November Jobs Report Shows Challenges Remain for Manufacturers

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We have seen a steady stream of good economic numbers in the past few weeks, including today’s jobs numbers. First and foremost, the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, its lowest level since August 2007. At the same time, nonfarm payrolls rose by 178,000, which was on par with the consensus estimate of around 180,000. Overall, this mirrors healthier figures for consumer spending and improved business sentiment in recent data, and these reports show that the U.S. economy has strengthened. This should help cement a Federal Reserve rate hike at their upcoming meeting on December 13-14.

Despite these positives, manufacturers have continued to struggle, as evidenced by the loss of 4,000 workers in November, with 60,000 fewer workers on net year-to-date. It was the fourth straight monthly decline for employment in the sector. Moving forward, manufacturing leaders are cautiously optimistic about demand and production for 2017, and we would expect that this increase in activity would lead to additional hiring.

With that said, it’s clear the incoming administration, which has touted manufacturing as a top priority, has its work cut out for it.  Manufacturers look forward to working with the next Administration and Congress to enact policies – from infrastructure, to comprehensive tax reform – that will help spur America’s manufacturing economy.  To this end, as an extension of the NAM’s Competing to Win policy platform, the NAM will be releasing individual policy white papers in the coming weeks.  Each white paper will focus on a specific policy priority that manufacturers urge the incoming presidential administration and Congress to focus on and will be send to the respective transition teams.

There are also things the current Congress/administration can do to help grow jobs including take action to restore the Ex-Im Bank to full functionality.  As long as Ex-Im cannot fully operate, manufacturers in the U.S. will continue to lose manufacturing jobs to our foreign competitors.

New York Fed: Manufacturers Reported a Slight Expansion in November

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The Empire State Manufacturing Survey said that manufacturing activity expanded somewhat in November, rebounding after three straight months of declines. The composite index of general business conditions increased from -6.8 in October to 1.5 in November. The stabilization in activity in the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s district stemmed from improvements in new orders (up from -5.6 to 3.1) and shipments (up from -0.6 to 8.5). Nearly one-third of respondents reported higher sales in November, up from 26.7 percent in October. That was an encouraging sign for a sector that has been significantly challenged over the past two years. Yet, it was not all good news. Employment continued to lag behind, with indices for the number of employees (down from -4.7 to -10.9) and the average employee workweek (down from -10.4 to -10.9) still in strong contraction territory. That suggests that firms remain quite cautious for now, even with better demand figures. Read More

NAM Podcast: Manufacturing a Sustainable Future

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Happy Sustainability Month! In the next installment of the Shopfloor podcast series, the National Association of Manufacturers Greg Bertelsen and Christian Science Monitors Deputy Energy and Environment Editor Zack Colman discuss how sustainability is shaping the world, politically and through business. Sustainability drives manufacturers and, through innovation, creates endless opportunity.


Collaborating for Supply Chain Sustainability

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This guest blog post is authored by Stewart Leeth, vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.

Food production must increase significantly to feed our world’s growing population. To ensure nutritional security, protein production must also greatly increase, which will stretch natural resources, and, if not managed correctly, could cause environmental concerns. At Smithfield Foods, we have taken a leading role to develop sustainable operating practices to reduce our natural resource demand. These practices have been developed through our robust sustainability program, which is ingrained at every level of our vertically integrated business. Our sustainability program is organized by five pillars: Animal Care, Environment, Food Safety & Quality, Helping Communities and People. Each pillar is connected by the overarching concept of value creation for all our stakeholders.


Our sustainability program delivers on our promise to produce good food the right way while providing an organized platform to focus on key sustainability areas. Since our program’s creation more than a decade ago, we have set new goals each year that build upon previous achievements and continue to drive progress across each of our sustainability pillars. As a company with innovation ingrained in our DNA, the success of these sustainability projects are often furthered by original thinking and unprecedented techniques, such as creating a new market for grain sorghum and finding industry-leading solutions to manure management.

Speaking of innovation, two years ago, Walmart tasked all suppliers with grain operations to discover new methods for reducing fertilizer runoff that can lead to air and water quality degradation. Building on Smithfield’s commitment to the environment, we eagerly accepted the challenge and joined the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to create a more sustainable grain supply chain. Through this unlikely collaboration, we developed a program to work hand-in-hand with grain farmers and foster on-farm conservation practices. We now offer grain farmers free agronomy advice and educational resources while motivating them to adopt fertilizer optimization practices. Although we are still in the early years of this program, we foresee a bright future. Many of our grain farmers have already drastically reduced fertilizer losses while saving money and improving crop yields. This strategy is also a huge potential cost savings for our company, as we can grow more grain locally and reduce transportation costs.

As we reached our one-year anniversary with EDF, we earned a best-in-class recognition at Walmart’s 2014 Sustainability Expo. Last year, more than 100,000 acres of land in the Southeast United States benefited from our fertilizer optimization practices, and we expect more than 450,000 acres of American smithfieldgro-program-progress-to-goalfarmlands will benefit as the program continues to expand. As a result of this program, we are on track to meet our 2018 goal to source at least 75 percent of grain from farms that use efficient fertilizer and soil health practices.

Our sustainability program continues to improve Smithfield’s overall performance and financial stability. This creates substantial value for our stakeholders and drives efficiency throughout our supply chain. Since 2004, our environmental programs alone have saved our operations more than $580 million. Together, with other industry members and manufacturers, unlikely collaborations and innovative programs will help answer food production and environmental questions for the next generation.

For more information about our sustainability program, visit To learn more about our collaboration with the EDF, visit

Manufacturing Sustainability Inside and Out

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This guest blog post is authored by Rob Zimmerman, director of marketing, projects, specifications & sustainability for Kohler Company. 

Since 2008, Kohler has worked to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste to landfill with a goal of reaching “net zero” (with offsets) by 2035. This has become a springboard for innovation throughout the company.

We use Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), a product modeling tool, to evaluate a product’s lifetime environmental impact. LCIs look at supplier operations, Kohler operations, consumer use and end-of-life.

kohler-highline-1-0Because up to 80 percent of a product’s lifetime environmental impact is locked in during early stage development, we incorporate Design for Environment (DfE) principles in each phase of new product development.

These principles help us take a step back and evaluate the environmental impact of a product from raw material extraction through manufacturing, packaging, use and to its ultimate end via recycling, repurposing or disposal. Our recently released Highline 1.0 is the result of 10 years of performance evaluations, design tweaks and discovery. Kohler engineers discovered a way to more precisely target the flow of water into the bowl so that only one gallon of water is needed per flush. Relatively small design adjustments to the tank, bowl and trapway have reduced water use by 38 percent compared to a traditional 1.6 gallon per flush toilet. We’ve also found opportunities to improve manufacturing sustainability in unexpected places.

In an LCI evaluation at our Reynosa, Mexico, facility, we discovered a way to reduce GHG emissions. In Reynosa, it’s common for daytime temperatures to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the four-month warm season. When the facility’s electric cooling units were due for replacement, associates explored more sustainable options and learned the area has the world’s largest reservoir of natural gas.

The team seized the opportunity to replace electric air conditioners with natural gas cooling units. As a result, the Reynosa facility increased energy efficiency and is saving millions of pounds in GHG emissions annually, while also making the facility more comfortable for employees.

In another example, Kohler cast-iron engineers saved 6,200 tons of pouring-molten-ironiron from being melted each year. In production of one of our most popular bath tubs, molten iron is poured through “sprues” into the mold. Excess iron remains in the sprues, cools and solidifies. This excess iron is punched out to release the finished bathtub from the line. Our equipment required large sprues and, therefore, a large amount of extra iron, to function properly. The unused iron was eventually reused, but substantial energy was used in re-melting it.

Cast-iron engineers upgraded to new equipment that could function with sprues 20 pounds smaller than the original. This saves 80 pounds of iron per bathtub. Overall, the upgrade reduced iron-melting requirements by more than 13 percent, energy use for the transfer of molten iron by 20 percent and losses due to cracked bathtubs by nearly 50 percent.

These are just a few examples of how we’re making manufacturing changes that reduce our company’s environmental impact from product design to the end of the product’s useful life.

Delivering the Future: How UPS Is Pursuing the Possibility of Sustainable E-Commerce

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This guest blog post is authored by Jim Bruce, senior vice president, corporate public affairs at UPS.


David Abney, UPS chairman and chief executive officer

For years, UPS has been famous for its “no left turns” policy, which cuts emissions, reduces delivery time, conserves fuel use and generally improves our sustainability. But there’s so much more to sustainability than which way you turn. More important of course is your destination. At UPS, ours is anticipating the direction of e-commerce and staying ahead of it, because we believe that e-commerce will profoundly impact the development of our cities, lifestyles and business.

The question is whether e-commerce will improve or diminish global sustainability. We think it can go either way but are optimistic about the possibility of real improvement. Which way it goes depends on a number of factors: 1) Can we create a sustainable global delivery network? 2) Will people rely on that network enough to lessen reliance on personal vehicles and to increasingly live in decongested, pedestrian-friendly cities? And 3) Will cities begin to view e-commerce as essential to their sustainable future? Truly, a “yes” to these three questions would be transformative to our cities and global carbon-reduction efforts.

Everyone knows that UPS is a trucking company, but the reality is that we’re a network optimization company. UPS has a laser focus on creating the most efficient network possible, not only because it’s good for our business, but good for our planet, too. That means we use multi-modal shipping, including the most efficient modes like rail, which we’ve used for the past 50 years. It means we use trucks, filled to capacity whenever possible, and we resort to aircraft when necessary to meet our customers desired delivery date. The efficiency of our network is paramount, and we use tools like our ORION delivery route optimization software, an enormous bank of telematics data and our newly acquired Coyote subsidiary to expand those efficiencies even further. The business case for “big data” has never been more persuasive, helping to reduce miles traveled and to refine every aspect of our business.

natural-gas-pumping-w-upser In addition to employing the most efficient delivery modes, we seek to reduce the carbon footprint of those modes.  Our “rolling laboratory” of alternative fuel vehicles plays a huge part of these overall sustainability efforts. In fact, UPS set out to drive 1 billion miles in our alternative fuel fleet by the end of 2017, and this fleet of alternative fuel and alternative technology vehicles enabled UPS to surpass our goal a full year early! In fact, this fleet of 7,200 vehicles is now moving a million miles each business day.

We are also buying synthetic diesel fuel made from renewable sources and bio-sourced natural gas. The result is that nearly 14 percent of the fuel our trucks use is now from renewable sources, not petroleum or natural gas.

alternative-fuel-truck-pumping-close-upSuch steps are essential for a more sustainable delivery network, but the bigger question is, will e-commerce transform our cities? There is ample evidence that young urban dwellers here and abroad want more walkable, bike-able, “smart,” environmentally friendly neighborhoods. For cities, achieving that vision will attract talented millennial workers who want those living conditions, where they can easily get around without a personal car and live in vibrant urban neighborhoods and cities. E-commerce and its requisite delivery systems would seem essential to that lifestyle.

Yet, many cities today see e-commerce and business facilitating delivery vehicles as a double-parking, traffic-congesting nuisance and a rich revenue source for traffic ticket writers. But crucially, instead of more restrictions on companies like UPS, we need to collaborate on new partnerships to reduce urban congestion and pollution. Working hand-in-hand with cities to achieve their goals, while meeting our customers’ delivery demands in an e-commerce world, is what we’re all about. In fact, UPS is already developing such solutions, including a small fleet of electric tricycles to deliver and pick up packages in Hamburg, Germany, from a centrally located stationary trailer. We are seeking similar partnerships in other cities, including Dublin and London.

Ultimately, it’s our notion of serving communities that guides UPS’s sustainability efforts. Every day, we’re working in neighborhoods around the world and come face to face with issues like congestion, air quality and the safety of our roads and sidewalks.

Meanwhile, demand for delivery services is only going to increase. Helping metro regions to facilitate sustainable e-commerce vis-à-vis new delivery methods and exciting cross-functional partnerships is the next step. Working together, we can reduce urban congestion, expedite freight flows, promote walkable cities and cut costs, all the while positively impacting the environment. The future of sustainable e-commerce has never been brighter!

The Power of Your People: Why Employee Engagement Programs Are Essential to CSR Initiatives

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This guest blog post is authored by Scott Tew, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability (CEES) at Ingersoll-Rand.

We’ve seen that our employees can teach us a lot about sustainability. In fact, many of their sustainable actions at home translate to, and thrive in, the workplace, further helping advance corporate engagement and sustainability efforts. By harnessing the motivating passion of employees and allowing them to work on projects near and dear to them, businesses are in a unique position to make corporate sustainability initiatives relevant to their staff’s day-to-day lives. Small, focused and passionate efforts made through employee engagement programs can make a big impact when viewed in the aggregate, highlighting the potential of these types of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

At Ingersoll-Rand, an industrial leader in creating comfortable, sustainable environments, we’ve seen great success in engaging our employees on CSR efforts with our Green Teams program. Green Teams are local Ingersoll-Rand employee volunteer groups green-monday-waco-2015_07_27_green-teamswith three goals: enable progress, measure progress and celebrate success. Established in 2011, our Green Team network consists of nearly 100 teams around the globe. This program has resulted in impactful, local projects globally. Domestically, we’ve seen a local Green Team entirely revamp the recycling program (signage, color-coding, bins, etc.) at our Charlotte Remanufacturing Center, which led to a 150 percent increase in recycling universal waste and e-waste in 2015. At Ingersoll-Rand’s Taicang plant in China, where the Green Team will have invested more than 10,000 volunteer hours in Hengli School by the end of 2016, employees are improving school facilities and working with teachers to introduce new teaching techniques.

Through internal collaboration and partnership with community groups, Green Teams have successfully advanced our sustainability objectives highlighted in our Climate Commitment, helping the company avoid 2 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent to the electricity used in 270,000 homes for a year. Beyond reducing emissions, other climate change and environmental contributions have successfully:

  • Saved more than 80 billion BTUs of energy;
  • Saved nearly 6 million gallons of water; and
  • Avoided sending more than 6 million pounds of waste to landfills.

It’s important to help employees understand that their actions play an important role in meeting the company’s energy commitments. Therefore, we’ve instituted a system where employees can continuously self-report their progress in terms of personal actions, which allows the company to track and monitor total improvements made in energy efficiency and waste reduction. Not only does this demonstrate the tremendous impact of strong employee engagement on our greater CSR goals, it also inspires everyone to contribute more once they see the difference they’re making.

We believe that local, community efforts are key for making an impact on global sustainability initiatives and show us what companies can achieve with strong employee engagement programs. How are you unlocking the power and passion of your employees to work toward your CSR goals?

Sustainable Development Through Public–Private Partnerships

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This guest blog post is authored by William (Bill) Steers, general manager, communications and corporate responsibility for ArcelorMittal’s Americas region, which encompasses more than 50 steel production, mining and finishing facilities and has approximately 40,000 employees. He oversees the company’s corporate responsibility efforts across two continents as well as corporate communications, media relations and brand management. 

In 2014, ArcelorMittal launched a comprehensive new approach to ensuring the sustainability of our business and the contribution to societyour 10 sustainable development outcomes. The words we used to name this approach are important and specificsustainable development outcomes. Sustainable development means, in short, meeting today’s needs without compromising future generations. At ArcelorMittal, we believe our company and the steel industry can rise to this challenge.

One of the many ways we contribute to sustainable development outcomes at ArcelorMittal is through publicprivate partnerships that build opportunities to be an active and welcome member of the communities where we operate. We recognize it is not enough for ArcelorMittal to be resilient and sustainable; the communities surrounding us must be as well. Our experience has shown that strong publicprivate partnerships can be instrumental in bringing together a variety of experienced, like-minded partners to leverage collective resources around common goals for greater impact.

dscn0412Two strong initiatives that affirm ArcelorMittal’s commitment to publicprivate partnerships as a vehicle for community resilience and sustainability are Sustain Our Great Lakes and our evolving work with the Millennium Reservegreat-lakes-2

For some context, the Great Lakes are truly at the center of the ArcelorMittal business in North America. More than 70 percent of our employees in North America live and work in the Great Lakes region. Spanning the U.S./Canada border, these world-famous lakes provide drinking water to 35 million people and transport raw materials to steel plants responsible for around 20 million metric tons of steel each year.

In 2007, ArcelorMittal teamed up with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to launch the Sustain Our Great Lakes (SOGL). Addressing goals that will ultimately improve habitat and water quality across the basin, the SOGL program brings together public and private funding to make competitive grants for on-the-ground projects that sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat in the Great Lakes basin. Since beginning the partnership, we have contributed almost $6 million, which has unlocked 20 times that amount in matched and grant funding. However, the importance of the partnership goes far beyond the dollars we have contributed; the strong collaboration with partners and the ability to access and raise awareness among diverse stakeholder groups has allowed the partnership to substantially contribute to restoring approximately 33,000 acres and nearly 200 miles of marine and riparian habitat since our funding started.

July 14, 2016 Millennium Reserve press conference and announcement at ArcelorMittal in Riverdale, IL, on July 14, 2016, attended by David St. Pierre and Commissioner David J. Walsh, IL Rep Marcus Evans, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal, Executive Director at South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association Edward Paesel, IDNR Suellen Burns, Marty Ozinga from Ozinga,

Millennium Reserve press conference and announcement at ArcelorMittal in Riverdale, Ill., on July 14, 2016, attended by David St. Pierre and Commissioner David J. Walsh, Illinois Rep. Marcus Evans, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal, Executive Director at South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association Edward Paesel, IDNR Suellen Burns and Marty Ozinga from Ozinga.

A second exciting initiative is our participation with the Millennium Reserve. Our presence in the Calumet region brought us to the Millennium Reserve initiative at its inception. Since then, Millennium Reserve has been working to advance sustainable development initiatives that recognize and build on the nexus between economic development, stronger, more resilient communities and the many environmental and ecological assets of the Calumet region.

In the Calumet region of Illinois and Indiana, ArcelorMittal was a founding member of the Millennium Reservea publicprivate partnership formed in 2012 by then-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The initiative brought together state and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies to advance sustainable development initiatives that recognize and build on the nexus between economic development, stronger, more resilient communities and the many environmental and ecological assets of the Calumet region.

Last year, I was honored to become chair of the Millennium Reserve and, with the support of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, move this project to the next level. To advance this exciting work, we are strengthening the partnership to foster a new level of collaboration in sustainable development for our region by expanding across the border, engaging stakeholders in Northwest Indiana and taking a regional approach to solving the area’s greatest challenges. Only through partnership and collaboration can we leverage our collective resources to advance the Calumet region as it transforms itself into an area recognized for its economic, environmental and cultural value.

Each of these publicprivate partnerships represents a sustainable development opportunity for ArcelorMittal and an opportunity to leverage knowledge and resources beyond our own. Partnering within our communities, government agencies and like-minded NGOs, we build stronger relationships and better understanding of stakeholder expectations in our communities. This provides a unique opportunity to ensure our business strategies align with the expectations for sustainability and resilience found in our communities.

Unite Our Country—Vote Manufacturing

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The NAM Council of Manufacturing Association's 2015 Winter Leadership Conference, held Jan14-16, in Wilmington, Delaware.

The CMA’s 2015 Winter Leadership Conference, held January 14-16 in Wilmington, Del.

By Heidi Brock, President and CEO, The Aluminum Association

It’s impossible to turn on the news without hearing about some new twist or turn in the presidential election, and sometimes this campaign feels like the longest in memory—or in history. I find the political conversation this cycle is either starkly off the table or everywherewhether at a summer BBQ (is your family united behind the same candidate?) or traveling overseas (where every taxi ride includes a conversation about U.S. presidential politics). Many of us wonder, will it ever endlet alone, how will it end?

Well, yes, it will end. In less than four months, which will go fast, voters will head to the polls, elections will be determined, and a new president will be sworn into office. So a key question is, will we end up with leaders committed to strengthening U.S.  manufacturing?

With so much of the news coverage focusing on the reality TV dimension of this campaign season, it can be easy to overlook what’s really at stake: jobs, opportunity, paychecks and our communities. Will we remove the barriers standing in the way of manufacturers, or will we empower our sector to reach its full potential? Our entire country benefits from a thriving manufacturing sector and importantly benefits the more than 12 million men and women who make things in America. And another great thingsupporting manufacturing is a way to unite our country. It is something that both parties can be for and achieve together.

Manufacturers’ policy priorities are clear. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) spelled them out early this year in a pro-growth policy agenda, titled “Competing to Win.

The agenda includes a range of policy solutions: comprehensive tax and regulatory reform to ease the onerous burdens on businesses, serious investment in our ailing infrastructure and expanded opportunities for manufacturers to sell their products to customers overseas, while ensuring robust enforcement of trade policies, to name a few.

The bottom line is this: policymakers in Washington shouldn’t be distracted by silly partisan fights. They need to articulate a policy agenda that grows manufacturing in our country. And when manufacturers head to the polls, we must make sure we know where candidates stand on these important issues. So, let’s be sure that in this election season, we have done all we can to raise the profile of the manufacturing sector. Let’s be sure in this election season we get out the vote for manufacturing.

To spotlight these issues, members of the Council of Manufacturing Associations (CMA) are launching a Shopfloor blog series called CMA Insights. Over the coming months, you’ll hear from manufacturers from across the sector on what issues matter to us and what we expect from our leaders.

As chairman of the CMA, I am focused on ensuring that we not only strengthen the CMA but that our concerns and priorities are heard loud and clear by lawmakers. Cable news may not always cover the real issues, but CMA Insights certainly will! And remember, a great way to unite our country is to vote manufacturing.

Don’t miss NAM Senior Vice President of Communications Erin Streeter’s interview with Aluminum Association President and CEO Heidi Brock live on periscope at the CMA Summer Leadership Conference. Tune in on August 11 at 1:00 p.m. to hear more on why manufacturers must join together to share their stories.

Heidi Biggs Brock joined The Aluminum Association, based in Arlington, Va., as president in October 2011 and became CEO in October 2013. The association’s 104 members represent a significant majority of the primary U.S. aluminum producers, secondary producers and semifabricated product producers, as well as industry suppliers and distributors. Member companies operate approximately 180 plants in North America, with many conducting business worldwide. Brock is chair of the NAM’s CMA. The CMA, made up of nearly 260 industry-specific manufacturing associations, is a vital component of the NAM, providing resources and networks to members to broaden the reach of the NAM’s advocacy efforts.