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Business Operations

UL Helps Manufacturers Keep Their Air Healthy

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With the highly infectious Delta variant causing concern even among vaccinated people in the U.S., manufacturers are thinking about the quality of their air yet again.

Now they can benefit from additional expert advice. In a recent webinar, the NAM’s Leading Edge program hosted an expert from global safety company UL to discuss how manufacturers can keep their air (and their employees) safe. Here are some of his recommendations.

In their own category: “Manufacturing facilities … are unique, in many respects,” UL Director of Assets and Sustainability, Real Estate and Properties Sean McCrady said. “You have all of these activities where there’s going to be regulatory safeguards in place for worker protection that are likely going to [act as] guidance for IEQ [indoor environmental quality].”

  • In fact, many manufacturers worked quickly to improve their air quality when the pandemic started, the webinar’s moderator, NAM Director of Labor and Employment Policy Drew Schneider, noted. But though manufacturers may be ahead of the game on air quality, there’s more still to consider.

UL’s work: In response to the pandemic, UL developed what Fast Company magazine has called “LEED for the COVID-19 era”: its Verified Healthy Buildings program.

  • To date, hundreds of buildings, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Cira Centre in Philadelphia, have had their IAQ (indoor air quality) tested, along with water purity, ventilation efficacy and other environmental factors.
  • With UL’s guidance, building owners have made systemic changes, such as HVAC-system mold remediation, ventilation upgrades, air-filter unclogging and more.

So what can manufacturers do? “There’s a lot of opportunity to maintain that positive momentum” from behaviors that arose in response to COVID-19, McCrady said during the webinar.

  • For manufacturers, this includes extending the IAQ- and IEQ-safety measures in place on the facility floor to their administrative areas, which may not be as well-ventilated, McCrady advised.
  • “People know a lot more these days,” he said. They “want transparency” about their air quality.

Tips and tricks: McCrady offered additional advice for manufacturers:

  • “Number one is ventilation. You want to make sure you’re bringing in enough fresh air” from outside, as well as doing proper and routine maintenance of ventilation systems.
  • “Focus on source control,” McCrady added, referring to the elimination of individual sources of pollution. “And limit the migration of harmful contaminants”—for example, by carefully maintaining HVAC systems.
  • Lastly, it’s important to fit air filters properly. Filters that have gaps or are otherwise incorrectly installed “won’t work,” McCrady said.

Not a magic pill: While high-quality filtration, ventilation and purification can go a long way toward stopping the spread of disease (particularly airborne illnesses such as the coronavirus), people must take other precautionary measures, too, McCrady noted. These include getting vaccinated and washing hands frequently and thoroughly.

The final say: “The things that can and should be done aren’t new, they’re just kind of under a spotlight right now,” McCrady said. “Focus on the fundamentals.”

Interested in hearing more from UL? Register for our Leading Edge Growth Series: Preparing for the Future of Manufacturing.

Workforce

Creators Wanted Gets an Endorsement

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The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s Creators Wanted campaign got a resounding endorsement from The Dallas Morning News, which called the initiative “a smart approach that may be a harbinger of things to come” in a recent editorial (subscription).

Traveling attraction: “‘Creators Wanted’ . . . will visit schools and community gathering places around the country in coming months to attract future workers to that industry. Creators Wanted features a tractor-trailer-mounted escape room and ‘immersive experience’ designed to hold kids’ attention while also overcoming stereotypes that keep students from choosing careers in manufacturing.”

Filling a void:  As the editorial notes, Creators Wanted “aims to reduce the skills gap in the U.S. by 600,000 workers by 2025, and increase the number of students enrolling in technical/vocational schools or reselling programs by 25%.”

  • While the article focused on the activities of the campaign, the sustained initiatives of The Manufacturing Institute are also important to reaching these goals.

Sign of changing times: The NAM’s and MI’s focus on students is “smart,” says the editorial, in light of changing perceptions among youth about higher education. The pandemic and soaring tuition are causing young people to consider options besides college.

The last word: “Creators Wanted is a clever approach that teens will enjoy. We encourage parents and guidance counselors to consider it. But the larger point here is about the pipeline of workers needed to ensure our economy can continue to grow. NAM has taken the initiative to improve that pipeline, putting them ahead of the competition for now. We hope to see others join that race soon.”

Join in: Interested in supporting Creators Wanted? Contact Creators Wanted Finance Director Barret Kedzior at [email protected].

Policy and Legal

Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Keeps Promises to Employees

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Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company is a 120-year-old, fifth-generation family-owned business—and it tries to treat its employees like family, too.

“We have a long tradition and history of taking care of our associates,” said Charlotte Pipe Vice President of Marketing Bradford Muller. “We haven’t had a layoff since the early 1980s. Even in the Great Recession, we kept people working as many hours as we could give them.”

When the 2017 tax reform law gave Charlotte Pipe more certainty, the company passed along the good fortune, supporting employees, adding new jobs and investing in the future of the business.

New bonuses: When the legislation passed, Charlotte Pipe gave every employee an additional bonus of $1,000. Over the past few years, it has continued to offer high wages and generous health benefits to its associates as well as contributing to the company’s 401(k) plan. Charlotte Pipe has also absorbed a large portion of the increases in the health care costs of its workers.

New jobs: Tax reform has also allowed Charlotte Pipe to bring on new workers. Since the law passed, the company has hired more than 200 associates as it increases production across the country.

New business: Charlotte Pipe is also investing in its future by building a new foundry, which will create new jobs in its surrounding community. In addition to making the company more efficient and effective, the new cutting-edge foundry will help it keep up with international competitors from places like China. Muller credits tax reform with making that investment possible.

  • “The certainty around tax reform and regulatory reform gave us the confidence to be able to proceed with this once-in-a-century, $350 million foundry,” said Muller. “It’s a huge financial commitment, and we needed policy certainty to be able to do that. That was one of the reasons we were able to launch that project.”

Ongoing investment: The foundry may be the biggest example of a capital investment, but it is by no means the only one. In fact, Charlotte Pipe reinvests most of its profits back into the business, allowing it to keep working, innovating and providing new jobs.

  • “We reinvest most of our profits into capital projects,” said Muller. “The more revenue we have, the more people we can hire, the more equipment we can buy and the more productive we can be.”

The last word: “When tax reform helps a business provide for its employees and create opportunity well into its second century, you know that reform is worth keeping,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Manufacturers like Charlotte Pipe are building on the foundation of tax reform, and their workers are prospering because of it. That’s why we need to protect against potentially harmful tax hikes.”

Workforce

How Manufacturers Can Retain Employees

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With manufacturers facing a skills gap that could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, retaining qualified and effective employees is critical. But how do manufacturing leaders keep great employees on staff? The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research and the American Psychological Association have some answers, collected in their recently published Manufacturing Engagement and Retention Study.

Why people stay: According to the study, the main reasons that employees remain at a company are enjoyment of the work (83%) and stability/job security (79%). Other contributors to satisfaction include the family friendliness of the employer and the way the job fits into their lifestyles outside of work.

  • The next generation, however, has slightly different motives: “Although fewer survey respondents overall (42%) identified training and career opportunities as reasons for staying, around two-thirds of those under age 25 said these were motivating factors in their decision to remain with their current employer (69% and 65%, respectively).”

Feeling good: Employees who felt valued by their companies had significant more motivation and job satisfaction.

  • Nearly all workers who said they felt valued by their employers (97%) described themselves as highly motivated and satisfied with their jobs. Nearly as many (96%) would recommend their company to others as a good place to work.
  • Meanwhile, among employees who did not feel valued by their employers, those numbers dropped to 45% and 25%, respectively.

Fair treatment: Workers who felt that their employers treated them fairly were also less likely to be stressed out on a typical workday (at only 16%). But among workers who said they were treated unfairly, 68% felt stressed on a regular basis.

  • Those who felt that they were treated fairly were also much less likely to say they intended to look for a new job within the next year—at just 2% versus 19% among those who felt they were treated unfairly.

Pandemic effects: The MI and APA conducted this study during the COVID-19 pandemic, which notably did not affect employees’ responses to a great degree. In fact, many felt more positive about their employers.

  • A majority of employees (58%) said the pandemic and their company’s response to it had not changed their view, and more than one-third (37%) had a more positive view of the company, compared to just 5% who viewed their employer more negatively.

 Find out more: Learn more about what motivates people to stay by reading the full study here.

Policy and Legal

What’s in Biden’s Executive Order on Competition?

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The Biden administration released an executive order last week that is intended to enhance competition. While agencies will still have to draft regulations in response to the EO, this plan could have a big and potentially negative impact on manufacturers in several sectors. Here’s what manufacturers need to know, according to the NAM’s policy experts.

Antitrust provisions: The EO directs the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to reexamine previously completed mergers and review the guidelines for both horizontal and vertical mergers.

  • Why it matters: Business combinations help manufacturers streamline operations and boost efficiency. This directive could hinder pro-competitive mergers and ultimately harm consumers, says NAM Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Chris Netram. The NAM has previously weighed in with the FTC on its vertical merger guidelines and its premerger notification rules, highlighting the importance of predictability in the merger approval process.

Other key points of interest: the EO also tells the agencies to crack down on noncompete agreements that keep workers from changing jobs easily, as well as on employers’ collaborations to reduce wages and benefits.

“Right to repair”: Another key target of the EO was the so-called “right to repair”—the ability of third parties to repair sophisticated equipment, like tractors, without involving the manufacturer.

  • Why it matters: The NAM has long argued that such repairs pose a danger to consumers and expose companies’ intellectual property to theft by competitors, Netram points out.

Health Care: The EO also covers certain practices in the health care and pharmaceutical industries. Manufacturers should be aware of the following moves:

  • Within 45 days, the Department of Health and Human Services is instructed to come up with a plan to address high drug prices. HHS is also directed to work on the importation of drugs from Canada.
  • Meanwhile, the FTC is tasked with banning “pay for delay” agreements—when industry players agree to delay the market entry of generics or biosimilars.
  • Why it matters: These moves could endanger America’s global leadership in the development of lifesaving treatments, argues NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling, by reducing the returns on and protections for innovation. This could potentially lead to fewer treatments being developed overall.

Technology: The EO addresses technology policy in a number of ways, most prominently urging the reinstatement of “net neutrality” rules imposed by the Obama administration.

  • Why it matters: The NAM urged the repeal of those rules back in 2017. As Boerstling puts it, “net neutrality” treats the new and dynamic technology of broadband as if it were indistinguishable from the telephone, and treats competition in communications technology as if it hadn’t changed since the mid-20th century.

Other key points: The EO also instructs the Federal Communications Commission to hold spectrum auctions that disallow excessive concentration, and to create new reporting requirements for broadband providers’ prices and subscription rates.

Transportation: Lastly, the EO addresses certain practices by railroads, airlines and other sectors in transportation. For example:

  • It urges the Surface Transportation Board to require railroad track owners to let competitors and passenger trains have right of way.
  • It asks the Federal Maritime Commission to target certain shipping practices—mainly relating to fees charged while goods wait in containers to be unloaded, or while the company has yet to return an emptied container.

The NAM says: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons released a statement last week, saying, “Our sector is strong and growing, and our people are benefiting. Unfortunately, there are those who want to erode our competitive advantage with archaic tax policies. And some of the actions announced today are solutions in search of a problem; they threaten to undo our progress by undermining free markets and are premised on the false notion that our workers are not positioned for success.”

Read the NAM policy team’s full overview of the EO here.

Workforce

A Second Chance in Manufacturing Pays Dividends

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One of manufacturers’ top concerns is the insufficient number of skilled workers available to fill their open jobs. Yet right before us is an often-overlooked pool of millions of potentially strong employees: people with criminal records.

That’s why The Manufacturing Institute has partnered with Stand Together and the Charles Koch Institute to promote “second chance” hiring—to get these workers who need jobs into jobs that need them. Recently, the MI hosted its first webinar on the importance of this initiative and what manufacturers should know about it.

The data: One in three Americans has a criminal record, and yet this entire population is frequently discounted outright during employer job searches due to societal stigma and general misperceptions. During the webinar, the panelists shared some additional data:

  • Of the approximately 19 million Americans with felony convictions on their records, some 1 million are incarcerated and some have aged out of the workforce, said Jeff Korzenik, author of “Untapped Talent: How Second Chance Hiring Works for Your Business and the Community” and chief investment strategist for Fifth Third Bank. “But millions are of working age, [and] virtually all of them are unable to participate to the fullest extent of their possibility, of their talents, because of barriers.”

Talent shortage: 814,000 manufacturing jobs were unfilled as of May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • “Manufacturers continue to tell us that attracting and retaining workers remains one of their top challenges,” said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee during the webinar.
  • 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by the end of the decade if current trends continue, according to a recent MI and Deloitte study, and that “could mean the loss of up to $1 trillion in lost economic impact for the U.S.”

Worth the work: Employers who identify and support a strong candidate with a criminal record “get an employee who is on average more engaged and more loyal” than other workers, said Korzenik, who called this method of hiring the “second chance model.” This can lead to higher retention rates, saving an organization on turnover costs, he added.

  • The model, which Korzenik developed, both identifies characteristics likely to lead to successful employment (strong character, soft and hard skills) and provides support processes (such as help with transportation to and from work) to help bridge gaps.

Living proof: Webinar panelist Cory Webb is a recent graduate of the Cuyahoga County, Ohio–based ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers, a program that trains both young people and people with criminal records for careers in manufacturing. He considers himself a testament to ACCESS’ success.

  • “I started this program because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to gain a career in manufacturing and machine operating,” said Webb, now an auxiliary operator for program participant Jergens Inc. The initiative “did a pretty good job as far as getting me prepared … for machine operating,” he said.

Learn more: The MI has released a host of resources for manufacturers interested in second chance hiring. You can find them here.

Workforce

MI Announces 2021 STEP Honorees

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The Manufacturing Institute has announced its newest cohort of extraordinary female leaders in manufacturing: the 130 Honorees of the 2021 STEP Ahead Awards. On Nov. 4, the MI will recognize their achievements at an in-person gala in Washington, D.C.

An industry-wide honor: These yearly awards, part of the MI’s STEP Women’s Initiative, recognize women in manufacturing who exemplify excellence from the factory floor to the C-suite.

  • To date, the awards have honored 932 exceptional women, and the winners have made an impact—through mentoring, programs and events and more—on 300,000 people, from industry peers to kids in school.

The whole initiative: The STEP (science, technology, engineering and production) Women’s Initiative consists of the STEP Ahead Awards, a professional leadership-development program and regional STEP Forward events that take place throughout the year. It aims to boost women’s representation in manufacturing and support the next generation of female talent.

Why it matters: Women make up close to half the U.S. labor force, yet they account for less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce. Meanwhile, the biggest challenge for manufacturers has long been the lack of skilled workers available to fill open jobs. By employing 10% more women, manufacturers can bridge the skills gap by 50%.

What they’re saying: “Women in manufacturing proved themselves time and time again during the pandemic, driving innovation and progress, and they are now helping our industry build the next, post-pandemic world,” said MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee.

  • “As an industry, we are always working to do more to bring more women into manufacturing and encourage their innovative ideas and transformative leadership,” added 2021 STEP Ahead Chair and Johnson & Johnson Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer Kathy Wengel.
  • “The creativity, commitment and passion displayed by each of these women leaders and rising stars drive innovation in our industry forward,” said 2021 STEP Ahead Vice Chair and 3M Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Denise Rutherford.

. . . and don’t forget, creators are wanted: The NAM and MI’s Creators Wanted project, which aims to close the skills gap and get many more people into manufacturing, will help fund the MI’s workforce-development efforts, including STEP. A full half of the funds raised (which will total millions of dollars) will go toward supporting the MI’s programs into 2025.

Interested in becoming a STEP Ahead sponsor? See opportunities here.

Business Operations

ABB: Motoring Toward Greater Energy Efficiency

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Jesse Henson wants you to think of motors the way you think of lightbulbs.

Most people recognize the energy and cost savings to be had by switching from incandescent bulbs to LED light sources. In the same way, they should see the advantages of swapping out anachronistic, clunky motors for newer alternatives, said Henson, president of ABB’s NEMA Motors Division.

“You’ve [still] got the old incandescent lightbulbs out there—which are your motors—that need to be replaced with newer technology,” Henson told the NAM.

Not too different from 1921: The humble motor, which Henson says has “really not changed much in over 100 years,” is ubiquitous in manufacturing. Motors are found in factories in fans, pumps, compressors and more, powering everything from systemwide HVAC systems to individual power tools. But new technology could make them much more efficient and environmentally friendly—and save manufacturers a lot of money in the process.

Motor movement: ABB is working to change the way motors are used across the manufacturing sector, where they account for the lion’s share of expended electricity—approximately 70%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • A sizable portion of that electricity is wasted because the motors using it are running constantly, consuming energy even when no task is being performed, Henson noted. That’s a costly reality for manufacturers.

Use only what is needed: ABB’s variable speed drives address this problem, allowing manufacturers to tailor a motor’s speed to the job it is doing. “That’s how you save energy,” Henson said.

  • Adding a drive to a motor-driven system typically reduces power consumption by 25%, according to ABB.
  • However, most companies aren’t getting that level of efficiency—just a quarter of motors in use today have such energy-saving drives, Henson noted.

No rare-earths needed: Of particular importance at a time of global supply-chain disruption is the fact that ABB motors achieve higher levels of efficiency without using rare-earth magnets.

  • ABB’s EC Titanium motor, for example, does not use rare earths. Instead, it employs synchronous reluctance (the conversion of electrical energy to mechanical) technology and ferrite magnets for an even higher level of efficiency.

Easy savings: In fact, just by adding the EC Titanium motor drive to a fan array with 50 motors, one ABB manufacturing customer that already used drives cut its electricity consumption in half.

  • The company slashed its annual energy bill from $20,000 to $10,000, according to Henson.

The last word: “We want to continue embracing sustainability . . . today and into the future,” said Henson. “These motors and drives are truly a game-changer in our marketplace today.”

Workforce

A FAME Graduate Finds a Fresh Start

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When Kristy Willis moved to Louisiana, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. Her 15-year marriage had ended in divorce, and she needed to find a way to support herself and her four children. She began by searching for a college where she could gain additional education and skills—and when she came across The Manufacturing Institute’s FAME program, she knew she had found the right place. In August 2019, she began her fresh start with GeauxFAME.

What it is: The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), which was founded by Toyota and is now operated by The Manufacturing Institute, is a career pathway program for current and aspiring manufacturing workers. It provides them with on-the-job training and classroom education, leading to an associate degree and an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.

A critical role: Willis viewed manufacturing as a vital part of the American economy, and was excited about the opportunity to feel connected to it.

  • “When I came into this program, I didn’t know anything about the manufacturing business—but I wanted to be a part of it,” said Willis. “I saw manufacturing as adding strength to the economy in the United States. Wherever you go, manufacturing is needed, and I wanted to be a part of that industry.”

Personal and professional growth: Willis was wary about returning to school after 10 years, but she was motivated by the need to provide for her children. Ultimately, spending time in the FAME program has changed the way Willis sees herself and her opportunities.

  • “The experience has been humbling,” said Willis. “But it has helped build my confidence in myself and given me something to look forward to.”

Of course, Willis had to contend with a particularly challenging year as COVID-19 made traditional learning environments impossible. Still, she found the program and her experience rewarding.

  • “The past year has been crazy,” said Willis. “Being a mom of four kids, when they got sent home from school, and I got sent home from school, and everyone was trying to study at the same time—our house was wild. But we grew as a family during all of this, through all these trials.”

Next up: Willis will graduate in July, and her sponsoring employer, Boise Cascade—an Idaho-based wood product manufacturer with a facility in Lena, Louisiana—has already offered her a full-time job and the opportunity to continue her education and pursue her bachelor’s degree. She’s excited about the road ahead.

Good advice: Willis also encourages people who are looking for a new career to give the FAME program a try—even if they have never considered a career in manufacturing before.

  • “This program is perfect for that mindset,” said Willis. “If you want to try it out and see how it works, it gives you that opportunity. You get a big picture of the manufacturing process, as well as insights behind standard operating procedures—why these safety practices are performed, or why those machines are serviced the way they are—and then it’s up to you to continue on through the program.”

The last word: “If you’re questioning what to do with your life, stay strong and have courage,” said Willis. “You are strong and smart enough—you take those trials that have brought you down in this life, and use them to make yourself stronger.”

Workforce

A Tour of Manufacturers’ Vaccine Clinics

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What does it look like when manufacturers get vaccinated? For some people across the country, it was just another day at work.

Hundreds of manufacturers nationwide have hosted vaccination events for their own employees, sometimes including family and community members as well. NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer stopped by a few of these events to capture them, while other companies sent the NAM their own pictures. Here are some of those photos—a visual tour of manufacturers’ efforts to keep America safe and healthy.

Calvert, Alabama: Steel and mining company ArcelorMittal held an on-site vaccine clinic at its plant for team members and the local community. If you look closely, you’ll see that one of these employees is holding a pin from the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s Yellow and Red Ribbon initiative—a symbol of vaccination that you can wear to show you’ve done your part.

Fremont, California: Below, an employee of ALOM Technologies Corporation, which creates supply chain technology and solutions, gets his shot at the company’s facility. In the background, you can see a poster for This Is Our Shot, the NAM and MI’s effort to help manufacturers across the country get vaccinated.

Perryville, Missouri: More than 150 Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation employees were vaccinated at an on-site clinic set up at the company’s request by the local Perry County Health Department.

In our interview with Gilster-Mary Lee President and CEO Tom Welge back in April, he told us how the tragic death of his father (and former Gilster-Mary Lee CEO) Don Welge from COVID-19 reinforced the company’s commitment to vaccinations. Read more about the company’s efforts here.

Baltimore, Maryland: Marlin Steel Wire Products led a coalition of 81 manufacturing companies in an effort to get vaccine doses for their workers. In the end, the coalition organized 17 events for more than 3,300 employees.

Here’s a photo from a March event for workers from Marlin Steel, Orlando Products and Arnold Packaging. It was hosted at Orlando’s facility, where a team from Safeway administered the shots.

We spoke to Marlin President and Owner Drew Greenblatt back in April about how he organized this effort. Check out the interview here.

 Lafayette, Indiana: At Subaru of Indiana, more than 2,900 vaccinations were delivered across eight clinics held in the facility’s lobby. The clinic was open to all on-site personnel, including vendor and contractor representatives, along with associates’ spouses and eligible kids. Recently, the company transitioned to hosting a weekly vaccine clinic at its on-site Health and Wellness Center.

Join in: If you’re a manufacturer looking to encourage vaccinations among your employees or even host an event yourself, check out the many resources available through the NAM and the MI’s This Is Our Shot project. The most recent addition is an “on-site vaccination clinic toolkit” provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. And don’t forget to wear your yellow and red ribbon pin!

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