Zachary Willis has transitioned out of the military twice—and the second time, The Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program made all the difference.
A passion for service: Willis had wanted to join the Marine Corps his entire life and felt even more strongly about it after 9/11. A little less than a year after he graduated high school, he did so. “I wanted to serve my country, and my country needed me,” he told us.
Two exits: Willis spent four years in the Marine Corps on active duty, with two deployments as an infantryman. He spent the next four years in the reserves, then left the military for a short stint in the civilian world. But feeling adrift, he ended up joining the U.S. Army as a mechanic in 2017.
When health issues led him to transition out of the military a second time, he knew he needed a strategy for what would come next. The Heroes MAKE America program, which helps members of the military community find opportunities in manufacturing, sounded like a great fit.
- “Getting out this time around was so different from the first time,” said Willis. “The first time I didn’t really have a plan. This time I was a lot more mature. I was like, I need to make sure there is something out there—and Heroes MAKE America seemed like a great opportunity to get into an industry with a lot of growth potential.”
A different world: Heroes exposed Willis to a world of modern manufacturing that was well beyond what he had expected.
- “I always thought manufacturing was just a bunch of guys on an assembly line who put things together for 30 years and then retired,” said Willis. “But then I got into this program, and I saw how innovative it is. It’s constantly seeking improvement. It’s so different from the manufacturing of my father’s or grandfather’s generation.”
An expanded network: Willis is enthusiastic about his experience in the Heroes program—both in terms of the skills training and the opportunities to explore career options.
- “It’s been amazing,” said Willis. “The ability to reach out and connect with other employers all around the country—from smaller companies to huge international corporations. You don’t see that in very many places. I wish more people took advantage of programs like this.”
What’s next: Willis graduated from the program in early March and received four different job offers. He’ll start a new role soon manufacturing gunpowder at Hodgdon Powder Company near his home in Kansas. In fact, he’s so enthusiastic about the Heroes MAKE America program that he’s already encouraging his new employer to get involved.
- “The company isn’t even a part of the program, and when I told them about it, they said, huh, we gotta look into that,” said Willis. “It’s something more companies should get on board with.”
Heroes gets a boost: Willis also got to take on a new challenge during his program: using virtual reality technology to supplement his instructor-led hands-on learning. The technology let him learn everything from how to put on personal protective equipment correctly in a manufacturing environment to how to use welders, micrometers and digital calipers.
And as it happens, even more Heroes students will be able to engage virtually in the coming years. Thanks to a new $2.25 million donation from the Caterpillar Foundation, the Heroes program will be able to increase its integration of virtual reality technology and expand training opportunities for the military community.
The last word: “Caterpillar is proud of the support provided to veterans and their families through the Caterpillar Foundation’s donation to the Heroes MAKE America program,” said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby. “I am pleased the Foundation can help make this world-class skills training program available to all members of the global military community and connect them to careers in manufacturing.”
For Big Ass Fans, a Kentucky-based company that manufactures fans, evaporative coolers and controls for industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential use, the eye-catching name isn’t the only thing that makes them distinctive. The company is also a leader in research and development, crediting U.S. tax policy with supporting its innovations and the jobs they create.
Investing in innovation: BAF has spent millions of dollars in R&D, even building an R&D lab on its global headquarters campus in 2008. Most recently, it pioneered new ways of disinfecting air to keep manufacturing employees healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. And when Congress approved tax reform in 2017—including a lower corporate tax rate—the company got additional fuel for its efforts.
- “The more incentives that are there for us to create and for our customers to purchase, the more we can deliver for everyone,” said BAF Government and Public Relations Director Alex Risen.
Risen cautions, however, that a higher corporate tax rate could impact the company’s ability to grow. Meanwhile, a prospective tax change on R&D spending could stymie innovation by requiring the amortization of expenses (as opposed to current tax policy, which allows expenses to be fully deducted in the same year).
- “We’re always going to innovate. That’s in our DNA. But if our customers have higher corporate tax rates, that can take money out of our pockets and theirs,” said Risen. “If this new R&D tax policy detracts from a company’s ability to push and pioneer…then we’re all at risk of losing out on expedited innovation.”
Creating American jobs: BAF isn’t just using its revenues to invest in innovation; it’s also working to bring jobs and supply chains into the United States. In addition to its headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, the company has offices in Canada, Australia and Singapore. Up until recently, it also had a manufacturing facility in Malaysia in addition to a sales office there—but BAF is in the process of moving those production jobs to the United States.
- “It doesn’t just mean new jobs at BAF; it brings more business to American vendors and suppliers,” said Risen. “It allows them to continue trying to grow even during a downturn and uncertain times.”
Bolstering supply chains: In addition to job creation, strengthening the supply chain was another top priority for BAF.
- “We were already working on moving those operations before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic is a reminder that you want to have that supply chain close,” said Risen. “We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had to slow production down, because the majority of our product is here in our backyard. That speaks to where we want to be as a company that is internationally headquartered in the U.S. but serves 175 countries. We want to do our part in order to make high-end machinery a U.S. export.”
NAM support: To support companies like BAF and its customers, the NAM is leading the effort to ensure that the tax code keeps encouraging innovation. Recently, a bipartisan group of U.S. policymakers introduced legislation that would allow manufacturers to continue to deduct their R&D expenses immediately—a move that the NAM advocated for. The NAM is also working to strengthen U.S. supply chains, releasing an agenda for such actions last year.
The bottom line: “A high tide floats all boats,” said Risen. “We need to continue to innovate and deliver for companies in America—and we need to help Americans push the envelope, innovate and deliver for all of us.”
Manufacturers across many sectors were surprised in recent weeks by a ban on products containing a chemical called PIP (3:1), which was slated to go into effect after March 8, 2021. Due to the incredibly short compliance window and because PIP has not been regulated elsewhere in the world, it is a major challenge even to identify its potential presence in supply chains.
The sudden ban could have caused significant disruption in the manufacturing industry and snarled the economic recovery, NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones tells us. Here’s what you need to know.
Why it matters: While there is no PIP chemical manufacturing in the United States, it can be found in a broad array of components that are used in electronics; robotics and manufacturing equipment; gaskets, clamps, tubes, harnesses, cables and casings; and in many other applications for flame retardant purposes. The ban would have a serious impact on manufacturers in the United States, forcing them to scrutinize every component of their supply chains for PIP, rework manufacturing processes and find new materials in an impossibly short timeframe.
The COVID-19 angle: Many of the products that would be impacted by this rule are being used to conduct research into COVID-19, whether that involves an examination of COVID-19 variants or developing, producing, storing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines. If this rule goes forward without being fixed, some of these products could become unavailable at a time when they are needed most.
What we did: The consensus from some experts was that changing the Biden EPA’s approach on this matter was a futile effort. But the NAM pressed forward and asked the EPA to issue a “no action assurance” for downstream manufacturers until the PIP rule can be amended to include a reasonable compliance timeframe. At the same time, the NAM moved forward in court to preserve relief options and to ensure that manufacturers affected by the rule can be made whole.
The results: After the NAM’s intervention, the EPA announced a 180-day “No Action Assurance” and opened a new 60-day comment docket to reexamine the rule. The NAM will continue to work with the EPA to find a reasonable approach that supports manufacturers and upholds critical standards.
The last word: Jones says, “When manufacturers are willing to speak up on challenging issues, we can solve complex problems. I have zero doubt that EPA’s extraordinary action was in response to our work with many NAM members and collaborative solutions-focused advocacy. While we celebrate this important interim victory, it is only a 180-day window of relief and manufacturers need more time.”
Manufacturers across the country are doing their part for the pandemic response—whether that means developing vaccines, producing vials and containers or creating personal protective equipment for frontline responders. They are also increasing the capacity and efficiency of vaccination operations by embedding their manufacturing methods and technologies—as Honeywell and several partner organizations did recently in North Carolina. Now, the group has published a guide to help others do the same.
What they did: Honeywell, Atrium Health, Tepper Sports & Entertainment and Charlotte Motor Speedway formed a unique public–private initiative with a bold goal of distributing 1 million doses of the vaccine by July 4. With support from the state of North Carolina and Gov. Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and local governments, these organizations worked together to plan and execute efficient, safe and equitable mass vaccination events at Bank of America Stadium and Charlotte Motor Speedway in January and February.
- “These highly efficient mass events safely vaccinated a diverse group of more than 36,000 people with scalability at a rate of nearly 1,500 vaccinations per hour with average wait times of less than 30 minutes,” according to the guide. “These successes offer several best practices for locations around the world working to get ‘shots in arms’ quickly, efficiently and safely.”
Planning and structure: The guide encourages planners to offer doses by appointment only, to schedule the first and second doses concurrently and to ensure that the venue will have enough doses to serve all its guests without any waste. Meanwhile, it advises that a “task force” staff model be put in place with cross-functional teams and a clear decision-making structure.
Site selection: Planners should consider venues like stadiums, arenas, racetracks and convention centers as mass vaccination sites. But they should also consider whether these venues have:
- Sufficient space for social distancing;
- Free and available parking capacity if necessary; and
- Convenient access to public transportation.
Equity in distribution: Would-be vaccinators should take special account of underserved communities and populations, says the guide. Organizations seeking to create a mass vaccination site should engage in outreach, promote access and work to reduce vaccine hesitancy. That might require:
- Developing early partnerships with diverse faith-based, health care, business, educational, news and entertainment organizations;
- Working with the local government to create free transportation options; and
- Connecting with social influencers and community members who can help reduce vaccine hesitancy in targeted areas.
Process: This how-to guide lays out the processes an organization should be aware of and plan for—from pre-event scheduling to on-site check-in, screening, vaccination and observation. The organization should also plan to do post-event data entry, which ensures both their team and local governments can document doses correctly.
Why it matters: “Like any other successful endeavor, mass and community vaccination events require deep planning, strong leadership, committed partnerships and an army of support,” the guide says. “Missing even one of these critical elements can severely limit the effectiveness of an event, ultimately slowing down a community’s recovery… We hope these learnings will be helpful to government leaders who are building a strategy to get their community vaccinated.”
The last word: As NAM Vice President of Brand Strategy Chrys Kefalas said, “Manufacturers like Honeywell and their partners in health care and government are leading us toward the end of the pandemic. It’s important that all of us play our parts to help them, as the NAM and The Manufacturing Institute’s ‘This Is Our Shot’ project emphasizes. Our industry has been protecting Americans from COVID-19 for a year now, and our job isn’t over yet.”
You can download the full guide here.
The NAM Board of Directors has reelected Trane Technologies Chairman and CEO Mike Lamach as its chairman and Dow Chairman and CEO Jim Fitterling as vice chair.
Lamach and Fitterling provided stalwart leadership during an extraordinarily difficult year. Under their guidance, the NAM achieved notable successes, ensuring that policymakers accounted for the industry’s needs and helping to make the production of masks, vaccines and other vital supplies possible.
And that’s not even the half of it. Here are some of the highlights from the NAM’s past year:
- COVID-19 response: Our “American Renewal Action Plan” shaped legislation and administrative action to get manufacturers the support they needed. The NAM team’s advocacy secured more than six dozen policy accomplishments.
- PPE production: Our Creators Respond initiative helped send millions of pieces of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to hospitals and health facilities—and after the election, the NAM worked with the Biden transition team to share insights on PPE production and distribution.
- Workforce development: The Manufacturing Institute’s initiatives, including Heroes MAKE America, the STEP Women’s Initiative and the FAME apprenticeship program, strengthened manufacturing’s workforce pipeline and helped close the skills gap.
- Legal victories: The NAM led the business community in court on issues like protecting vital immigration and standing up against regulatory overreach.
- Fight for opportunity: Through our Pledge for Action, the NAM has committed our sector to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities and creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color.
A look ahead: With Lamach and Fitterling at the helm and an exceptional team in place, the NAM is poised to expand on its successes over the past year and continue to strengthen manufacturing across the country. Already, the NAM is working closely with the new administration and Congress to make sure manufacturers’ voices are heard. To learn more about the breadth of the NAM’s policy agenda, read its newly updated blueprint “Competing to Win.”
Small and medium-sized manufacturers: Meanwhile, the current chair of the NAM’s small and medium-sized manufacturers’ group, BTE Technologies President Chuck Wetherington, will also serve another two years in his position. Ketchie President and Owner Courtney Ketchie Silver will replace retiring Protolabs President and CEO Vicki Holt as vice chair.
The last word: “Today more than ever, manufacturers are the arsenal of democracy. In our nation’s time of need, manufacturers have stepped up and manned the front lines to provide essential goods for the American people. With Mike and Jim’s sound guidance and experience, the NAM will continue to be a leading voice for the business community during these unprecedented times,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
“Our board leaders will also help our industry lead America’s recovery and renewal—helping to strengthen and unify our nation during extraordinary times. And above all, we will advance the values that make America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.”
The NAM is speaking out against H.R. 842/S. 420, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.
Impacting workers: The bill would remove the right to a secret ballot in union elections, allow unions to access personal employee information in union-organizing drives, prevent workers from working as independent contractors and force workers to pay union dues even if they do not support the union.
Impacting businesses: The bill would also increase liability and penalties, threaten supply chains and create an adverse relationship between employers and employees—while also making it harder for businesses to access legal counsel.
Our take: “The PRO Act is a misguided attempt to fundamentally restructure American workplaces and would infringe on workers’ rights to a secret ballot, workplace democracy and personal privacy,” said NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling in a letter to Congress.
- “This bill is being considered during an unprecedented global pandemic, in which manufacturing workers are supplying Americans with the medicine, protective equipment and goods necessary to defeat COVID-19… It is critical that Congress consider policies that support manufacturers in the fight against COVID-19, but the PRO Act would do the opposite.”
In other congressional news, the NAM threw its support behind H.R. 5, the Equality Act of 2021, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system.
- “Manufacturers have known for years that an inclusive workplace with meaningful anti-discrimination protections helps them hire and retain the best possible workforce,” said NAM Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary Linda Kelly in a letter to the House of Representatives. “Individuals can only thrive when they can bring their whole selves to work. Manufacturers can only attract talented employees when those employees feel safe from discrimination, harassment or worse at work and in their communities.”
There’s a new administration in town, and the NAM also has a new trade policy leader—who is already out promoting manufacturers’ agenda. Ken Monahan became the NAM’s Vice President of International Economic Affairs in January after nearly six years at the organization, and he is perfectly equipped to represent the industry on these crucial issues.
Monahan recently spoke to us about the organization’s priorities for the year ahead. Here’s what you need to know.
The big picture: “The NAM’s priority is to stand up for manufacturers and manufacturing workers in the United States by ensuring that our trading partners hold up their end of the bargain, while also working to open markets for American-made exports and promote U.S. supply chains,” says Monahan.
USMCA and Trade Enforcement: The NAM achieved a victory when Congress passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but although the agreement is already being implemented, the NAM’s work is not yet finished. The focus now turns to ensuring that Mexico and Canada follow through on their USMCA commitments, while also holding other U.S. partners accountable as well.
- “Manufacturers continue to face trade barriers and other measures in countries with which the United States has trade agreements, notably in Mexico,” said Monahan. “We stand ready to work with the Biden administration and Congress to ensure that U.S. trade agreement partners treat our industry fairly, which will support manufacturers and manufacturing jobs here in America through an increase in exports.”
China: Given the rise of China, U.S. ties to the country and the size of the Chinese market, we need a strong strategy going forward. The United States must put consistent, targeted pressure on China – directly and with allies – to reverse its illegal subsidies, intellectual property theft and discriminatory industrial policies, says Monahan.
- “We must work with allies to set a clear, strong strategy on China, leveraging our strengths to halt problematic Chinese behaviors and level the playing field for manufacturers,” said Monahan. “We need strong American leadership to ensure that the United States – and not China – is writing the rules of global trade to benefit manufacturers and employees in America.”
Opening New Markets: Beyond China, it is vital that U.S. policymakers work to open new markets and ensure that the rules-based global trading system allows manufacturers to confront challenges in markets around the world, says Monahan.
- “We need to revitalize the rules-based international trading system and pursue new trade agreements to reverse unfair barriers, enhance the role of free market forces, promote respect for the rule of law and propel manufacturing innovation around the world,” said Monahan. “This is all the more important given that our competitors are pursuing their own deals with countries with which the United States does not have trade agreements.”
The bottom line: “As we engage with the Biden administration and legislators of both parties to promote a trade policy that opens markets for American-made exports and promotes U.S. supply chains, we must put a spotlight on the American manufacturing employees whose jobs depend on trade,” said Monahan. “We want to tell their stories. We want to share at every opportunity how trade is lifting up these employees and their communities. That’s our focus, and we’re excited to get to work alongside the NAM’s members.”
As President Biden pushes for a majority of elementary schools to be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, the Federal Communications Commission is engaged in an important effort to ensure students learning remotely are still connected to their classrooms.
The big shift: The FCC is updating the E-Rate program, which supports broadband access for schools and libraries, to allow funds to be used for at-home learning—and the NAM has advocated for this change.
Why it matters: While President Biden is aiming to send more kids back to school soon, it’s clear that they need more assistance while they are still at home. In addition, high school students may stay home for longer than elementary school kids (due to higher risks of contagion among older students) and thus require longer-term support.
Our view: “Ensuring the FCC’s current programs for schools and libraries are adapting to meet these new remote needs is of critical importance, and the cost of not responding to the changing environment is high,” said NAM Director of Innovation Policy Stephanie Hall in a comment letter to the FCC. “The FCC should coordinate with the Department of Education on necessary revisions to the E-Rate program or to build consensus on new alternatives that can close the digital divide.”
In related news, the FCC held a roundtable last Friday to discuss how to quickly implement the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program—another important initiative for manufacturing communities. Established late last year, the initiative allocates $3.2 billion for discounts on internet service for people who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- What it includes: The program offers up to $50 per month for eligible consumers and up to $75 per month for eligible consumers on Tribal Lands. Some eligible participants can also receive discounts on personal computers or laptops.
The last word: As Hall says, “Manufacturers recognize that enhanced broadband investment and the growth of next generation wireless networks are critical both for the current challenges in COVID-19 and to support continued U.S. technological leadership.”
As we wait to get our shots, many people still have questions. Does it matter which vaccine I get? What safety precautions should I continue to take? We talked to highly cited infectious disease expert Dr. Aaron Richterman of Penn Medicine to get some answers to these very real concerns.
Which vaccine? As Richterman tells us, the priority for vaccines is preventing bad outcomes—death and severe illness. And the good news? “The really, really good news is that all of these vaccines that have been tested so far—all of them—prevent severe outcomes.” That list includes vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax. (Only Pfizer and Moderna are approved in the U.S. so far, while the J&J vaccine is expected to be approved soon.)
- And the clincher? “When you put all the trials together [including the Russian vaccine trial], there are somewhere around 80,000 to 90,000 people total who have received the vaccine, and none of them have required hospitalization—and none have died,” says Richterman.
Let’s talk specifics: What about the different numbers we’ve been seeing? As Richterman points out, we’re all used to seeing different headline numbers—95% effective, or 72%, and so forth. But what does that really mean?
- What those numbers represent is the “reduction in any symptomatic illness at all,” he explains. But the main thing we should be concerned about is the prevention of severe illness or death—which all the vaccines do extremely well.
When should I get it? As soon as possible, says Richterman. “At this point in time, and probably for the next four to six months in this country, the benefit of getting the first vaccine available to you is going to outweigh any potential benefit from waiting for the next one.” If you are offered an FDA-approved vaccine now, he says: “take it.”
What you should know: Here are some key facts to keep in mind as you read media coverage of vaccinations, says Richterman.
- Quality: “The quality of evidence underpinning the data for these vaccines […] is grade A plus, top of the line.”
- Safety: “These are extremely safe vaccines, among the safest out there. Some people will have temporary side effects, but they are very safe.”
- Prevention of severe outcomes: These vaccines prevent severe outcomes to a “tremendous” degree, Richterman stresses. “If these vaccines can take COVID-19 down to something asymptomatic, or something more like a cold, that’s a big win.”
And lastly, do you have to wear masks and socially distance after being vaccinated? “Especially right now, when there’s a lot of community transmission,” Richterman says, “and we’re still learning about new variants, it’s a good idea to keep things as safe as possible.” However, “people should be informed that the vaccine reduces their risk and the risk for those around them.”
Manufacturers have pitched in remarkably to help us all through COVID-19—by making things you might expect to be essential (masks, gowns) and things you might not (wire racks, foam). One major manufacturer, Caterpillar, has contributed to the relief efforts in a wide variety of ways across the country and around the world. Here are some of its contributions.
Heating hospital tents: Caterpillar generators made a key appearance in Atlanta during the worst of the 2020 spring surge. Local hospitals set up testing sites outdoors so they could admit only confirmed COVID-19 cases, thus keeping noninfected patients safer from exposure. But to do that, they needed power.
Cat® Dealer Yancey Power Systems provided exactly the power they needed, after thoroughly evaluating the sites, making a detailed plan for servicing them safely and creating an easy set-up process.
Helping to make face shields: A Peoria manufacturer of face shields was missing a critical component—and local hospitals desperately needed those shields. The manufacturer called a Caterpillar distribution center at about 9:00 one morning and had what it needed just an hour later.
Donating materials: And speaking of face shields, a Caterpillar facility in Brazil donated production materials for face shields to local manufacturers, so that doctors in their hard-hit region would be better protected.
Feeding people: The Caterpillar team in Seguin, Texas, hosted two huge food distribution events in 2020. The event in May provided more than 700 families with enough food for two weeks, while in December, the Caterpillar Seguin team and the local food bank provided food to 955 families from 10 different counties.
Powering tugboats: Remember the rousing scene in March when the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, sailed into New York Harbor? You may not recall the two tugboats that helped it dock, but they were essential. And inside those tugboats were two Caterpillar engines, which ensured the boats could serve their city when it needed them.
Providing support: The Caterpillar Foundation also committed $10 million to support global and local COVID-19 response activities. Together with the incredible outpouring of support from employees and retirees through the Foundation’s special 2:1 match, these contributions have helped keep communities safe and strong.
The last word: “Our employees, dealers and customers around the globe are doing what they can to help fight the spread of COVID-19 and ensure essential work continues,” says Kathryn Karol, Caterpillar vice president of global government and corporate affairs. “They truly embody our values in action, finding ways to help each other and their communities during these difficult days.”