We’ve begun to see our states and towns return to lockdowns—usually with very different rules than their neighbors. But this time around, manufacturers want to avoid the uncertainty and inconsistency of the spring shutdowns, so the NAM is calling on all state and local leaders to follow federal guidance on designating essential workers. Here’s a quick review of that guidance, put forward by Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
What it is: The “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker” guidance was initially drafted after shelter-in-place orders contributed to temporary product shortages in the spring, exposing vulnerabilities in U.S. supply chains and essential services. In response, most states directly adopted the CISA guidance to create a measure of stability.
The guidance lists the types of workers supporting critical supply chains and infrastructure in areas like health care, telecommunications, food and agriculture and transportation—basically, a comprehensive explanation of which roles are necessary to keep the country safe and moving.
The latest version: The guidance includes the latest safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The most recent update recommends a “risk mitigation strategy” to help employers maintain worker safety, which includes:
- Creating a methodology for understanding potential risks to workers, taking into account factors like close contact between workers and indoor vs. outdoor activities;
- Identifying workers who could potentially work from home;
- Assessing how critical or unique any given worker’s role is in order to limit the number of employees working together onsite; and
- Examining the allocation of scarce resources for workers based on the availability of safety measures like PPE and testing.
The last word: “Manufacturers are the backbone of America’s COVID-19 response and economic recovery, and we are committed to operating in a safe and sustainable way as we weather this crisis,” said NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones. “The CISA guidance provides a clear, useful and uniform mechanism for state and local governments and business leaders to identify what must safely keep running. We urge all state and local governments and businesses to adopt the CISA framework and follow its recommendations.”
The counteroffensive against the pandemic entered its next phase earlier this week, when 90-year-old Maggie Keenan became the first Brit to receive the initial dose of the United Kingdom’s rollout of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, the U.S. effort is also moving forward, with some big milestones coming up this month. Here’s what the timeline looks like.
Dec. 10: The Vaccine Advisory Board at the Food and Drug Administration will meet to consider emergency approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Dec. 11 or 12 is likely to see the beginning of U.S. inoculations for the Pfizer vaccine, since they are expected to begin 24–48 hours after FDA approval.
Dec. 17: The Vaccine Advisory Board is expected to consider Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Dec. 18 or 19: Moderna’s vaccine is set to reach patients.
End of December: 40 million doses of vaccine are expected to be delivered by Pfizer and Moderna, which will cover approximately 20 million people.
January or February 2021: Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is expected to come online, offering additional options and capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, while deliveries of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are expected to multiply nationally. The goal is to have another 80 million people vaccinated during these two months.
By June 2021: 600 million vaccines in total are expected to be produced by a range of manufacturers, which means that everyone who wants a vaccine will have access to it at little to no cost.
Amid rising caseloads of COVID-19, we will likely see increasing efforts to shut down businesses. But given how crucial manufacturing is to fighting the virus and maintaining our economy, the NAM is working to ensure that manufacturers can keep operating and that the North American supply chain will remain robust.
Why it matters: Manufacturers in the United States are providing frontline health care workers with the resources they need to protect and save lives—and providing daily essentials to citizens across North America. Suppliers in Mexico are key to that effort. A shutdown of facilities in either country could damage not only the ongoing economic recovery, but also the supply chain for critical goods as well as undermine the global response to COVID-19.
A stronger connection: With the ratification of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, the relationship between North American countries is more important than ever. Each day last year, $2.3 billion worth of manufactured goods crossed the U.S.–Mexican–Canadian borders. And today, Mexico and Canada purchase more from the U.S. than our next 11 trading partners combined.
Past is precedent: Back in the spring, in the midst of nationwide shutdowns in Mexico, the NAM sent a letter to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador from 326 manufacturing executives. It urged Mexico to recognize and reciprocate the guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency—which designated manufacturing as essential and critical.
- Thanks to the NAM’s efforts, Mexico designated manufacturing sectors as essential, including the automotive, aerospace, mining and construction sectors, and allowed them to reopen.
- Then, when the Mexican government pushed back the planned reopening date for a number of manufacturing sectors from May 18 to June 1, the NAM immediately stepped in. Just 24 hours later, Mexico’s Ministry of Health reversed course to allow these sectors to restart operations before June 1 if health security protocol processes had been established and approved before that date.
What we’re doing now: The NAM has remained in contact with leaders and health officials across North America to ensure that manufacturers continue to have the tools and support they need to stay open and produce essential goods for our citizens.
The last word: “Manufacturers across North America are central to critical infrastructure industries and essential services,” said NAM Senior Director of International Economic Affairs Ken Monahan. “We are committed to delivering the products and services that make it possible for all of our countries to respond to COVID-19 and deliver a stronger, more prosperous future.”
Pfizer is working around the clock to ensure an efficient and speedy distribution of its potential COVID-19 vaccine, pending emergency use authorization in the United States. To do so, it has developed an innovative packaging and storage solution that just might help save the world.
The challenge: Beyond developing a vaccine in the shortest time frame ever attempted, researchers at Pfizer must ensure that hundreds of millions of vials of its potential COVID-19 vaccine are kept frozen at extreme temperatures (-70 degrees Celsius) as they are shipped across the globe.
The solution: Pfizer got to work designing, engineering and manufacturing temperature-controlled thermal shippers that use dry ice to maintain the required temperature until the point of vaccination.
Once in transit: Pfizer will monitor GPS-enabled thermal sensors in every thermal shipper from a control tower, which will track the location and temperature of each vaccine shipment along its preset route. That means Pfizer can prevent unwanted deviations before they happen.
Once on site: After arriving at the points of use, providers will have three options for storage:
- Ultralow temperature freezers, which are commercially available now and can extend shelf life for up to six months.
- Refrigeration units commonly available in hospitals, which can safely store the vaccine for up to five days at 2–8 degrees Celsius.
- The same Pfizer thermal shippers that carry doses during shipping; these can serve as temporary storage units for up to 15 days as long as they are refilled with dry ice.
The last words: “We have developed detailed logistical plans and innovative tools to support effective vaccine transport, storage and continuous temperature monitoring. Leveraging those resources and based on our track record, we are very confident in our ability to distribute large quantities of our potential COVID-19 vaccine to customers with different infrastructures in all parts of the country and all markets across the globe,” said Pfizer Vice President, BioPharma Global Supply Chain Tanya Alcorn.
“Pfizer is proving yet again that manufacturers’ ingenuity knows no bounds. The progress they have made on a vaccine alone is incredible, and the innovative way they have now addressed these distribution challenges is impressive. It shows manufacturers’ unwavering commitment to saving lives and helping to lead America out of this crisis,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
Ever wonder how disposable face masks get made? Recently, NAM staff photographer David Bohrer visited a Hershey facility in Pennsylvania where workers are making masks for local schools, food banks, homeless shelters and more—producing about 60,000 per month for donation. They gave him the full tour, where he snapped these mask-makers in action.
Here’s how they do it. First, workers combine three layers of nonwoven fabric into one large piece. Why three? Because you need a layer on both sides of the electrostatic filter to protect it.
(The candy pattern adds style to safety.)
Then workers pleat the fabric and insert the nose bridge. The outer edges get folded and sonic welded. And only then do you cut out individual masks from the three-layer fabric.
After the individual masks are cut, workers inspect each mask by hand.
Next, they use a machine to sonic weld the ear loops to the masks. When Hershey started making masks, workers did this by hand, but it later purchased a machine that speeds this process up. In the middle of a pandemic, every second counts.
Lastly, the masks get sterilized, bagged, labeled with a date and lot code and sent on their way.
To date, Hershey has donated more than 440,000 masks to more than 65 community organizations and nearly two dozen public school districts in central Pennsylvania.
“PPE is critical to our daily operations, and when acquiring masks became challenging earlier this year, we quickly pivoted and made the decision to buy our own equipment to make masks,” Hershey Vice President of International Supply Chain & Manufacturing Will Bonifant says. “Sharing our masks with our employees’ families and the broader community was just a natural extension of how we’ve always supported the communities in which we live and work.”
The creation of several safe and effective vaccines within a single year is historic. But what can we expect to happen next? NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling spoke to us about the vaccine rollout—and what this achievement tells us about the state of American public policy.
What’s next: For Pfizer and Moderna, the next step is to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. In fact, Pfizer is set to do so today, though the approval process is likely to take a few weeks.
The vaccine manufacturers are also focusing on the rollout process.
- That includes not only mass production, but also mass distribution across 64 jurisdictions that include every state, territory and tribal nation in the United States.
- Those jurisdictions have submitted plans to the Department of Health and Human Services for consideration, and manufacturers will work with all governments to make the process go smoothly.
How they’ll do it: In some cases, this will involve a public–private partnership with manufacturers through Operation Warp Speed, which will help distribute kits that include needles, vials, alcohol wipes and other important elements.
- It will also involve a system for ordering and tracking vaccines that allows the federal government to keep tabs on who is getting the vaccine and when.
- Some vaccines require two doses, which means that coordination is especially key—local governments and manufacturers must ensure that patients can get a second dose at the right time.
It takes a village: Boerstling emphasized that the vaccines’ development relied not just on a few pharmaceutical companies, but on many manufacturers—as well as an ecosystem that supports innovation, collaboration and discovery.
- “The fact that our biopharmaceutical manufacturing community had the platforms to do what it has accomplished in a very short time is nothing short of amazing,” said Boerstling.
- “But given the expertise, research and development investment, access to capital and all the things that make our industry competitive in the United States, it’s also something that we can expect in this ecosystem. It’s a testament to our ability to mobilize quickly and create progress.”
The bottom line: Most importantly, Boerstling emphasizes, vaccines protect us against this virus—and manufacturers must get the word out. “Vaccines work,” she says. “They protect Americans from adverse health events. And COVID-19 is the most adverse health event in our lifetime.”
As more women enter the manufacturing industry every day, they need guidance from those who have already succeeded. Luckily, BASF Corporation Senior Vice President of Chemical Intermediates North America Erika Peterman is happy and proud to show the way.
Peterman is the 2020 chair of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Awards, which recognize accomplished women in manufacturing from the shop floor to the C-suite. She also works with BASF to increase the number of female leaders within the company, recognizing that strong female leadership brings value to corporations, as a study from MSCI shows. BASF is also a proud sponsor of the STEP Ahead Awards and participates in many programs that encourage women and girls to enter this rewarding field.
So what does Peterman have to say to women who are just starting out? Here is her advice, courtesy of a recent email interview.
1. Don’t underestimate your abilities.
As a young engineer, I was once called in to solve a problem affecting distillation operations. After chatting with the control room technician, I asked her to run a little test, opening and closing various valves while also recording process flows and temperatures. It took only 20 minutes (enough time for a pleasant conversation about weekend plans), after which I shared the solution with my boss.
That 20-minute test had a big impact on my career. Later that afternoon, my boss told me that the team had struggled with this problem since before I took the job. Had I worried about how my solution measured up to previous ideas, I may never have solved it at all.
2. Be prepared to be tested, but stay calm and trust you belong.
Women have earned a seat at the table, but unfortunately, some people will challenge you anyway. Later in my career, when I worked in product management, my boss’s boss told me my salary was “much higher” than my counterparts’. I was thrown, but I knew my response would matter not only to me, but to other women who looked up to me as a role model.
I told myself to stay calm and responded that he should consider placing me in a higher-level role commensurate with my compensation. Of course, I’d done the market research and knew I wasn’t overpaid. I also knew this boss had a reputation for trying to catch people off guard—but this time, he was the one who didn’t know what to say! To this day, I’m proud of how I managed that conversation. I knew I had to defend myself, because if I didn’t, no one else would.
3. Learn to listen and become comfortable with not being the expert in the room.
I have so many examples for this that it’s hard to choose just one. Everyone has points in their career when they do not know all the answers, and that is okay. The key is to be confident in what you do know and comfortable going to others to ask for assistance.
Considering multiple perspectives and forging strong alliances within your organization are the keys to driving progress and innovation. Let go of your ego to allow for clarity of thought and action, and it will set you apart from others.
Check out the STEP Women’s Initiative and the STEP Ahead Awards here.
Manufacturing needs skilled workers to innovate in the United States and compete globally—and immigrants fill a variety of critical roles. For this and many other reasons, the NAM has been a longtime advocate of bipartisan, sensible immigration reform.
NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons reinforced manufacturers’ commitment to immigration yesterday at a panel event hosted by the National Immigration Forum, which was moderated by Axios reporter Stef Kight and also featured Tyson Foods Chief Sustainability Officer John R. Tyson. Here’s what he said.
The skills gap: Immigration is crucial to many sectors in manufacturing, Timmons stressed.
- “High-skilled immigration professionals fill critical roles across the country,” he said. “You think about researchers and scientists and technicians. Workers for these roles are in very high demand, and H1-B visas and employment-based immigration are one way manufacturers fill these immediate needs while we work to strengthen our domestic talent pipeline.”
And the pandemic hasn’t changed things—this is a long-term skills shortage that will continue even after the industry bounces back completely.
- “Even though manufacturers lost 1.3 million jobs during the pandemic—we’ve filled back about half of those—we still have 460,000 jobs that we can’t fill,” said Timmons. “Legal immigration programs are absolutely critical for that workforce development, and to allow manufacturers to grow their operations in the United States, and also expand their global footprint.”
The ecosystem: Immigrants aren’t just important for manufacturing jobs; they’re also critical for the support jobs that make manufacturing work.
- “Our employers know that our economy depends on immigrants in a multitude of support functions to enable our economy to succeed,” said Timmons. “Think of an ecosystem of educators and childcare providers, health care workers, transportation professionals, agricultural workers and countless others. They enable our sector, and they enable our economy, and they enable our country to function.”
The NAM’s plan: The NAM has long called for commonsense immigration reform, which includes creating an employment-based immigration system that prioritizes America’s workforce needs. Its comprehensive immigration plan can be found in the policy blueprint “A Way Forward.”
You can watch the full event here.
Steve Schulte began his career running Porta-King Building Systems, a portable building manufacturer, five decades ago. At the time, the Montgomery City, Missouri, business had just 10 employees—but as it grew, Schulte decided to offer health insurance to his employees to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.
Over time, Schulte became an advocate of providing benefits like health care to manufacturing employees—and when the NAM started developing NAM Health Care to extend affordable coverage to small manufacturers, Schulte wanted a seat at the table. Today, he serves as the chair of the NAM Health Care program’s governing committee.
“I thought it was very important for small businesses to be part of a larger group to help improve the cost of their health care,” said Schulte. “Knowing how expensive it is in today’s market—as a small manufacturer, it’s very difficult to get a competitive rate. Being a part of a larger group offers a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to get involved.”
How it works: NAM Health Care is an association health plan created by the NAM, Mercer and UnitedHealthcare. It allows manufacturers with fewer than 100 employees to band together to purchase affordable coverage that is usually available only to larger companies. Offering a range of benefits and savings, the program is tailored to manufacturers and provides tools that make the process of offering health benefits easy.
NAM Health Care is operated by the plan’s governing committee, which is made up of mostly small and medium-sized manufacturers. The committee manages the NAM’s medical, dental, vision and life plans with the support of Mercer and UnitedHealthcare.
The benefits: While Schulte’s company is too large to take advantage of NAM Health Care, he knows that the initiative still provides important benefits for his company. By helping his smaller suppliers attract and retain high-caliber employees, he can strengthen his own supply chain and the manufacturing workforce as a whole.
The last word: “As time goes on and it becomes more well known in the manufacturing community that the NAM has this offering, it will continue to grow,” said Schulte. “I’m a believer in the program. I’m delighted to be a part of the beginning stages and to be able to see the success we’ll continue to have.”
To learn more about the program, go here.
How are supply chains holding up under the stresses of COVID-19? How are companies preparing their supply chains for the future? As manufacturing endures a difficult year, these are key questions for all of us.
Fortunately, the new 2020 Digital Supply Chain Survey—a research initiative from Grant Thornton, the Manufacturing Leadership Council and the NAM—is here to tell us what we need to know.
The good news: While COVID-19 has caused widespread disruption in economic activity—and three-quarters of survey respondents reported some level of supply chain disruption—60% of respondents say that the disruption was only “minor.”
Still, according to the report, “around half had to rapidly reforecast demand, almost a third had to reduce production and two in five began to identify new suppliers as their existing global networks tried to cope with the initial disruption.”
The growth areas: The survey also identified a few areas where companies need to invest or make further progress:
- There’s room for growth in identifying supply chain risks (only 23% of companies called themselves “very capable” of doing so) and in accelerating digital maturity (just 17% of companies say their supply chains are fully integrated).
- More than half of companies—approximately 53%—say they are already beginning or considering redesigns of their entire supply chain processes.
Transformational tech: Companies are increasingly focused on making use of new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning systems and advanced analytics that would allow them to respond better to challenges—from shifts in markets to disasters like COVID-19.
The bottom line: “While transformational initiatives were already underway in many manufacturing supply chains before the COVID crisis, the lessons learned so far this year have clearly given those plans a new sense of urgency and a clearer focus for the years ahead.”