As the manufacturing industry continues to grow, manufacturers across the country are ensuring that older workers and company retirees have the support they need—including through health care options like Medicare Advantage.
What it is: Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private insurance companies that have been approved by Medicare. They provide the same hospital and medical insurance as original Medicare, but with additional benefits—often including Part D prescription drug coverage, as well as vision, dental and hearing services. Medicare Advantage Plans also include a maximum out-of-pocket spending limit to offer additional protection.
- Medicare Advantage beneficiaries spend 40% less annually than those enrolled in Medicare Fee-for-Service, while also experiencing a 43% lower rate of avoidable hospitalizations for preventable complications, according to UnitedHealth Group.
- Employers have been able to take advantage of this health care model for retirees by offering what is known as Employer Group Waiver Plans.
Why it matters: Attracting and retaining a quality workforce is one of the most important challenges facing the manufacturing industry, especially as the industry confronts a labor shortage. Affordable and competitive health care benefits are one of many retention tools utilized by manufacturers.
- In 2021, 25.6% of the manufacturing industry’s workforce were 55 or older, while 5.3% were over 65, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- According to the NAM’s latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 80.7% of manufacturers cited the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce as a primary business challenge.
- The high-quality options provided by Medicare Advantage allow manufacturers to retain their older workers and keep them happy and healthy in their jobs.
What we’re saying: “Ninety-five percent of manufacturing employees were eligible for health insurance benefits in 2020, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, while 99% of NAM members offer health benefits. Manufacturers are supportive of flexibility, expanding coverage options and enabling innovative models of care to maintain a healthy workforce and provide competitive benefits,” said NAM Director of Human Resources and Innovation Policy Julia Bogue.
For details on other ways manufacturers can retain older employees check out insights from the Manufacturing Institute and AARP here.
The Manufacturing Leadership Council—a division of the NAM that helps manufacturers leverage digital transformation—named Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla the 2022 Manufacturing Leader of the Year at the 18th annual Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala.
The details: The ML Awards are the U.S. manufacturing industry’s biggest stage for recognizing excellence in digital manufacturing. Since the program’s founding in 2005, more than 1,000 high-performing projects and individual leaders have been honored with an award. Winners represent companies of varying sizes in a wide array of industries.
The big award: The Manufacturing Leader of the Year award was presented to Bourla for Pfizer’s extraordinary and ongoing contributions in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
- “Manufacturing in America today is stronger thanks to the leadership of Dr. Bourla and his team at Pfizer, including our Executive Committee member Mike McDermott,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Albert and Mike’s passion and dedication to defeating COVID-19 set an example for thousands of companies as our industry navigated and responded to the evolving pandemic, and their leadership and innovation will make us better prepared to respond to the next crisis.”
Other honorees: Awards were given to companies that excelled in various categories of manufacturing, including Protolabs for collaborative ecosystems, AB InBev for digital network connectivity and operational excellence, Dow for digital supply chains, General Motors for engineering and production technology, Flex and Johnson & Johnson for enterprise integration technology, AUO Corporation for sustainability and ALOM Technologies for transformative cultures.
Manufacturers of the Year: Protolabs was named the Small/Medium Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year, and AB InBev was named the Large Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year.
The last word: “Manufacturers continue to be the driving force for global economic recovery and pandemic response as they establish innovative ways to problem-solve in an increasingly complex environment,” said MLC Co-Founder, Vice President and Executive Director David R. Brousell. “Those recognized tonight have helped establish a roadmap for the future of the sector and highlight the importance of Manufacturing 4.0.”
This week, the Creators Wanted Tour Live made its eighth national tour stop—at Walmart’s 9th annual open call for entrepreneurs and manufacturers.
Drawing a crowd: On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Creators Wanted mobile experience was onsite in Bentonville, Arkansas, as 1,100 small and medium-sized business owners pitched their products to Walmart and Sam’s Club for Walmart’s Open Call 2022. The ultimate prize for the business owners? A “gold ticket” to get their products into the stores.
- The two-day Creators Wanted stop drew more than 2,000 people, many of whom jumped at the opportunity to solve puzzles and “race to the future” in the award-winning, immersive escape room.
- In addition to Walmart, Chart Industries, a leading global manufacturer of highly engineered equipment servicing multiple applications in clean energy and industrial gas markets, helped bring the experience to Open Call attendees and the Bentonville community.
- The tour, which aims to generate interest in and excitement about manufacturing careers, is a joint project of the NAM and its workforce development and education partner The Manufacturing Institute.
Committed to manufacturing: The aim of bringing Creators Wanted to this year’s Open Call was to bolster the positive perception of modern manufacturing careers, recruit new manufacturers and connect entrepreneurs and manufacturers with the MI’s workforce-shortage solutions.
- Walmart has committed to spending $350 billion on products made, grown or assembled in the U.S., in addition to the $250 billion the company pledged in 2013 to spend on similar products.
- Total estimated job growth from these investments: 750,000 new American positions by 2031.
Who was there: MI President Carolyn Lee and Vice President of Program Execution Herb Grant were on hand to give manufacturers greater insight into the MI’s growing set of solutions to the dearth of skilled manufacturing labor.
- Also onsite was new Creators Wanted partner FactoryFix, whose team members helped attendee manufacturers source new talent for their businesses and taught job seekers how to build rewarding careers in the industry.
The reaction: “Wherever we go with our Creators Wanted Tour—including here in Bentonville, Arkansas—students, parents, career mentors and even professionals in other industries see what manufacturing can mean and create for futures,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas. “It’s showing there’s dignity, a “cool” factor and massive reward in making things in the United States. Eyes light up.”
The reach: On the second day of the event, more than 3,000 students had already signed up online to learn more about modern manufacturing careers.
Up next: Coinciding with the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on the LPGA tour, the Creators Wanted Tour Live will make its ninth stop in Midland, Michigan, July 13–16.
In a message to members of the Congressional Health Care Task Force, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons urged Congress to pursue several health care priorities for manufacturers.
The big picture: Timmons laid out three core principles that guide NAM health care advocacy and engagement.
- First, the NAM believes that free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity are the values that can successfully push forward the process of simplifying health care and achieving lower costs.
- Second, the NAM believes that the medical credo “first, do no harm” should guide health care policy efforts.
- Third, the NAM believes that the health care policy and business environment must allow and encourage unparalleled innovation, investment and manufacturing right here in the U.S.
In accordance with these principles, the NAM is pushing for several specific policy advances.
Transparency: “Manufacturers appreciate ongoing efforts to improve transparency in health care,” Timmons wrote. “Our industry has experienced the impacts of cost variation related to a range of health care services. These impacts can make health coverage more frustrating and expensive, for both consumers and employers who sponsor coverage.”
Connectivity: “The technology is available, and businesses have the capability to deliver and realize the potential of a fully connected health care system,” Timmons wrote. “Privacy laws and regulations need updating so that the deployment and adoption of new innovations to improve connectivity in our health care system can flourish.”
HSAs: The NAM believes Health Savings Accounts allow employees to have more control over their health care spending. To ensure HSAs can increase consumer flexibility and benefit American employees, the NAM supports efforts to increase limits and modernize rules governing HSAs.
Value-based arrangements: “Manufacturers are encouraged by the potential for health care innovation through outcomes-based health care arrangements,” Timmons wrote. “These arrangements would align incentives across a range of parties—health care providers, employers, patients, insurers and pharmaceutical and life sciences manufacturers—so that delivery of care, payment arrangements and clinical outcomes are achieved in an efficient manner.”
Association health plans: The NAM supports efforts to reform, advance and strengthen Association Health Plans. AHPs are beneficial especially to small businesses that struggle to offer affordable health care coverage to their employees. The NAM believes that additional legislation is needed to protect the longevity and sustainability of AHPs as a health care option.
Innovation: The NAM believes strong intellectual property protection is essential to creating a more competitive health care market, bringing down prices and fostering innovation by encouraging research and development.
The last word: “Despite the many challenges and strains facing the health care system, we are a nation that prides itself on first-class, best-in-the-world medical care,” Timmons wrote. “Our institutions, public and private, continue to lead the world on patient care, lifesaving treatments and medical research. We must uphold those successes while seeking to control or lower the cost of health care through market-oriented approaches. Employers are leading a great deal of innovation in health care delivery, and those positive developments must be allowed to flourish.”
An ongoing push for new unionization policies would be damaging for manufacturers and their workforces, and the NAM is leading the fight against them. NAM Director of Labor and Employment Policy Brian Walsh recently laid out what these efforts are and what they mean for the manufacturing industry.
The background: Recent unionization efforts at major corporations like Starbucks and Amazon have gained headlines across the US. But, according to Walsh, these movements are part of a much broader effort:
- “Where manufacturers should be really concerned…is the possible changes to union-organizing activity through legislation, such as the PRO Act, or through decisions from the National Labor Relations Board that will change current interpretations of labor law and enact card check nationwide,” said Walsh.
Card check: In case you aren’t familiar with it, card check is an alternative to the secret ballot elections that are required to occur with federal oversight.
- To begin the unionization process, card check efforts require over 50% of employees to sign a card indicating their interest in forming a union. Card check proposals also jeopardize employees’ right to privately cast their ballots and could lead to less secure union elections, according to Walsh.
- “The NLRB’s General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, aims to overturn longstanding practices surrounding union elections and card check policies,” added Walsh. “She has also called for overruling prior standards that have given employers the right to speak to their employees on union organizing. This would be devastating for employers.”
PRO Act: “Manufacturers support workers’ federally protected right to collectively bargain, but the Protecting the Right to Organize Act would hurt relationships between employers and employees by allowing unions to access personal employee information in union-organizing drives,” said Walsh.
- “It is also another way to eliminate the secret ballot by taking away the ability for workers to privately cast their votes in a union election. This makes a worker’s vote known on a physical card for union organizers and their co-workers to see—making them susceptible to pressure campaigns.”
The NAM in action: The NAM is advocating against these policies and has been successful at holding back the PRO Act in the Senate.
- Most recently, the NAM has been leading a campaign to make sure that card check language is not included in Congress’ final China competition bill.
What’s ahead: “Because of the composition of the NLRB, we expect many cases to be decided against employers,” said Walsh. “This is where the work of the NAM Legal Center is going to be really important in our efforts to beat back union tactics. We will be engaged in NLRB proceedings—and are prepared to go to court when necessary.”
Get involved: To take action on this issue, go here.
The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s workforce development and education partner, is hard at work preparing for MFG Day 2022, coming up on Oct. 7 and celebrated throughout the month of October. In a recent webinar—led by MI Director of Student Engagement Jen White—participants learned about the importance of MFG Day, as well as best practices for planning an MFG Day event.
What it is: MFG Day, organized nationally by the MI, is the industry’s largest grassroots movement to open doors to manufacturing for students, parents and educators.
- A major goal of MFG Day is to change common misconceptions and stereotypes about the manufacturing industry, letting participating students see for themselves that manufacturing plants are modern, safe workplaces that use the most technologically advanced processes to create all kinds of crucial goods.
- Host companies often welcome a mix of students, educators, parents and community leaders and provide them with an inside view of the industry—and the careers available.
Why it matters: MFG Day is crucial to solving the impending workforce crisis in the industry.
- Manufacturers will need to fill about 4 million jobs by 2030, but right now, more than half of those jobs are projected to be unfilled because of a lack of qualified talent or skills. That shortage could cost the U.S. economy up to $1 trillion!
- “We have to increase awareness among students, educators, parents and other adults of influence and the public in general of the importance that manufacturers play in our daily lives,” said White.
Planning an event: The MI has a variety of resources available to help companies plan and execute their MFG Day events this year.
- Past events have ranged from open houses with tours to expos, job fairs and roundtable discussions—and often, companies team up with other manufacturers nearby to create a group event.
- Check out creatorswanted.org/resources for help.
Best practices: During the webinar, White noted that the key to a successful MFG Day event is knowing who your audience is and what they are interested in—and making sure your company can engage with them.
- This can include working with local schools, and also “local liaisons, your workforce boards, your chambers of commerce, local associations, community-based organizations like boys and girls clubs or the Girl Scouts,” said White. “There’s so many different organizations out there that already have wonderful relationships with youth and students.”
- “The key is getting involved and starting to build those partnerships with those schools and those community organizations—and not just to have it be on that one day, but continually. I say MFG Day is every day,” White added.
Timeline: The time to start planning an MFG Day event is today!
- White recommends that potential MFG day hosts begin planning event logistics and start contacting schools or community groups during the summer months.
- Once a plan is in place, it can be registered on the Creators Wanted website and officially listed.
The last word: “We must build ongoing partnerships between companies, community, organizations and schools to continue the engagement beyond one single connection opportunity or one day,” said White. “It won’t easy. It won’t be quick, but it is the way ahead, and students are our future.”
The supply chain of biotechnology company AlloSource looks a bit different from the supply chains of other manufacturers—mostly because it hinges on the donation of human tissue.
A different kind of manufacturing: For nearly three decades, Colorado-based AlloSource has transformed donated human tissue from deceased individuals into transplantable products, or “allografts,” that surgeons can use to heal living patients.
- “Something that distinguishes AlloSource among manufacturers is [that] our base materials come from donated human tissue, which makes manufacturing very complex,” said AlloSource Chief Operating Officer Dean Elliott.
- “Donors vary in age, size and many other factors, so a lot of planning takes place to ensure the gift of tissue donation is fully maximized. Each allograft takes a different amount of time to create through a variety of unique processes.”
- Common tissue recovered for donation includes skin to treat burn victims and bones and ligaments for use in orthopedic procedures to restore mobility.
Meeting a need: AlloSource, which today is one of the largest providers of allografts in the world, was founded in 1994 by three organ procurement organizations “out of a need for expertise in transforming deceased human donor tissue into transplantable products,” Elliott said.
- Today AlloSource produces approximately 200 different types of allografts, which are used in surgeries ranging from spinal fusion to shoulder rotator-cuff repair.
- In 2021, the company used tissue from nearly 8,000 unique donors to place more than 200,000 allografts in all 50 states and in 25 countries.
How it works: Following the passing of a donor, a local tissue-recovery agency has just 24 hours to recover the tissue to be made into allografts.
- “One of the miraculous things that happens when someone dies is their cells stay alive—and as long as the tissue is recovered and sent quickly, AlloSource can preserve the tissue while keeping the cells viable,” Elliott said.
Always innovating: AlloSource has made great strides in its field over the past few decades. The company recently patented a method of decellularizing skin, a process that lowers the risk that an allograft will be rejected by a recipient. The method was developed by its R&D and engineering teams.
- This method “keeps our in-house cleanroom usage at a minimum while allowing for a higher volume of processing so that we have enough allografts available to help more patients,” Elliott said.
Meaningful work: At a time of record-high job openings, the biotech organization has a high level of employee retention—thanks to “our unique mission,” Elliott said.
- “We offer competitive pay and benefits and the opportunity to grow in an evolving medical field,” Elliott said. “But we also look for people who are driven by a mission of helping others—and that culture is ingrained in our day-to-day operations.”
To support the work of Congress’ Jobs and Economy Task Force, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons laid out a series of recommendations designed to strengthen manufacturers’ competitiveness and the economy as a whole.
Supporting innovation: NAM opposes a new provision in the tax code that makes research and development expenses deductible over a period of years, rather than in the same year they are incurred. This change makes R&D more expensive in the US, threatening American innovation as well as manufacturing jobs that are directly or indirectly supported by R&D.
Financing growth: Timmons outlined NAM’s support for reversing the stricter interest deductibility limitation that went into effect this year. “The stricter limitation essentially acts as a tax on investment and makes the U.S. a global outlier,” said Timmons. “Permanently reversing this harmful change will help support future long-term job-creating investments.”
Protecting a level playing field: Timmons urged Congress to prevent several scheduled tax changes to the international tax regime from going into effect. He wrote, “Congress should ensure that manufacturers do not face a harsher tax regime than the rest of the world as it would disadvantage manufacturers and manufacturing workers in the US.”
Ensuring access to capital: Since manufacturing is a capital-intensive industry that requires significant investments in equipment, facilities and R&D, NAM encourages the federal government to help, rather than hinder, access to capital. Timmons urged the government to enable capital formation by publicly traded companies, avoids imposing undue restrictions on pro-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and provides support for small and medium sized manufacturers.
Other recommendations: Timmons further encouraged Congress to strengthen, streamline, and codify the regulatory system to improve regulatory outcomes and efficiency, improve workforce development by updating the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and bolster supply chain resiliency through the creation of a federal fund that provides grants, loans, and loan guarantees.
The last word: “At this time of high inflation, snarled supply chains, workforce shortages and global instability, manufacturers need every available tool to continue driving economic growth and job creation in the United States,” said Timmons. “As has been abundantly clear in recent years, manufacturing in America is critical not just to our economic health but to public health—to our very lives and livelihoods.”
- “The decisions policymakers make today will determine whether manufacturing in the United States—and therefore the entire American economy—will remain an engine of growth and opportunity. Manufacturers’ policy agenda provides a solid path forward.”
Read more: For more of the NAM’s policy agenda, check out Competing to Win.
Energy company Equinor, in partnership with ConocoPhillips, Shell and Total, is looking into the possibility of building the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, according to POLITICO Pro’s CLIMATEWIRE (subscription).
What’s going on: Equinor said that “Trollvind,” which would be constructed off the coast of Bergen, Norway, “would have an installed capacity of about 1 gigawatt and would produce 4.3 terawatt-hours annually.”
- “The companies are aiming to make the installation economically feasible by buying as much energy as it produces and are targeting a final investment decision next year to bring the installation online in 2027.”
Why it’s important: The announcement comes as many energy companies look increasingly to offshore wind, which is set “to develop rapidly through the end of the decade.”
- Floating offshore installations such as the planned Trollvind allow for energy harvesting in deep waters where installing fixed-foundation turbines is not feasible, opening up many more areas of the water to wind capture.
- “The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) forecasts that floating offshore wind capacity will reach 16.5 GW by 2030, according to a recent report published by GWEC and sponsored by Shell.”
A call to U.S. action? “This continued advancement begins unlocking the technology and supply chain to build the new industry,” Business Network for Offshore Wind Director of Coalitions and Strategic Partnerships Sam Salustro told the publication.
- “[T]here is still a need for coordination between the states and federal government to ensure we have the infrastructure to support floating [wind] and can support our suppliers.”
- The West Coast leads the U.S. in floating wind-farm development.
The NAM’s take: “This announcement is part of a much larger trend we are seeing in the U.S. and around the globe,” said NAM Director of Energy and Resources Policy Chris Morris. “The NAM has been a leader in ensuring all states that want to pursue offshore wind options can. Earlier this year, we urged policy makers to repeal the 10-year moratorium on offshore wind leasing off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. We will continue to push for policies that provide diverse, secure energy options for manufacturers.”
Blake Moret thinks a lot about supply chains. The chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation—the world’s largest company devoted exclusively to industrial automation and digital transformation—Moret is helping other manufacturers navigate the disruptions of the pandemic and the painful shortage of semiconductors.
On his way back from sharing his experiences and best practices at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Moret spoke with the NAM about the current state of the industry, his predictions for the future and what manufacturers should do to prepare.
What’s happening: Moret sees a few “overarching trends” in manufacturing:
- First is the historically high levels of demand, which had been pent up during the pandemic and is also caused by businesses trying to expand their market share.
- Second, there is also a historic shortage of components, especially the very disruptive shortage of semiconductor chips.
- Last, of course, labor and material inflation is putting additional pressure on manufacturers’ operations.
The chip shortage: The shortage of semiconductors poses the biggest near-term problem for Rockwell and the industry, Moret notes. But the demand for chips isn’t just as simple as supply chain snarls and post-pandemic rebound; it is also caused by manufacturers working to make their products “smarter than ever before”—an industry trend that isn’t likely to change anytime in the future.
- Rockwell’s solution, says Moret, is to reduce pressure on its customers by “strengthening long-term relationships and tightly aligning technology roadmaps with existing suppliers and deploying our engineering resources to find alternatives for the most severely constrained types of chips.”
When can manufacturers expect relief from this chip crunch?
- Chip manufacturers are adding “incremental capacity,” says Moret, but “it will take a while for supply and demand to balance out.”
- “Over the next year, the situation will improve,” he adds, though manufacturers may still be dealing with constraints.
Redundancy: To cope with supply chain disruptions, Rockwell has also been adding redundant capacity into its worldwide network.
- The company is increasing the number of products that can be made in more than one facility around the world.
- “Just-in-time principles are very efficient when every link in the supply chain is doing what is expected. But with disruptions like the pandemic and chip shortages, that sort of efficiency is not totally possible,” Moret says.
- “Elements of redundancy that in the past were not able to attract funding will get funded now.”
The U.S. market is a top priority, Moret adds, and Rockwell has extensive operations here.
- “Even in a high labor-cost market, the high-trained [U.S.] workforce, coupled with advanced technology, can make products that can successfully compete anywhere on earth,” he says.
After the pandemic: Now that COVID-19 restrictions are all but over, what’s in store for Rockwell?
- Moret says that his company found that many of its jobs could be done from home. Its team buckled down during the pandemic, contributing to the production of essential products, such as packaged food and vaccines.
- Now, as workplaces have returned to “normal,” Rockwell continues to embrace a flexible work culture. Moret says its next challenge is ensuring that a workforce with such flexibility stays engaged and able to form productive collaborations.
“Workforce is very near and dear to my heart,” explains Moret. A former chair of The Manufacturing Institute’s Board of Trustees (and a current member of the NAM Executive Committee), Moret is a big proponent of developing flexible, targeted training programs.
- One such program at Rockwell, the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing, trains veterans for roles in manufacturing plants (much like the MI’s Heroes MAKE America program).
- It provides “outcome-based training,” Moret says, offering a “quicker and more hard-hitting program” that is 12 weeks long and does not necessarily require two- or four-year degrees.
What should manufacturers do? Moret has some advice for other manufacturers seeking to build more resiliency into their operations.
- He recommends developing a “product resiliency index,” which accounts for factors that affect production—the value of the product, its manufacturing complexity, how distributed the manufacturing needs to be, how many vendors are needed and more. Manufacturers should consider this right from the start of developing a product, Moret says.
- It’s also important to talk to key suppliers “to understand what their roadmaps are.” You need to know when you are relying on suppliers for products that aren’t “strategic” for them, he explains—as that could pose a problem for you down the line.
- Moret also recommends conducting this audit on both new and old products. “We’ve had to go back [to established products] to assess them with this resiliency index to make sure we’re not vulnerable.”
The last word: Collaboration with partners on supply chain issues and workforce development is key. “No one company can do it all. Being able to assemble the right team is maybe the most important starting point to emerging stronger than ever.”
For policy recommendations that address the supply chain and other challenges, and which can enhance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, visit https://www.nam.org/competing-to-win/.