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Technology

Advance Regulatory Policies to Encourage a 21st Century Rail Network

By | Infrastructure, Innovation, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology, Transportation | No Comments

Since their inception, railroads have paved the way for American industrialization, safely transporting freight across the country with an efficiency and speed never before imagined possible. The American rail network has driven some of our most consequential economic developments, using that innovation to improve millions of lives. Now, groundbreaking advances in automation and analytics are opening yet another exciting frontier for rail—one that, with the right approach from D.C. policymakers, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in particular, can once again redefine the world of transportation.

To craft a technology-friendly regulatory strategy, FRA need simply look to its peer agencies in the automotive sector. The recent flurry of innovation in autonomous vehicle technology is progressing thanks in large part to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “light touch” regulatory approach toward testing and deploying these new technologies. Despite the fact that all real-world testing carries some initial risk, DOT has not allowed misconceptions to stand in the way of progress and the long-term safety benefits of autonomous vehicles. The same approach that is working there will work for rail as well.

While rare, one-third of train accidents are caused by human error, many of which will be eliminated by integrating automated processes into rail operations. Further, the deployment of autonomous technology is easier in the rail industry given that railroads operate on separate fixed tracks. In a world where DOT has vigorously supported the automation of millions of interacting cars and trucks, FRA’s support for similar—and simpler—opportunities to automate many different aspects of rail operations is an attractive and less controversial way to facilitate analogous rail-safety benefits.

Encouragingly, FRA made progress last April when it issued a request for information on automation in the rail industry. In response, Norfolk Southern provided substantive insights into the many technologies available to automate various aspects of our network—from locomotives and dispatch, to yard operations and inspections. We look forward to the next steps and urge FRA to promote the safety benefits of such technologies by issuing guidance that encourages railroads and third-party technology vendors to pursue innovation.

At Norfolk Southern, we are firmly committed to developing high-tech tools that will undeniably improve the safety and efficiency of our operations. Indeed, automated and predictive technologies can help open a new world of operational improvements, and we are working hard every day to realize these benefits and reimagine a safer, more reliable future for freight transportation. Yet we simply cannot unlock the full potential of this new technology without a 21st century regulatory environment that facilitates private innovation.

Just as it has throughout our country’s history, the rail industry is leveraging technology to surge towards transportation’s new technological horizon. By following the lead of other DOT agencies and regulating in a flexible, outcome-based manner, FRA can accelerate this technological progress, helping to dynamically transform the freight-rail industry and creating a safer system and a more efficient transportation network for 21st century manufacturers

Old Ideas on So-Called “Net Neutrality” Resurface in the New Congress

By | Culture and Entertainment, Economy, Regulations, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

Senator Ed Markey and Representative Mike Doyle recently introduced the Save the Internet Act in the Senate and House (S. 682 and H.R. 1644 respectively). The bills resurrect some old ideas on regulating the internet in the name of so-called “net neutrality”. Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Legislating to Safeguard the Free and Open Internet” where they considered this legislation.

Manufacturers agree that Congress, rather than the Federal Communications Commission, should act to establish a predictable legislative framework for a free and open internet, but the bill the committee considered today is not the way to do so. The Save the Internet Act would repeal the FCC’s most recent action that replaced heavy-handed, Obama-era regulations with sensible regulations designed for the internet of today. And, rather than provide new ideas to bring our nation’s communications law into the 21st century, the bills would then reinstate those earlier overly-burdensome regulations classifying the internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Title II regulations are not the correct way to achieve an open internet. They ignore the competitive landscape of the marketplace and, based on a law enacted before color television much less the internet, fail to account for the internet as it exists today. They would have the unintended effect of harming consumers and industry by injecting further regulatory uncertainty into the shifting federal approach to broadband, potentially stymying private sector capital investments. The FCC’s most recent actions only went into effect last summer, and the sensationalized predictions that they would signal the end to an open internet were not accurate.

Manufacturers depend on a reliable telecommunications infrastructure to connect and enable manufacturing technologies. While the legislation the House committee considered today would unquestionably be a step backwards, the National Association of Manufacturers encourages Congress to consider forward-thinking legislative solutions for our nation’s broadband future—solutions that apply fairly across the internet ecosystem and provide the certainty necessary for our industry’s continued innovation.

Bipartisan Bill Focused on Growing IoT Introduced Today

By | Innovation, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the NAM-supported Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act today. This legislation creates a strategic partnership between manufacturers and the public sector focused on fostering the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). The National Association of Manufacturers looks forward to working with both the House and Senate to move this bipartisan bill. Read More

Competing to Win: How to Accelerate Manufacturing Innovation

By | Innovation, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

Autonomous vehicles. Smart phones. Lifesaving medicines. All are made possible by the innovation of manufacturers. Technology is transforming the manufacturing industry, and the manufacturing industry is transforming our world.

Manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector, changing our society and helping Americans live better lives. But our continued progress is not guaranteed. We need our leaders to embrace policies that encourage innovation—not stand in its way—because a country that can’t invent can’t lead.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has laid manufacturers’ technology policy priorities in a new blueprint, as part of our “Competing to Win” agenda:

  • Enable a regulatory and legislative climate that creates the conditions for discovering the next great life-changing inventions.
  • Secure those inventions by protecting the intellectual property rights of manufacturers.
  • Partner with the industry in the area of cybersecurity but not through the creation of a new and unnecessary regulatory regime.
  • Encourage the growth of connected technology when they consider updating our telecommunications laws.

The technologies embraced by manufacturers in the 21st century are improving business models, transforming customer relationships and re-inventing the world. Policymakers in Washington now must decide whether they will accelerate, or stand in the way, of a new economy that innovates and works better for everyone.

This blog is part of the NAM’s 12 Days of Transition series, an effort to provide the presidential transition team and other Washington policymakers with a roadmap to bolster manufacturing in the United States. Read the other blogs in the series here.

Telecom Infrastructure Investment Boosts Manufacturing Innovation

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently released “Building to Win,” a blueprint for the next Congress and president on how to repair and revolutionize the infrastructure that makes the American Dream possible. There are many pieces of infrastructure mentioned in the reporttraditional transportation infrastructure as well as energy, water and communications systems. Broadband is one segment of infrastructure that is often overlooked but cannot be forgotten as the next president and Congress look ahead to a renewed focus on infrastructure.

There is little or no argument about the benefits of widespread adoption of broadband. It creates economic opportunity and equality. In the manufacturing sector, it is helping to power the disruptive technologythe Internet of Things, the cloud, Big Data, 3D printing, drones, etc.that is transforming traditional businesses.

NAM members told us in a recent survey that these new technologies are increasing shop floor efficiencies, enabling new revenue streams and allowing manufacturers to move into completely different product lines. And a common link throughout all these technologies? They all run on top of our nation’s telecommunications infrastructure.

Our products and processes have become increasingly dependent on the latest telecommunications tools and networks. Many manufacturers leverage commercially available networks, and many others manage their own networks for their facilities. No matter what type of network, they are all almost entirely funded with private investment.

Unfortunately, if private investment in this piece of the infrastructure lags, our manufacturing innovation leadership will be further challenged.

The Progressive Policy Institute recently published its “Investment Heroes” report in which it ranks corporations by levels of capital spending. PPI’s primary conclusion was that these private investments raise productivity and wages across the country. It also cited a “vitally important” policy challenge to maintain investment and that was to get regulation “out of the way.”

Those of us in the manufacturing sector agree: a regulatory environment that fosters investment rather than restricts it is needed, especially when it comes to broadband. When companies are faced with a complex, mandatory regulatory regime, it severely reduces investment in infrastructure. This lack of investment will significantly lower the multiplier effect technology has on our industry, the people we employ and the products we create.

Appetite for Disruption

By | Innovation, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

Manufacturers are disruptors. We disrupt products and processes. We disrupt markets. We disrupt our own enterprises based on the needs of our customers. We disrupt because thats what it takes to compete. We disrupt because it drives growth in our businesses and our ability to create jobs.

Disruption is not a new concept for manufacturers or any other industry that strives to outperform its competition. Disruption is a concept we embrace. We don’t do it to have onlookers say you’re crazy. We do it because our industry knows that if we are not driving the disruption, it will drive us out of business.

Technology is the latest disruptor inside the manufacturing sector. This is no secret. Technology has been driving change in our industry for decades. However, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) wanted to better understand just how much technology was disrupting our members. We wanted to know what it means for their business and, if it changes, how they think about you, their customers. So, we asked them and wanted to share with you what we found.

The results from our recent survey of NAM members says that manufacturers are investing in disruptive technologies for many reasons. It is improving shop floor efficiency, speeding up time to market, creating new revenue streams and driving future business.

We also found out a few barriers to investing in disruptive technologiestwo of which include a mismatch of skills and the overreach of government regulation.

Additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, the cloud, big data, drones, robotics and the Internet of Things are just some of the disruptive technologies being leveraged by the manufacturing sector. The NAM is focused on educating lawmakers in Washington so they understand how it’s so easy to create an environment that fosters the growth of disruptive technologies in manufacturing rather than creating an anything goes policy environment.

Cybersecurity—Manufacturers Are More Than Aware

By | Innovation, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

October is recognized as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The Department of Homeland Security describes it as “an annual campaign to raise awareness about cybersecurity.” The National Association of Manufacturers and manufacturers across the country are pleased to participate in this campaign.

The manufacturing sector is extremely diverse in its size, scope and outputs. The one common thread is that all traditional manufacturing companies are pushing the limits of innovation. Technology is infused throughout everything our industry does, therefore making all manufacturers high-tech enterprises.

One of the biggest trends happening in our sector is the proliferation of connected devices, or the Internet of Things (IoT). What was unimaginable just a decade ago is now a reality. Manufacturers are the creators, users, servicers and installers of the IoT.

Manufacturers have become the first line of defense in securing our nation’s most critical online assets. As a result, our industry places the cybersecurity of its products and processes at the highest priority level.

As we kick off this month that recognizes the importance of cybersecurity to everyoneboth personally and professionallythe NAM will continue its focus on building a stronger publicprivate partnership. We will keep calling for economic tools to encourage investment beyond ordinary levels of commercial cybersecurity spending. We will encourage NIST to complete its cyber-framework efforts to determine the most cost-effective elements of cyber-defense. We will continue to call for a coordinated strategy across the government that helps secure and foster the growth of the IoT. We will work with our government partners and provide guidance on how to improve their resources available to manufacturers. Most importantly, we will continue to be America’s leading innovators.

NAM to FCC: Unnecessary Regulations Stifle Innovation Investment

By | Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

All five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are testifying today in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee. The FCC has been exercising its regulatory authority quite liberally lately, and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) joined other associations to send a message this morning: Undue regulatory burdens are putting our nation’s future innovation at risk.

The NAM signed a joint-industry letter to the leaders of the subcommittee calling attention to one of the most recent regulatory overreaches by the FCC: an attempt to create a new set of privacy requirements that would apply to only one industry. This is an unnecessary attempt by the FCC to extend its authority when another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, already has a robust privacy protection regime, which currently applies to all industries. The NAM also officially filed comments with the FCC on this issue in May of this year.

We applaud congressional leaders holding these agency leaders responsible. At a time when manufacturers are leveraging the internet across their shop floors and in the products made there, we cannot afford regulations that only accomplish one goal: thwarting investment in our nation’s telecommunications infrastructure.

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