that will help Americans get back to work in safer, healthier environments. And, if a similar unfortunate situation like COVID-19 arises in the future, we hope that these solutions can help us fight it.”

Business Operations

How Small Manufacturers Can Use Cutting-Edge Tech

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As manufacturing goes through digital transformation, small to medium-sized manufacturers have just as much opportunity to reimagine their operations as large businesses. And to help these companies think through their options, the NAM and Stanley Black & Decker got together to host a Creators Wanted virtual session on making use of “Industry 4.0” technologies.

Who participated: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree spoke at the event. Other business leaders and government officials, including Connecticut Business & Industry Association President and CEO Chris DiPentima, also joined the session.

Inside Manufacturing 4.0: “All of us want to be a part of Manufacturing 4.0, a fourth Industrial Revolution in manufacturing, powered by digital and smart technology,” said Timmons. “There’s literally no business that can’t benefit from tapping into digital transformation. And today’s event is about demonstrating that keeping your business state of the art, on the cutting edge, is truly easier than you think.”

Why now? U.S. manufacturing is at a pivotal moment and will play a central part in the ongoing economic recovery. Adopting digital tools should be a part of the strategy, according to Loree.

  • “As every one of us strives to put the health challenges of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, we all have a responsibility to assist with the economic recovery that must follow,” he said. “Manufacturing must and will play a critical role, and we can supercharge it.”

Getting started: One key tool under discussion was the Smart Industry Readiness Index Assessment, a comprehensive technology evaluation and independent review that can help businesses modernize.

  • Bead Industries CEO Jill Mayer said at the event that what she needs as an executive is a snapshot of the current technology landscape and an understanding of her company’s future needs. That’s what a SIRI assessment can deliver.
  • The assessment, which takes roughly two days, can help identify technology gaps and inefficiencies, while also helping companies create structured plans for purchasing equipment. The reviews are conducted by certified assessors who understand manufacturing and can help businesses through this key transition.

A broader landscape: In addition to individual innovations and technology, Stanley Black & Decker Chief Technology Officer of Global Operations Sudhi Bangalore cited the importance of innovation and economic manufacturing ecosystems.

  • A strong innovation ecosystem can include government experts, upskilling programs, a thriving community of small and medium-sized enterprises and more, according to Bangalore.
  • Gov. Lamont added that Connecticut is home to one such ecosystem and cited manufacturing education as a crucial area where government and industry can work together to grow the economy.

Closing thoughts: “I would consider this next year an extraordinary opportunity as we change the way we do business in state government and what we do in manufacturing,” said Gov. Lamont.

To watch the whole session, click here.

Policy and Legal

NAM Pitches Infrastructure Funding Solutions

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Though most policymakers agree that America needs to invest in its aging infrastructure, they disagree about how to pay for it. The NAM has its own recommendations on the best way to reform infrastructure funding and spend infrastructure dollars. NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Ben Siegrist recently spoke to us about that plan.

The big idea: The manufacturing industry not only depends on infrastructure to support its supply chains and operations, but in many cases helps to build that infrastructure and employs the people who put it all together. That’s why the NAM has called on policymakers to upgrade our roads, bridges and much more in its “Building to Win” plan, which includes a comprehensive list of infrastructure fixes.

The hitch: The Biden administration has called for increased taxes on corporations to pay for new infrastructure projects and other broad recovery programs, which would make it more difficult for manufacturers to grow. To avoid such a harmful policy, the NAM has been working on alternative funding options, says Siegrist. These include:

  • Private investment: Private-sector and industry investment through public infrastructure bonds and municipal infrastructure bonds offers an opportunity for the government and industry to work together. It will allow the industry to access funds with appropriate municipal oversight and creates a system of both shared risk and shared benefits.
  • National infrastructure bank: Under this proposal, an institution backed by federal dollars would share some of the risk of infrastructure investment, while providing much-needed capital for the development of projects with public benefit. As private industry draws loans from the bank, it can take on the risk, with revenue going back to the infrastructure bank’s coffers for future development opportunities.
  • User fees: The NAM has proposed different ways to update the user fee model, which lets users of surface transportation systems pay their fair share. These updates might include an increase in the fuel tax that is indexed to inflation, or a vehicle-miles-traveled tax that allows people to pay for their specific use of roads and other infrastructure.

The last word: “The only way the economy is going to grow is by having more efficient systems than we have now. ‘Building to Win’ offers a real opportunity for bipartisan cooperation without imposing harmful taxes on businesses,” said Siegrist. “We will continue to convey that message to the Hill. This will be a long process, and we intend to work with the administration and with our members to make sure manufacturers get the support that they need.”

Business Operations

How Tax Reform Helped Optimax Invest in Workers

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After the passage of tax reform in 2017, the lower corporate tax rate and faster tax depreciation of capital equipment purchases enabled Optimax Systems—a manufacturer specializing in optics for semiconductor, aerospace and defense technologies—to reinvest in its workers and operations.

Hiring new workers: Since 2018, the New York manufacturer has hired aggressively, increasing its full-time headcount from 290 to 340. It has also raised salaries for employees, with an average annual increase of 4.8% since 2017—well above the company’s annual increases before 2017. Optimax sees the increases in hiring and wages as a vote of confidence in its workforce—and as a way to pay forward the benefits of tax reform.

Expanding their operations: Since 2018, Optimax has doubled the size of its manufacturing facility, increasing the space from 60,000 square feet to 120,000 square feet. The company also increased investment in equipment, boosting its annual investment from an average of roughly $3 million per year between 2014 and 2017 to an annualized rate of more than $7 million per year since 2018.

What we’re doing: To support companies like Optimax and its customers, the NAM is leading the effort to ensure that the tax code continues to incentivize growth, as well as working to make manufacturers’ priorities and concerns known to the Biden administration and lawmakers. For companies like Optimax, maintaining the competitive tax rate is critical, which is why the NAM is vocal about the potential harm of tax hikes.

The costs of tax hikes: A new study conducted by Rice University economists for the NAM found that increasing the corporate tax rate along with other harmful tax changes could lead to 1 million fewer jobs in the first two years.

  • “As we slowly emerge from the economic catastrophe caused by COVID-19, American businesses are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Manufacturers can, and should, lead the economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. But this study tells us quantitatively what manufacturers from coast to coast will tell you qualitatively: increasing the tax burden on companies in America means fewer American jobs.”

The last word: “Optimax has a mission of enabling customer success and employee prosperity. We have learned, through 30 years of experience, that there is no better way to do this than to reinvest our profits back into the business and back into our people,” said Optimax Controller Tom Starin. “Tax reform has freed up an additional piece of the profit pie, allowing the company to double down, quite literally, on our mission of enabling customer success and employee prosperity.”


Manufacturing Institute Takes on Second Chance Hiring

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The Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education partner of the NAM—is partnering with the Charles Koch Institute to expand second chance hiring opportunities in the manufacturing industry.

What is second chance hiring? One in three Americans possess a criminal record. Without being offered a “second chance” at a stable job, many in this sizable talent pool are excluded from the workforce.   

Why it matters: The manufacturing industry has more than half a million jobs open right now and will need to fill 4 million over the next decade. Second chance programs not only increase equal opportunity and diversity in the industry but are also a key tool for building manufacturing’s future workforce.

What we’re doing about it: The MI’s initiative, funded by a grant from the Charles Koch Institute, will offer resources and expertise to help employers make the best use of second chance hiring. These resources will include roundtable discussions and webinars, C-suite leadership events, case studies, a pilot program and original research for the manufacturing industry.

The MI says: “Second chance hiring gives businesses an opportunity to welcome highly motivated, engaged, productive and loyal new team members that may otherwise be overlooked,” said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “This is not only the right thing to do for our businesses, but it’s also the right thing to strengthen our communities.”

  • “This partnership enables the MI to educate manufacturers in America on second chance hiring best practices and help them utilize second chance hiring as a strategy to fill open jobs. This effort will also expand our Diversity and Inclusion initiative that’s critical to the future health and success of the industry.”

A real-world example: Nehemiah Manufacturing Co., a consumer-product manufacturer in Cincinnati, has a workforce of about 180 employees—about 80% of whom have criminal records, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription). These employees serve in all sorts of positions, including leadership roles, from production to fulfillment and more.

  • “We found that the population we were hiring who had criminal backgrounds were our most loyal people,” Nehemiah President Richard Palmer told the Journal. “When we were looking for people to work overtime, come in on Saturday or go that extra mile, it was the second-chance population that was saying, ‘I’m in.’”

The last word: “One of the biggest barriers to successful reentry for those with a record is lack of employment opportunities,” said CKI Executive Director Derek Johnson. “If we truly want to reduce recidivism and increase public safety, all while empowering those returning to our communities to contribute at their fullest potential, we need to expand second chance hiring opportunities. CKI is proud to join this partnership to scale that impact and expand second chance hiring across more employers.”

Business Operations

Lilly Invests in the Health of Marginalized Communities

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Eli Lilly is working with a new venture capital firm to help underrepresented communities receive better health care.

The project: Lilly has invested $30 million in a partnership with Unseen Capital Health Fund LP, a newly formed venture fund built by racially diverse business leaders that is intended to identify and support early-stage minority-owned health care companies. The group hopes to fund up to 50 companies and raise a total of $100 million—and with Lilly’s support, it’s well on the way.

The fund will focus especially on health equity, digital innovation and the social determinants of health. Underrepresented founders often have firsthand knowledge of the limitations of the traditional health care system, as Unseen Capital’s general partner Kayode Owens told Bloomberg (subscription).

Why it matters: Black Americans and other people of color have long suffered significant disadvantages in health care—and have done so again during COVID-19. People of color are also underrepresented in pharmaceutical and other health-related industries, as well as among venture capital firms that could improve the situation. Unseen aims to change the fates of “unseen” communities, by combining the expertise of racially diverse investors with the insight of underrepresented founders.

Other efforts: In addition to the partnership with Unseen Capital, Lilly has also taken a range of measures to help promote racial justice, including by expanding diversity in clinical trials; working with other major companies through the OneTen coalition to hire, train and advance Black Americans into 1 million jobs; and doubling Lilly’s spending with diverse suppliers.

Lilly says: “Driven by unprecedented innovation, health care is attracting record levels of investment. To unleash the full potential of innovation in our sector, historically underrepresented founders need to receive more growth capital,” said Philip Johnson, Lilly’s senior vice president and treasurer. “With this capital, these founders can catalyze systemic change while improving health outcomes for society. Providing our financial and knowledge resources to Unseen Capital is an opportunity for Lilly to be an agent for change in a way that is authentic to our purpose and culture.”

Unseen says: “Solving for equitable health care is the challenge of the 21st century,” Owens told Bloomberg. “While Covid-19 laid bare the inequities of our health-care system, George Floyd’s killing laid bare the inequities of our justice system. We need to bet on underrepresented founders to be the agent of that change.”

The NAM’s commitment: In June, the NAM Executive Committee unanimously approved a Pledge for Action intended to close the opportunity gap by taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities. The initiative is supported by The Manufacturing Institute. Make your commitment here.

Business Operations

How to Talk to Employees About Vaccines

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As the U.S. vaccine rollout expands to nearly all adults, manufacturers are figuring out how to encourage workers to be vaccinated. To help them, the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute are providing resources and advice through their This Is Our Shot project. Most recently, the project hosted a webinar to help employers frame conversations about vaccines, called Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Communications: Do’s and Don’ts. Here are some of the highlights.

The participants: The webinar was hosted by NAM Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas, the NAM lead of the This Is Our Shot project. It featured Ann Searight Christiano, director of the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida, and Jack Barry, a postdoctoral research associate for the University of Florida’s Center for Public Interest Communications.

Why communication matters: “The vaccines are becoming widely available and so people are really at a point where they no longer have to wait. It’s time,” said Christiano. “But as employers, you have a great deal of influence and trust with your employees and are well positioned to help build their trust and encourage them to get those vaccines.”

What to think about when you talk about vaccines: According to Christiano and Barry, there are eight factors to think about when developing vaccine communications: worldviews, timing, messengers, narratives, relationships, social norms, emotions and motivations. Christiano and Barry recommend taking people as they are—and responding to their particular identities and values.

Think about who and when: The timing and the messengers are extremely important. National health professionals are far more trusted on pandemic advice than celebrities, for example. People generally want messengers from their own communities, too. Think of the “influencers” in your workplaces—the respected leaders, the trusted employees—and consider using them in your campaigns, say Christiano and Barry.

The message itself: Use specifics to show how important it is to get vaccinated, such as that vaccines allow you to travel or hug your grandparents. And use the themes of choice, regret and control—often cited by vaccine hesitators—and frame them in a positive way to increase vaccine uptake.

Things to avoid: Don’t amplify people’s concerns and avoid appeals to unpleasant emotions like shame and fear, the researchers advise. Consider instead using pleasant emotions like pride, joy and parental love. Consider the motivations of the messenger, too. Be transparent and honest about why you want people to get vaccinated.

The last word: “Our role is to help all manufacturers get fact- and science-based information to safeguard workplaces and communities and to help end this pandemic. We’ll continue hosting webinars, curating the most effective tools available and deploying other research-proven resources at,” says Kefalas.

For more details on how to create communications for your employees, check out the whole presentation here.

Policy and Legal

Tax Increases Would Cost a Million Jobs

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NOTE: The lead sentence was revised to better reflect the full scope of the NAM’s study, which includes corporate tax increases recently proposed by the Biden administration, as well as other tax increases and changes to the tax code under consideration.

Corporate tax hikes and other tax reform rollbacks under consideration could lead to 1 million fewer jobs in the first two years, according to a new study conducted by Rice University economists for the NAM.

The calculation: Economists John W. Diamond and George R. Zodrow calculated the effects of increasing the corporate tax rate to 28%, increasing the top marginal tax rate, repealing the 20% pass-through deduction, eliminating certain expensing provisions and more.

The costs: The researchers found that these changes would cause large negative effects for the economy. The worst of these would include:

  • 1 million jobs lost in the first two years;
  • By 2023, GDP would be down by $117 billion, by $190 billion in 2026 and by $119 billion in 2031; and
  • Ordinary capital, or investments in equipment and structures, would be $80 billion less in 2023 and $83 billion and $66 billion less in 2026 and 2031, respectively.

The study also notes the following:

  • Investments in intangibles, or “firm-specific capital,” are highly mobile and more sensitive to marginal tax rate changes. Such investments would fall 2.7% by year two and would be down a total of 3.8% by year five.
  • The average annual reduction in employment would be equivalent to a loss of 600,000 jobs each year over 10 years.
  • Real wages would fall by 0.6% in the long run, and total labor compensation, including wages and benefits, would decline by 0.6% initially before falling by 0.3% after 10 years. In the long run, total compensation would also decline by 0.6%.

The NAM says: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said in response to the study, “Manufacturers want to help President Biden achieve his goal of creating jobs in America and strengthening the supply chain so that our country does not face critical shortages, especially during times of national crises.”

  • “As we slowly emerge from the economic catastrophe caused by COVID-19, American businesses are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history. Manufacturers can, and should, lead the economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. But this study tells us quantitatively what manufacturers from coast to coast will tell you qualitatively: increasing the tax burden on companies in America means fewer American jobs.”

Alternative solutions: The NAM strongly supports President Biden’s focus on bold infrastructure investment, which can be achieved through a combination of revenue sources like those identified in its policy blueprint “Building to Win.”

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