How Small Manufacturers Can Use Cutting-Edge Tech

By NAM News Room

As manufacturing goes through digital transformation, small to medium-sized manufacturers have just as much opportunity to reimagine their operations as large businesses. And to help these companies think through their options, the NAM and Stanley Black & Decker got together to host a Creators Wanted virtual session on making use of “Industry 4.0” technologies.

Who participated: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Stanley Black & Decker CEO Jim Loree spoke at the event. Other business leaders and government officials, including Connecticut Business & Industry Association President and CEO Chris DiPentima, also joined the session.

Inside Manufacturing 4.0: “All of us want to be a part of Manufacturing 4.0, a fourth Industrial Revolution in manufacturing, powered by digital and smart technology,” said Timmons. “There’s literally no business that can’t benefit from tapping into digital transformation. And today’s event is about demonstrating that keeping your business state of the art, on the cutting edge, is truly easier than you think.”

Why now? U.S. manufacturing is at a pivotal moment and will play a central part in the ongoing economic recovery. Adopting digital tools should be a part of the strategy, according to Loree.

  • “As every one of us strives to put the health challenges of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, we all have a responsibility to assist with the economic recovery that must follow,” he said. “Manufacturing must and will play a critical role, and we can supercharge it.”

Getting started: One key tool under discussion was the Smart Industry Readiness Index Assessment, a comprehensive technology evaluation and independent review that can help businesses modernize.

  • Bead Industries CEO Jill Mayer said at the event that what she needs as an executive is a snapshot of the current technology landscape and an understanding of her company’s future needs. That’s what a SIRI assessment can deliver.
  • The assessment, which takes roughly two days, can help identify technology gaps and inefficiencies, while also helping companies create structured plans for purchasing equipment. The reviews are conducted by certified assessors who understand manufacturing and can help businesses through this key transition.

A broader landscape: In addition to individual innovations and technology, Stanley Black & Decker Chief Technology Officer of Global Operations Sudhi Bangalore cited the importance of innovation and economic manufacturing ecosystems.

  • A strong innovation ecosystem can include government experts, upskilling programs, a thriving community of small and medium-sized enterprises and more, according to Bangalore.
  • Gov. Lamont added that Connecticut is home to one such ecosystem and cited manufacturing education as a crucial area where government and industry can work together to grow the economy.

Closing thoughts: “I would consider this next year an extraordinary opportunity as we change the way we do business in state government and what we do in manufacturing,” said Gov. Lamont.

To watch the whole session, click here.

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Hosts Women’s History Month Creators Wanted Event

West Columbia, S.C. — In celebration of Women’s History Month, on March 24, 2021, Creators Wanted brought a message of opportunity and empowerment to South Carolina for the third event of the campaign’s virtual event series: “Creators Stories: Women Make Manufacturing.” Hosted by Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, which makes, among other products, a significant portion of the nebulizer medicines used in the treatment of COVID-19 in the United States, leading women in manufacturing took center stage to share their insights about manufacturing careers.

The numbers: Manufacturers in the United States have 515,000 open jobs, according to Carolyn Lee, Executive Director of The Manufacturing Institute. In 2020, South Carolina had 21,818 open manufacturing jobs. While 47% of the U.S. labor force is made up of women, only about 29% of the manufacturing workforce is female, Lee reported during the virtual program broadcasted nationwide.” “Women represent [the] largest pool of untapped talent,” said Lee.

How Nephron Pharmaceuticals fits in? The company is a best-in-class example of a diverse workforce. “We’re 53% female in this workforce,” said Lou Kennedy, president, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, with 42 countries represented among its employees. 

Spotlight on Kennedy: Among manufacturing executives, Kennedy has emerged as a leading voice and champion on building the future manufacturing workforce, but her path into manufacturing was anything but certain. While she’d been “fascinated by the manufacturing process … [her] whole life” (her father was in manufacturing of plastic and fiber), Kennedy went to school for journalism. It took an introduction to the manufacturing of respiratory medications, which her child was taking, to set her on a course to leading Nephron Pharmaceuticals. So in 2007, without a chemistry or engineering background, Kennedy jumped in, helping to propel unprecedented growth at the company. Her advice to other women: “Be bold and don’t be afraid to fail.” And, for those younger in their career journeys, Kennedy suggested a blended course of study, not “just stick[ing] to one core set of topics or subjects.”  

Why manufacturing? Two dynamic manufacturers, who’ve risen up the ranks in manufacturing enterprises, added their perspectives to the program on the draw of a modern manufacturing career. 

  • Lindsay Leonard, Senior Director, National Strategy & Engagement, Government Operations, Boeing: “[Y]ou’re part of building the product. In our case, it’s airplanes. You’re part of building an ecosystem. You’re part of building people’s futures and manufacturing facilities are generational career choices that they’re around for much longer than my individual career. Pretty much everything I get to do, I see a tangible result. And that’s a pretty cool place to find yourself in your career …. [In] manufacturing the world is your oyster. It’s endless possibility and opportunity.”
  • Katarina Fjording, Head of Volvo Car University & Sustainability Americas, Volvo Car USA: “[I]t’s safe, it’s well paid, and creating is very rewarding. And also [the] manufacturing industry is very broad. The career possibilities are endless both for generalists and specialists. And it’s also very interesting and it’s fun. If for whatever reason you would choose to want to go somewhere else, having a background in industry and manufacturing is highly coveted from other areas of business.”

Moms in manufacturing: AJ Jorgenson, MI Vice President of Strategic Program Engagement joined Meena Banasiak, Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility at Phoenix Closures and Brooke Wynn, Senior Director of Sustainability at Smithfield Foods, Inc., to provide the insights of moms in manufacturing.

What next? “STEP, it’s our STEP Women’s Initiative and that stands for science, technology, engineering, and production,” said Lee. “And our STEP Women’s Initiative is going into our ninth year and it’s really the nation’s marquee program for women in manufacturing, and it’s dedicated to fostering a 21st century modern manufacturing workforce that gives women the recognition and the support they deserve.” Click here to learn more.

Watch “Creators Stories: Women Make Manufacturing”.