All Posts By

Guest Author

Autonomous vehicles won’t just change our roads, they’ll change our factories, too

By | Shopfloor Economics, Shopfloor Main | No Comments

By Bobby Bono, Partner, US Diversified Manufacturing Leader, PwC; Carolyn Lee, Executive Director, Manufacturing Institute; and Todd Benigni, Principal, Operations Consulting, PwC

Automating the movement of materials within manufacturing operations is nothing new. Indeed, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), conveyors, sorters and shuttles have been moving and handling materials, parts and product for decades. But now, thanks to advancements in sensor technology, 3D camera systems, software and artificial intelligence, these machines are increasingly capable of seeing their environments and, more importantly, learning to identify what they’re seeing. More and more, factories are becoming home to “free-range” robots capable of working beside humans wherever they’re needed.

Increasingly, semi-autonomous and even autonomous vehicles within manufacturing operations are gaining independence. Materials-handling robots, in particular, are making aggressive moves, most notably in warehouses and inventory management. Amazon, which has ramped up its warehouse automation, is a prime example. Just consider that, since 2014, Amazon has hired 50,000 new human workers at its warehouse facilities–while also adding 30,000 robots to work with them.

Adoption of semi- and fully autonomous vehicles by manufacturers is trending upward, but still has a long way to go. According to “Industrial Mobility: How Autonomous Vehicles Can Change Manufacturing,” a new study from PwC and The Manufacturing Institute, only 9% of manufacturers use semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicles within their operations today. Yet an additional 11% plan to do so in the next three years. Read More

Smart Trucks Are Going To Need Smarter Roads…And Smarter Workers

By | Shopfloor Economics | No Comments

By Bobby Bono, Partner, US Diversified Manufacturing Leader, PwC; Carolyn Lee, Executive Director, Manufacturing Institute; and Todd Benigni, Principal, Operations Consulting, PwC

Competition among automakers to bring next-generation, smart semi-trucks to market intensified in 2017, with long-time industry leaders such as Volvo, Mercedes and Cummins (as well as upstarts such as Tesla) announcing new vehicles. As these manufacturers and others vie to fulfill the promise of autonomous trucking–lower costs, greater efficiency and safety, fewer delays–it becomes more likely that difficult technological challenges, such as the development of sufficiently powerful (and ubiquitous) artificial intelligence (AI), will be eventually sorted out. That should make anyone who could benefit from autonomous trucking happy.

But, as it turns out, better AI isn’t necessarily top-of-mind for businesses assessing the potential benefits of autonomous vehicles. While 69% of respondents in a survey by PwC and the Manufacturing Institute said technological immaturity was the biggest barrier to adoption of autonomous trucks, that’s not where they see the biggest need for investment in the space. Instead, more businesses who participated in our study (64%) would like to see increased funding for smart infrastructure than greater investment in AI, sensors, or vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Read More

There’s Still Time to Be a First Mover in Industrial Mobility

By | Shopfloor Economics | No Comments

By Bobby Bono, Partner, US Diversified Manufacturing Leader, PwC; Carolyn Lee, Executive Director, The Manufacturing Institute; and Todd Benigni, Principal, Operations Consulting, PwC

When it comes to self-driving vehicles, passenger cars may grab most of the headlines, but they aren’t capturing most of the investment in the space. Of the $6.8 billion raised by autonomous-transport startups since 2012, about 62% has gone to companies working on technology for vehicles ranging from drones to unmanned forklifts and tractor-trailers, according to an analysis by PwC.

Significantly, these investments in the pioneers of industrial mobility–a term we use to describe technologies enabling the autonomous movement of goods on both private property like factory floors as well as via public roads, waterways and airspace – have been accelerating in recent years. From 2012 to 2014, companies working on automobiles received about as much investment ($660 million) as those building non-auto solutions ($702 million). But from 2015 to 2017, non-auto investment increased five-fold to $3.5 billion, while investment in companies working on tech for passenger cars rose a comparatively modest 188% to $1.9 billion.

Why does this matter? The rapid growth in capital pouring into startups working on industrial mobility  reveals that hefty bets are being placed on the prospect that the impact of autonomous vehicles may well first  made more forcibly upon industrial applications–even as self-driving passenger cars  continue to capture consumers’ imagination. Read More

The Bright Future for Veterans

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

By David Johnston, manufacturing manager metal supply at Arconic

Every day, thousands of veterans retire from the military, struggling to match their passion with their next career move. Many don’t fully recognize that the skills they’ve honed, the experiences they’ve had and the values they’ve lived during their service are those that can translate extremely well to manufacturing careers. Smart hiring managers are the ones that commit time and resources to hiring and advancing veterans in the workplace because they recognize the unique assets we veterans offer.

While we know firsthand what our military brothers and sisters are capable of and how valuable their insights are, helping America’s military veterans transition into manufacturing is easier said than done. By working together throughout the manufacturing supply chain to develop a strong network of veteran ambassadors who can lead the charge, we can make a compelling case that attracts the best and brightest veteran talent to a wide range of manufacturing jobs.

As veteran ambassadors, we each play a critical role that positively impacts the lives of other veterans. Today, The Manufacturing Institute and Arconic Foundation released a video that highlights the value veterans bring to the manufacturing workforce and encourages veterans to explore the career options available in manufacturing. The video shows a real, tangible example of Arconic’s veterans resource group at work, helping our employees adjust to civilian life, and ultimately, finding a home at Arconic.

At Arconic, we are committed to helping veterans prepare for success in their civilian careers; we are present across the United States at military recruiting fairs and transitioning summits; we direct support to military spouses; make available community volunteering opportunities that extend veterans’ service into their communities; and engage newly hired vets in special onboarding experiences. Our aim is to make the best possible use of their skills and create an environment of inclusivity. The company supports an employee resource group (ERG) for veterans and non-veteran allies at our locations around the world. In military terms, the veterans ERG is a “force multiplier” for Arconic.

Leadership. Team deployment. Project management. Supply chain expertise. Technical and engineering skills. Loyalty. Goal orientation. These are just some of the skills that are unique to veterans and highly valuable in today’s advanced manufacturing environment. With the right support and knowledge of what veterans bring to the table, American manufacturing stands to gain so much from these individuals in their post-military careers.

Boots Are Boots

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

By Diane Wilhelm, chief engineer advanced manufacturing, Harley-Davidson Motor Company 

As a West Point grad in the early years of integrating women and serving in the U.S. Army for 12 years, I often reflect on my military roots and the foundation that the military has provided me for success in my manufacturing career. My transition from Army boots to steel-toe boots was not without challenges.

As young Lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry Division, I was elated to have the opportunity for my platoon to support one of the combat brigades in an upcoming FTX (Field Training Exercise). I reported to the prep meeting and realized that I was the only female in the room. Halfway through the meeting, the colonel noticed me, stopped the meeting and asked why I was there. I responded, “I am your military police support, sir.” He shook his head negatively. Everyone in the room stared at me, but I stayed, and they continued the meeting.

Afterward, I waited until most had left and approached the colonel. I told him that I had the best platoon in the company and that we would not fail him. I told him that if he didn’t agree that I and my platoon were the best, I’d never again set foot in his area. I asked for him to give me a shot, unless he was concerned about a female making other men look bad. He stared at me for a long time before answering, “Lieutenant, you’re in.” From that moment on, my platoon shined and he asked for me by name.

For women in nontraditional career fields, I sum this up into one mantra: “show no fear!”

As a new maintenance engineer/supervisor for a major automotive company, I noticed a large, colored paper sticking out from underneath a stack of newspapers when I entered the pipefitter’s break area. Making small talk, I purposely picked up the newspaper exposing the large paper that had 30 blocks drawn on it, almost all of them colored in with red or blue; some had both. The men fell silent. I picked up the colored paper and asked, “What is this?” After a lengthy pause, the millwright replied, “It’s a pool.” “About what?” I probed. The men started to squirm. The same millwright answered, “It’s a pool about you. Blue indicates when you will cry, and red is when you will quit.” I was stunned! The tradesmen all stared at me. I looked back at the paper and realized that my peer supervisors had bought blocks, too.

I had a choice. I took out my wallet and said, “How much to get in?” He answered “5 bucks.” I gave him 10 and told him to mark me down for NEVER on both! I won, of course, and donated the money to the department holiday meal fund.

You cannot always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude. #ShowNoFear #BootsAreBoots

Why Hiring Veterans Could Solve the Skills Gap

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

By John Buckley, manager of military relations at Koch Industries

I served more than 30 years in the Army, with tours of duty from Bosnia to Iraq. But perhaps my biggest test of all came when I returned home: transitioning to the private sector.

Millions of veteran service members face the same challenge every day, with another million troops returning to the private sector over the next five years. It is also a tremendous opportunity—both for those who honorably served and for a grateful nation. As the manager of military relations for Koch Industries—one of the largest manufacturers in the United States—I see firsthand the value of recruiting and retaining employees who have served.

Almost 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade, but the vast skills gap means that roughly 2 million of these positions will stay vacant, according to a study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. These open roles mean decreased productivity, lower earnings and a reduced GDP, as well as less innovation and flourishing in society.

Companies and entire industries are losing embedded institutional knowledge as an entire generation retires. As technical education offerings decline in public schools, we may have new workers who may lack the skills necessary to do these jobs.

But there’s hope. It is no coincidence that employers of military veterans, including Koch, have found that the traits that define the men and women who served our nation—character, dedication, perseverance and courage—match those of our most successful employees.

At Koch, we educate both business leaders—on understanding military culture and its applications in our daily business—and employed veterans—on how to recruit more quality talent. We recognize that only about 7 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. As such, we take great care to bridge the gap between employees with different experiences and skill sets. We hold a monthly Skype session with veterans, and our military careers website features helpful tips on searching for jobs, writing a resume and preparing for interviews. Our website devotes a section to veteran recruiting, including a guide to managing the transition to civilian life. The results are undeniable: For the past two years, we have increased our protected veteran hires by an average of 30 percent each year, and Koch has received six awards from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program, for providing a supportive workplace for employees who served.

Adaptable, accountable and focused on compliance, veterans have years of skills, knowledge and leadership under their belt—important assets for any line of work, but especially manufacturing. When we hire veterans at Koch, we know that we are getting individuals with a proven track record of making their team—and their country—even better.

John Buckley is manager of military relations at Koch Industries. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel who commanded soldiers in combat and peacekeeping operations and contributed to the strategic and operational planning of multiple operations. 

Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap

By | General, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

By Chris Muhlenkamp, Allegion Senior Vice President of Global Operations & Integrated Supply Chain

October marks Manufacturing Month, an opportunity for manufacturers across the country to highlight modern-day manufacturing, the many diverse sectors within our industry and the opportunities and challenges we’re facing. With a widening manufacturing skills gap, it’s more important than ever that we use this month’s momentum to continue pushing for recognition of our vibrant industry in 2018 and beyond.

Consider this: Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute recently reported that, over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. However, in that same report, it’s predicted that nearly 2 million of those jobs will go unfilled because of the growing manufacturing skills gap. Linked to a lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills among workers and fueled by a decline of technical education programs in high schools, closing the skills gap is imperative to the success of manufacturing in the United States and millions of American workers.

As someone who has worked in the manufacturing industry for 40 years, I believe manufacturing has a bright future. Manufacturers are innovators, and we continue to see the invention of new technologies and processes that result in shorter delivery cycle times and higher-quality products for our customers. As a result, it is critical to have employees who have the desire, knowledge, expertise and capability to run, manage and maintain such investments.

Informing and inspiring the next generation of manufacturers will require a good deal of work within our communities, but it’s a worthy cause. At Allegion, we’re committed to investing in our manufacturing processes and equipment, our people and the communities in which we work to further advance the manufacturing competency.

However, to get to where we want to be, we also need government leaders at all levels to work with us, prioritizing more resources in STEM education and supporting initiatives such as trade apprenticeships and tuition reimbursement programs. Manufacturing Month only underscores the need for our nation’s leaders to continue delivering on manufacturing priorities to boost the economy and bolster our workforce. Together, we can combat the skills gap and invest in the future of the country’s workforce and the communities we serve.

The Business Imperative to Tackle Sustainability Now

By | General, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Sustainability | No Comments

By Cristian Barcan
Vice President of Sustainability and Industry Affairs, The Vinyl Institute
Executive Director, Vinyl Business and Sustainability Council

Proven support of sustainable development is the new business imperative. And it’s not just about being an environmentally responsible company, but also considering the social and economic impacts of your decisions on the communities in which you live and work and across your entire supply chain.

Indeed, a recent Unilever survey found that one-third of consumers today are making purchase decisions based on a company’s environmental and social impact. The company surveyed 20,000 adults across five countries, including the United States and United Kingdom.

Need more proof that you need to embed sustainability? It’s not just consumers asking. Stakeholders and financial markets are asking questions about a wide range of non-financial business drives (e.g., human rights, labor rights, anti-corruption) and looking for this information to be included in annual reports. Moreover, there is a growing list of exchanges that have adopted environmental, social and governance disclosure rules.

Companies must not only embrace the idea of sustainability, but also walk the walk.

Your sustainability journey starts with data.

When it comes to your business, you may think you know what people care about. You might have innovated on the factory floor to mitigate chemical emissions or invested in more sustainable product packaging. Perhaps you have a carpooling initiative or a telework policy to reduce your company’s transportation footprint. You’ve written the story on your blog, put out a press release and maybe even gotten some publicity for your efforts. All good. But what if people don’t care about your employees’ commuting habits but are really concerned about how much oil and gas you’re using shipping products to market?

You have to know what your key stakeholders really want.

Every business operates with a certain amount of anecdotal knowledge. To take your business down a truly sustainable pathway, you need to move from “how do you know” to “here’s how we know.” You need the proof points. You need to undertake a materiality assessment.

The importance of mapping hotspots.

A materiality study is a process for obtaining an overall snapshot of how your company or industry is doing in the environmental, social and economic spheres—and where it could do better. The aim of such a study is to identify the “hotspots,” changes (e.g., emissions, wastewater use) you can put in place quickly to have the biggest immediate payback.

Step 1 in a materiality assessment is to identify the major categories of importance to your company. Think of it as a spreadsheet with columns for the major steps in your supply chain and rows broken down by category. Step 2 is research. This research should start with a literature review to understand what has been published or said about you by your many stakeholders. As you do this, you can start to count the number of times that people focused on “emissions to air,” for example, versus “water use.” Following the literature review, it’s important to interview key internal and external stakeholders to get fresh insights into how different audiences perceive your business and to test your hotspot assumptions against the literature review and what others tell you does and does not matter to them.

Your materiality assessment will give you the data your company needs to make informed decisions about how to prioritize your sustainability efforts.

Led by the Vinyl Business and Sustainability Council (VBSC), the vinyl industry is undertaking its first materiality study. Because it’s an industry-wide initiative rather than a company-specific one, our materiality assessment will include information across nine distinct market segments. The VBSC is hoping to have preliminary results this fall and a clearer picture of our hotspots and where to focus next.

Infrastructure: But How Do We Pay for It?

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Written by Fluor Chairman and CEO/NAM Board of Directors Vice Chair David Seaton.

There is widespread consensus that America’s infrastructure needs help. It ranks 11th in the world, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has repeatedly graded it a D+.

As noted in the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) Building to Wininfrastructure plan, “Without immediate action on the infrastructure crisis, the United States will lose more than 2.5 million jobs by 2025 and more than 5.8 million by 2040.” We have a big job ahead of us; the estimated funding needs exceed $1 trillion. So how do we pay for it? Read More

Share