Business Operations

How Smart Glasses Helped a Manufacturer Through the Pandemic

How does an expert in one facility guide an engineer halfway across the country through implementing a new technology? Food and beverage packaging manufacturer Crown Holdings found an innovative answer during the pandemic, when its employees couldn’t travel freely: it equipped them with smart glasses.

This pilot program, the subject of a new case study by the Innovation Research Interchange (the NAM’s innovation division), has shown a great deal of promise. Here’s some of what the company has learned so far.

How it worked: The glasses make it possible for experts to connect with on-site workers in real time, thanks to their built-in cameras, microphones, speakers and high-resolution display. The glasses can even be integrated with Microsoft Teams.

  • “When the pandemic started, we were trying to coordinate commissioning activities through email and WhatsApp messaging,” said Crown Holdings Project Industrial Engineer Leon Azzi. “Tasks that normally took two to three days were taking weeks.”
  • But with the glasses, “[The workers] could share with each other the PLC (programmable logic controllers) electrical diagrams and pictures using the glasses viewer, and the remote experts could point them to areas to focus on in real time,” said Crown Holdings Digital Optimization Team Head Alberto Rodriguez.

Working out the kinks: The company is still perfecting its use of the glasses, which do need some optimization for a manufacturing environment.

  • One issue is with the Wi-Fi, since the glasses need a consistent connection that is sometimes hard to find in a manufacturing facility.
  • In addition, the integrated noise cancellation headphones that come with the glasses need some upgrades, as the workplace can be incredibly loud and impede easy communication.
  • Workers also found the weight of the glasses on their heads to be uncomfortable at times, especially as they were already wearing other safety equipment.
  • And last, the screen in the smart glasses is relatively small, which can make it difficult for workers to read.

The path ahead: Crown Holdings considers the program to be a success and plans to expand its use of smart glasses in other areas, including worker training and the mapping of visual data onto equipment. It also hopes the glasses can improve worker interactions with machines via their voice recognition technology, which could allow remote workers to zoom in or capture photos from afar through voice commands.

Learn more: Read more about Crown Holdings’ experience at the IRI Learning Center.


Watch: Timmons Talks Workforce on CBS

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons joined CBS Mornings today to discuss manufacturing’s number one challenge: finding enough skilled workers to fill available jobs.

Business Operations

Manufacturers Support Aid for Eastern Europe

It’s been nearly a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but NAM partner Project HOPE hasn’t let up on its humanitarian aid efforts. With the generous support of many NAM members, it has helped tens of thousands of people who have seen their lives torn apart by the conflict.

What’s going on: Project HOPE—the global health and humanitarian aid organization on the ground providing relief in Ukraine and supporting refugees in Poland, Romania and Moldova—is delivering millions of dollars in medicines, medical supplies, trauma care training, mental health assistance and more to those in need.

What’s been accomplished: To date, the humanitarian relief organization has:

  • Delivered 24 generators to health facilities and 34,000 hygiene kits and nonfood items in Ukraine;
  • Launched 10 mobile medical units that have treated more than 35,000 patients in Eastern Europe;
  • Partnered with 13 local organizations in Eastern Europe to support emergency response;
  • Helped provide medical care to more than 5,800 Ukrainian refugee children in Poland;
  • Provided nine child playrooms in Moldova that have provided services to more than 3,750 Ukrainian refugee children; and
  • Donated more than 300 wheelchairs and other mobility equipment to refugees and others living with disabilities in Romania and Ukraine.

Helping those in need: “Manufacturers are committed to giving back: saving lives, protecting communities and responding quickly in times of trouble,” said NAM Emergency Response Committee Co-Chair and Senior Director of International Trade and Regulatory Affairs Ryan Ong.

  • “That includes efforts to stand with the people of Ukraine through strong support to those providing badly needed help in the region. That’s why we’ve been pleased to support and partner with Project HOPE, which is making a difference on the ground.”

The last word: “We are so grateful for the support of the NAM community who has been an integral partner in our Ukraine response,” said Project HOPE Executive Vice President of Global Health Chris Skopec.

  • “As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we at Project HOPE remain committed to continuing to deliver medicines, medical supplies, mental health support and other urgent assistance for the people of Ukraine.”

Get involved: If you’d like to donate to those in need in Ukraine and the region, you can do so via the NAM’s partnership with Project HOPE. For more information about NAM efforts or to share what your company is doing, contact the NAM Emergency Response Committee at [email protected].

Policy and Legal

Manufacturers in the U.S. Stand with Ukraine

Manufacturers in the U.S. are united with their counterparts in Ukraine as that country continues to grapple with the destruction caused by Russia’s invasion.

That was the message of “Rebuilding Ukraine: Inaugural Conference of Manufacturers in the U.S. and Ukraine,” an event that took place yesterday thanks to the partnership between the NAM and the Ukrainian League of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

The background: In March 2022, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the NAM Board of Directors voted unanimously in support of a resolution denouncing the invasion and supporting the people of Ukraine.

  • In addition to affirming shared values of freedom and independence, the resolution expressed support for economic and financial sanctions against Russia, demanded removal of Russia from the World Trade Organization and called for the end of normalized trade between Russia and the U.S.
  • In the months since the invasion, the NAM has stood consistently with Ukraine and supported actions against Russia.

The conference: Led by NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons and ULIE President Anatolii Kinakh, the conference included representatives from a diverse range of companies from both countries, who spoke to the challenges ahead and the need to support Ukraine as it rebuilds. The event also featured opening remarks from Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova and other senior Ukrainian government officials.

  • Manufacturers in the U.S. described the support they have provided for Ukraine—from financial and technology support to equipment and humanitarian aid—and laid out areas in which they would like to continue to partner with Ukraine. These included R&D and university collaborations and sourcing for products and personnel.
  • Ukrainian officials laid out urgent needs for their country, including rebuilding infrastructure, strengthening logistics and supporting areas such as clean energy, education and workforce training.

The result: The NAM and ULIE signed a Memorandum of Understanding that laid out common values and mutual goals.

  • The organizations affirmed their shared “commitment to democratic values, the rule of law and the furtherance of democracy, freedom and opportunity for our citizens and other countries around the world.”
  • The two groups agreed to create a “framework” to help explore areas of collaboration in business, trade and economic relations.
  • The NAM and ULIE identified a series of steps the organizations can take to increase cooperation, from sharing information about each other’s services and activities to promoting visits between representatives and creating additional joint meetings and conferences.

What they’re saying: “Manufacturers have demonstrated their unwavering support for Ukraine and denounced Russian aggression,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Manufacturers in the U.S. have a long and proud history of standing firm in support of democracy, the rule of law, transparency, freedom and opportunity. We stand with President Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people as they defend those values today and as they work to rebuild their country in the years ahead.”

Said Kinakh: “This is the first business conference of Ukraine and the U.S. on such a scale. In our view, it will enable our partners in the U.S. to learn about the true situation in Ukraine, the business climate and our priorities. It will be the basis to shape direct ties, common interests and business plans that will boost economic activities of Ukraine.”


What Manufacturers Should Know about Hiring Military Talent

With 200,000 people transitioning out of the military annually, in addition to veterans, reservists and military spouses, the military population represents a highly skilled talent pool that manufacturers are eager to tap. But how should they go about doing so?

At a recent roundtable, the Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education partner—brought together veterans who have transitioned successfully out of the military into manufacturing careers, as well as manufacturers who have prioritized attracting and retaining military talent. The panelists discussed how companies can leverage this talent, and here’s some of what they had to say.

A great fit: “If you look at manufacturing, a large part of the job is doing things well, day after day after day—and that’s essentially what happens in the military. It’s that military discipline. It’s one of the most compelling reasons why we should be aggressively hiring military veterans,” said Dow Global Business Director Greg Bunker.

  • “We’ve got three principles in our organization that we call ROI: responsibility, operational excellence and innovation. We know that veterans bring each of these to the table,” said UnitedHealth Group Director of People Analytics Troy Vandenberg (formerly director of people analytics at Smithfield Foods).

Networking matters: Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be difficult, but veterans who make direct connections with manufacturers often land excellent job offers. The MI’s Heroes MAKE America program facilitates those connections, offering veterans opportunities to meet manufacturers as well as support in the job search process.

  • Nicole Rena, an Army veteran and now a shift operations manager at Smithfield Foods, applied to five jobs at Smithfield and didn’t hear back on any of them. But then the program manager at HMA contacted Smithfield’s talent acquisition department to ask if they could speak with Rena about why she wasn’t chosen, so she could be more successful moving forward.
  • As Rena put it, “The first 15 minutes of the call was about what I could do better on my resume, but after talking about my background and what I was looking for, the talent acquisition lead said he was going to count this as my first interview.”
  • She landed the job! In her 18 months at Smithfield, Rena has been promoted twice.

Language can be a barrier: Rena’s experience speaks to one of the disconnects identified by veterans and manufacturers alike—the language used in job descriptions and resumes. Veterans often do not know how to best describe their skills and experiences in a way that civilian employers can understand.

  • To avoid missing out on great talent, the panelists advised, manufacturers should ensure that a leader with a military background is involved in the hiring process, to translate military lingo and skills into more familiar manufacturing terms.
  • Manufacturers should also specify in their job descriptions whether they will accept military experience as equivalent to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, Bunker advised.

Support is crucial: Once veterans have been hired, the company must ensure they are set up for success. “Transitioning is a really scary process for veterans. It’s very stressful. The support that a company can provide is huge,” said Meg Zehringer, a Coast Guard veteran and a corporate environmental engineer at National Gypsum.

  • Employee resource groups are a great way to provide support to veterans while also serving as a platform to advocate for population-specific needs, the panelists agreed.
  • To be most effective, ERGs should be run by employees, not human resources departments, noted Vandenberg. Bunker added that establishing connections between the ERG and company leaders is also key.

The last word: “Equally as important as the wording of your job descriptions and preferred skills is creating a culture that invites a diverse group of people. That’s going to play a huge factor in attracting veterans,” said Zehringer.

Get involved: If you are interested in learning more about HMA, its next Heroes Connect event will be a networking opportunity with Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

  • You can also tune in to (or share with interested veterans) this Veterans Learning Series workshop on how to use LinkedIn effectively, coming up on Thursday, Jan. 26.
  • And last, HMA will be hosting a virtual hiring fair in late February. Keep an eye on the MI website for updates!
Business Operations

The Top 8 Manufacturing Trends for 2023

The NAM recently released its Top 8 Manufacturing Trends for 2023—a guide to the opportunities ahead and the resources that the NAM can offer. Here is what to look out for this year and beyond.  

Advanced and emerging technology: Manufacturers are investing in a multitude of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning and more. Automation and robotics are enhancing workers’ abilities but will also require many more high-skilled employees. Though the workforce shortage is a challenge, digital technologies will help manufacturers become more resilient, efficient and profitable.

Supply chain resilience: As manufacturers face long lead times, increased costs and a scarcity of raw materials, they are taking steps to boost supply chain resilience through reshoring, cybersecurity, increased supplier pools and more.

  • NAM resources: Manufacturers can benefit from resources like CONNEX Marketplace, which helps connect nearby manufacturers and suppliers; the NAM’s Supply Chain Hub—a continually updated collection of webinars and policy documents focusing on supply chain issues; and useful case studies highlighting best practices.

Talent disruptions and opportunities: Manufacturers are confronting a range of challenges around the workforce, including labor shortages and skills gaps, while also figuring out how to take advantage of previously untapped talent pools. 

Cybersecurity: The threat from bad actors is real, and strong cybersecurity has become critical to manufacturing operations up and down the supply chain. At the same time, manufacturers will have to be on the lookout for new cybersecurity reporting requirements.

  • NAM resources: The NAM can help, with support like the NAM’s complimentary Cyber Risk Assessment. NAM Cyber Cover offers cyber insurance and risk mitigation, and you can check out these videos from manufacturing executives laying out best practices for cybersecurity defenses. 

Post-pandemic growth and expansion: Long-term goals shouldn’t be downgraded, despite an uncertain economy. Manufacturers should keep pursuing technological advances, navigate government incentives and stay open to mergers, acquisitions and other investments.

  • NAM resources: The NAM Incentives Locator helps manufacturers find funds and tax credits to help their business, while the MLC offers networking opportunities for manufacturing leaders.

Tough economic outlook: There’s no doubt that manufacturers face economic headwinds. That means manufacturers need to look for ways to be nimble and responsive to changing realities and able to work more efficiently than ever. 

  • NAM resources: Tools like NAM Shipping & Logistics give manufacturers discounts on shipping and freight, while NAM Energy offers conversations with energy advisers who can help adjust energy use strategies. IRI Coffee Houses promote virtual conversations with innovation leaders to discuss new developments and opportunities.

Sustainability: Manufacturers are committed to strengthening operations and maintaining a healthy planet at the same time. More than ever, manufacturing companies are looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions.

Looking ahead to 2030: Changes in the manufacturing industry and in the world around us—from population growth to the rise of a new middle class to increased interconnectivity—have manufacturers planning for big changes in the next decade. 

  • NAM resources: The IRI offers a forum for manufacturers to connect with R&D leaders, while the MLC’s Next Phase of Digital Evolution report shows how manufacturing leaders can plan their long-term futures.

 Learn more: Take a look at the full guide for more details and to find out more about the NAM resources that will help manufacturers deal with these key trends.



Policy and Legal

NAM Legal Center Hits the Ground Running in 2023

It’s a new year, there’s a new Congress, and the NAM Legal Center is renewing its efforts to stand up for manufacturers in courtrooms across the country. Coming off a successful 2022, in which it achieved pivotal wins holding the Securities and Exchange Commission accountable to the rule of law and protecting a vital visa program for high-skilled workers, the NAM Legal Center is planning on a similar sweeping defense of the industry in 2023. Here’s what you need to know.

What it is: The NAM Legal Center is the leading voice for manufacturers in the courts.  Enlisting the best and brightest legal minds—and funded through voluntary contributions from NAM members—the NAM Legal Center promotes manufacturing interests by reining in regulatory overreach, protecting vital manufacturing policies and priorities and litigating on behalf of impacted manufacturers across the United States.

Why it matters: “When lobbying efforts fall short, and a new rule or statute goes into effect, the last line of defense is the court system,” said NAM Deputy General Counsel for Litigation Erica Klenicki. “We step in to be a forceful advocate on behalf of the industry, fighting difficult fights and working to overturn harmful policies.”

Achievements: The NAM Legal Center has notched a number of critical victories for manufacturers over the past several years, including:

Coming up: The NAM Legal Center is gearing up to tackle a number of critical issues for manufacturers in 2023, Klenicki says. High on the list are the activist NLRB, the administration’s aggressive environmental, social, and governance agenda and the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to broadly regulate the labor market.

The last word: “Right now, we’re seeing a significant uptick in executive action, and given the divided Congress, that action is only going to increase over the coming year,” said Klenicki. “We’re prepared to bring litigation as needed to challenge overreaching policies and defend manufacturing competitiveness.”

For more information, or to support the NAM Legal Center’s work, contact Klenicki at [email protected].

Business Operations

How Manufacturers and Suppliers Can Find Each Other

With supply chains in flux across the country and around the world, manufacturers frequently face obstructions that can hold up their operations and delay critical deliveries.

That’s where CONNEX Marketplace can help.

What it is: Built in collaboration with the NAM, manufacturers and other manufacturing associations, CONNEX Marketplace is a one-stop shop that brings together U.S. manufacturers and suppliers in one clear, verified and searchable database—offering a full picture of the supply chain and helping manufacturers and suppliers find the partners they need.

Why it matters: Especially at a time when supply chains are increasingly complex and constantly under strain, it’s important for manufacturers to understand the full journey of their products.

  • By providing manufacturers with detailed data visualization tools as well as blacklist verification, CONNEX helps manufacturers reduce risks in their supply chains and avoid problematic routes and purchases.

How it works: Comprehensive local and national search tools offer manufacturers the opportunity to post their needs and to connect easily and quickly with suppliers using criteria including capabilities, equipment, processes and materials.

  • By matching needs with available supplies, the site also helps manufacturers find alternate suppliers when necessary and improve the diversity and resiliency of their supply chains to guard against shocks and snags.

Governors support it: State leaders across the country are speaking up about the power of CONNEX, laying out the value of the program and urging manufacturers to get involved.

  • “I think what you’re hearing here with CONNEX … you’re hearing the doors opening on great opportunities for Wyoming,” said Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. “It’s gonna expand our footprint regionally, nationally and globally.”
  • CONNEX “better connects the Utah manufacturing industry, shortens and reduces supply chain costs and provides new business opportunities to Utah manufacturers and suppliers,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.
  • “CONNEX is hugely important,” said Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. “We’re trying to get everyone to look on this CONNEX website.… If you’re not on that and you’re a manufacturer in Oklahoma, we encourage you to engage with that.”

What we’re saying: “This one-of-a-kind tool empowers manufacturers of all sizes, both buyers and sellers, to be found, increase supply chain optimization and mitigate risk,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “It’s a game-changer for U.S. manufacturers.”

Business Operations

How Will AI Impact the Manufacturing Workforce?

AI is changing the way manufacturers do business—from the production line to the back office and across the supply chain. At the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Manufacturing in 2030 Project: Let’s Talk about AI event last month in Nashville, Tennessee, panelists discussed how those sweeping changes would alter, and enhance, the manufacturing workforce.

A collaboration between the MLC (the NAM’s digital transformation arm) and the MI (the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education partner), the event provided key insights for manufacturers into how technology and workforce trends interact with each other. Here are a few key takeaways. 

Net positive: “The history of technology adoption is about improving the job quality of individuals on the shop floor. AI helps them to do the job better, provide them with better tools, gives them greater authority and ultimately increases the value-add of their jobs. All of that is a net positive for those individuals,” said MI Vice President of Workforce Solutions Gardner Carrick.

  • By leveraging data and enabling greater efficiency, AI will improve communication, increase collaboration across disciplines and stimulate innovation, according to the panel.
  • In addition, “AI can even inform the workforce’s creativity by working with it to design a new product or system,” said Jacey Heuer, lead, data science and advanced analytics, Pella Corporation.

Skills needed: While you might expect that implementing AI requires workers skilled in programming, data science and machine learning, manufacturers will also need to expand their bench of critical thinkers and problem-solvers. The panelists had a few tips to help companies along.

  • Invest in upskilling programs to make the AI integration process at your company smoother and develop the talent you already have.
  • Update job descriptions to reflect the skill sets the company will need in the next five to seven years.
  • Consider recruiting for and teaching adaptive skills—skills that enable individuals to adapt easily to changing demands and environments—which can increase the flexibility of your workforce.
  • Build partnerships with local schools, community colleges and technical and vocational schools to develop talent pipelines that will meet your needs.

The human-AI collaboration: While AI will take over monotonous, repetitive tasks, the panelists predicted that the industry will continue to center around human labor.

  • “You can teach AI to do X. You can teach AI to do Y. [However,] combining the two may be really difficult for AI, while a human can do it better. You’re going to continue to see humans in roles that center on making decisions and telling stories,” said Asi Klein, managing director, industrial products and organization transformation, Deloitte Consulting.
  • Meanwhile, AI adoption will likely lead to an increase in available jobs, as more skilled workers will be needed to guide and inform these new processes.

The last word: “Over the last 12 years, we’ve seen a lot of technology adoption, but we have not seen a lot of job loss. In fact, we’ve seen job gains,” said Carrick. “There is a lot of opportunity to reimagine jobs to add value that AI will help to illuminate.”

Policy and Legal

House Unveils New China Committee

The House of Representatives has made a key move this week to strengthen its oversight of the complex U.S.–China relationship—a development that the NAM supported.

The House has established the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, which will aim to “investigate and submit policy recommendations on the status of the Chinese Communist Party’s economic, technological and security progress and its competition with the United States,” according to the bill.

Why it’s important: The NAM has long called for more robust efforts to reset the relationship and hold China accountable for discriminatory economic practices and policies.

  • These practices have had a deleterious effect on U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, as NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Ken Monahan told Acting Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Trade Policy and Economics William Shpiece in September.​​​​​​
  • “From unfair import and export subsidies and industrial policies to intellectual property theft, manufacturers and workers in the U.S. face an unfair playing field that harms manufacturing in the U.S. and holds back the industry,” Monahan said.

What can be done: The NAM continues to advocate several key actions, which it enumerated last May to the new committee’s predecessor, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s China Task Force. These include:

  • Boosting domestic investment in manufacturing, supply chains and infrastructure here at home;
  • Increasing U.S. leadership in writing the rules of trade—globally through leading the modernization of the World Trade Organization and regionally through steps to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and new frameworks such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework;
  • Working at home and with allies abroad to tighten pressure on China to fully meet its trade and economic commitments and halt problematic trade behaviors; and
  • Upgrading national security regulatory frameworks such as investment security and export controls through targeted, effective reforms.

The final word: “We have to get China right: the U.S.–China economic relationship has long needed a reset to work for manufacturers large and small across the country grappling with harmful and discriminatory Chinese trade behaviors,” said NAM Senior Director of International Trade and Regulatory Affairs Ryan Ong.

  • “Manufacturers welcome robust efforts by Congress and the broader U.S. government to level the playing field for manufacturers and allow them to compete fairly everywhere, including in the U.S., China and around the world.”
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