News and announcements from the web that might be of interest to Vermont manufacturers and other employers.  You can look up past posts on our News & Views blog.

Managing a multigenerational team at a manufacturing company.  The Fabricator 12/6

"Manufacturers in the U.S. find themselves in a challenging position as they try to find the right people to fill the job openings within their ranks. The generational gap has never been greater in the manufacturing workforce. . . ." 

Employers are 'the spearhead’ to get people vaccinated: PR executive.  Yahoo Finance 12/4

"Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama will all be getting their coronavirus vaccines on camera in an effort to show the vaccine is safe and promote the necessary herd immunity to crush the pandemic. But in an interview with Yahoo Finance, Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman, the world’s biggest PR firm, said celebrities and politicians are not the key to convincing Americans to get vaccinated. That job, according to Edelman’s research, falls to employers. . . ." 

Blockchain Attempts To Secure The Supply Chain.  Semiconductor Engineering 12/3

"Blockchain technology is starting to be deployed more widely In the battle against counterfeiting, often coupled with component IDs to allow device authentication. . . ."

AI on the Factory Floor Challenges Cybersecurity.  EE Times 12/2

"From the standpoint of cybersecurity, the use of AI and machine learning on the factory floor has both strengths and weaknesses. Both can help improve monitoring, detection and prevention of threats and attacks, especially for Industry 4.0 endpoints. But smart manufacturing systems that rely on these technologies can be probed and manipulated by bad actors. . . ." 

Five Emergency Maintenance Best Practices All Plant Employees Should Follow.  Occupational Health and Safety 11/30

"Have you encountered a sudden machine failure of a critical asset that needs instant repair? That is what we call emergency maintenance, an unplanned event of repair or maintenance to make the equipment operational again. Here are a few examples of emergency maintenance: . . ." 

Indirect procurement: Insource? Outsource? Or both?  McKinsey 11/24

"For many organizations, indirect procurement—purchases of services and supplies that support business operations—is a source of tremendous untapped value and savings. But even though indirect spend can represent ten, 15, or even 18 percent of revenue in some industries, it typically isn't fully managed by a single function or business owner, and is frequently overlooked as "noncore" spend. . . ."

Recruiting and Retaining Today's Manufacturing Workforce.  Area Development 11/24
"Area Development recently asked Kylene Zenk — director of the Manufacturing Practice at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), a leading global provider of HR services and workforce management solutions — for her input on recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce in the age of COVID-19. . . ."

Do Your Managers Lack Courage?  Gallup 11/23

"Management is a tough job. According to Gallup's recent study of the manager experience, managers on average work four hours longer per week than individual contributors. They are 50% more likely to strongly agree that they "have too much to do." And 37% of managers strongly agree that they felt a lot of stress on their most recent workday. Some managers may feel like their job is impossible -- trying to please the people above them and below them at the same time. . . ."

U.S. manufacturing, services activity expanding rapidly in November: IHS Markit.  Reuters 11/23

"U.S. business activity expanded at the fastest rate in more than five years in November led by the quickest pickup in manufacturing since September 2014, a survey showed on Monday in an indication the economy keeps making progress at clambering out of the COVID-19 recession even as infections surge. . . ."

Micro 3D printing: When tiny parts mean big impact.  Smart Industry 11/4

"Most conversations around additive manufacturing have focused on printing larger and larger parts, yet many of the world’s products are actually getting smaller and smaller. Think of all the tiny parts that are nestled into the handheld electronics we use on a daily basis, for example, or within the devices that make new forms of microscopic exploration and implantation possible in the medical field. . . ."

US trade deficit falls to $63.9 billion in September.  AP 11/4

"The gap between what the U.S. sells and what it buys abroad fell to $63.9 billion in September, a decline of 4.7%, from a $67 billion deficit in August, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. September exports rose 2.6% to $176.4 billion, pushed higher by the food and beverage category, where shipments worth $12.9 billion were the highest since July of 2012. Soybean exports rose 63% in September. . . ."

Automation upgrades warehouse execution systems to essential status.  Supply Chain Dive 11/3

"Robotic arms, autonomous goods-to-person systems and knots of electric conveyor systems attract a lot of attention in the world of warehouse automation. But behind the scenes is technology controlling automation. And in recent years, a new kind of software emerged to help orchestrate automation: the warehouse execution system, or WES. . . ." 

Training in the Age of COVID-19.  Quality Magazine 11/2

"The U.S. manufacturing industry’s skilled labor shortage has been widely reported in the past decade. Millions of jobs became vacant due to the retirement of baby boomers and economic expansion. Until recently, experts predicted that half of these open positions would remain unfilled due to the fact that fewer than 10 percent of high school and college graduates annually enter the manufacturing field. . . ." 

How to protect backups from ransomware.  CSO 11/2

"Despite a recent decline in attacks, ransomware still poses significant threats to enterprises, as the attacks against healthcare organizations demonstrated this month. It is also becoming more capable. In particular, ransomware writers are aware that backups are an effective defense and are modifying their malware to track down and eliminate the backups. . . ."

Educators Say Computer Science Lifts Students' Job Options.  Gallup 10/15

"With computing driving innovation in almost every field -- art, business, communications, healthcare, STEM, etc. -- it is important for students to be exposed to computer science education early to help ensure they can thrive in their careers and as informed citizens. . . ."

5 ways to empower the manufacturing workforce to survive the pandemic and thrive beyond it.  World Economic Forum 10/13

"Ten months ago, the first cases of COVID-19 were detected. In the time since, companies, supply chains and entire economies have been disrupted and forced to adapt to a "new normal" where change is constant, and agility is critical. More than 48% of respondents in a recent Forum survey of the world's top risk experts said they were most worried about a disruption of global supply chains. Another Forum report states that the COVID-19 crisis has impacted more than 75% of the world's manufacturing outputs. . . ."

COVID-19 and Remote Work: An Update.  Gallup 10/13

"The coronavirus pandemic has affected U.S. workplaces like nothing else in modern history, including high unemployment, the shuttering of businesses, and the shift of many workers to off-site, remote work. . . ."

Manufacturing operations face key disadvantages when returning employees to work.  Insurance Business America 10/12

"Returning to work for manufacturing operations in the United States after COVID-19 related shutdowns hasn’t been smooth sailing. According to the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, manufacturing has been the fourth most impacted industry when it comes to COVID-19 workers’ comp claims, with the sector making up 7.6% of total COVID-19 workers’ comp claims – the same percentage as the retail industry. . . ."

Manufacturers: Our Front-Line Defense Against COVID-19.  IndustryWeek 10/12

"As the rate of COVID-19 cases ebbs and flows throughout the country, manufacturers have risen to the challenge in much the same way they did during WWII and other times of national crisis. Working day and night and over the weekends, they have helped us emerge from the early days of the pandemic by keeping shop floors open and making vital products, including the medical supplies and protective equipment people need to fight the coronavirus. Now manufacturing workers are spearheading our recovery, ensuring that the American economy reopens and generates prosperity. And we’ll need many, many more of them. . . ."

At a Crossroads: Manufacturing Needs A New Employment Attitude IndustryWeek 10/7

"Dealing with the pandemic has unfurled a profound discussion on the fundamental tenets of workforce culture. . . ." 

Girls' Interest in Computer Science Still a Challenge.  Gallup 10/6

"Emblematic of the barriers to learning computer science that girls have faced for years, a new Google/Gallup report shows that girls are less likely than boys to express interest in pursuing a career in computer science. About one in eight girls (12%) in grades seven through 12 in the U.S. say they are likely to pursue a career in computer science someday. Nearly three times as many boys (33%) say they are likely to pursue a career in this field. . . ."

News and announcements from the web that might be of interest to Vermont manufacturers and other employers. You can look up past posts on our News & Views blog.

Culture comes first for precision metal fab shop Laystrom Manufacturing.  The Fabricator 2/8
"Laystrom Manufacturing Co. is in the middle of a Chicago neighborhood, just blocks from the city’s hipster hangout in Bucktown. While the location is unique when compared to hundreds of competitors in the metropolitan area and the Midwest, the inside of the Laystrom facility looks like almost any other precision metal fabrication shop. It has laser cutting machines, press brakes, and welding power sources. Raw sheet metal is delivered, and several days later finished metal parts and assemblies are shipped out. . . ."

Trucking contract rates up 12% year-over-year.  FreightWaves/American Shipper 2/6
"Shippers spent 12% more per mile for dry van truckloads on average through most of the fourth quarter of 2020 than they did in 2019. That is according to FreightWaves’ newest dataset that measures trends in long-term rates (not spot rates) between shippers and van carriers, Van Contract Base Rate Rate per Mile (VCRPMF). . . ."

Will Purchasing Change Ever Happen?  IndustryWeek 2/5
"In my forty-plus years in industry—most of them working in purchasing—I’ve never seen as many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) publically stating that they will be re-evaluating their procurement strategies and processes. This, of course, is in response to Covid-19 and the supply chain disruptions it caused across the globe. I wonder about this stated intent in at least three ways: . . ."

What You Need to Know About OSHA's Jan. 29 COVID Guidance.  EHS Today 2/4
"When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued its comprehensive guidance on what employers are expected to do to protect their workers from the COVID-19 virus, the bulk of the 6,000-word document repeated much of the advice that was contained in previous agency guidances issued over the course of the past year, but there are a few new wrinkles employers need to be aware of. . . ."

Five ways machine learning will transform manufacturing in 2021.  Plant Engineering 2/2
"Technology advances, such as complex robotic systems and artificial intelligence (AI), transformed manufacturing over the past decade and driven what’s commonly called the Industry 4.0 Revolution. COVID-19 has further accelerated this transformation for many manufacturers as more plant operations need to be run effectively, and in many cases, be monitored and managed remotely. Machine learning (ML) — a branch of artificial intelligence centered around creating computer programs that learn from experience and improve their decision-making ability over time — is increasingly important in many industries, and manufacturing is no exception. . . ."

Industrial control systems vulnerabilities rise as operational tech increasingly goes online.  TechRepublic 2/4
"Industrial cybersecurity company, Claroty, has released its biannual industrial control systems (ICS) risk and vulnerability report, which found that the number of reported vulnerabilities increased by 25% when compared to 2019, with critical infrastructure areas like manufacturing, energy, water, and commercial facilities being most affected. . . ."

Procurement and finance, it's time to cast your tensions aside.  Supply Chain Dive 2/4
"It’s time procurement and finance, two historically adversarial functions, join forces in an effort to create value for their company. The traditional scoreboarding relationship, built on distrust, poor communication and a lack of understanding of supply chain and financial realities, perpetuates misplaced tensions and missed opportunities. . . ."

COVID-19 Has Widened the Skills Gap. But It Also Presents an Opportunity to Close It.  Ed Surge 2/1
"America’s skills gap has been widely discussed. The friction between postsecondary institutions failing to properly prepare job seekers and unrealistic employer expectations has led to seven million unfilled openings. Not surprisingly, the challenge worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are still nearly as many unfilled jobs with near-record unemployment in a recession. . . ."

US durable goods orders show modest 0.2% December gain.  AP 1/26
"Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose a modest 0.2% in December, held back by a big drop in the volatile aircraft sector. A key category that tracks business investment decisions slowed. . . ."

Labor market trends show emphasis on digital skills, reorganization, experts say.  HR Drive 1/22
"During the last several months, the coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the business world and the employment status of millions of Americans. Even those who kept their jobs are now working under markedly different circumstances. Leaders from global staffing firm Randstad noted that digital and organizational transformation will shape the labor market in 2021, in addition to the efforts made toward economic recovery. . . ."

40% of supply chains in multinational corporations could not cope with COVID-19 pandemic.  TechRepublic 1/22
"Supply chains in 40% of multinational corporations were unable to cope with the crisis created by the pandemic, new research reveals.  The report, Real-time Intelligence and the Future of Supply Chains surveyed 320 enterprises in the manufacturing, transport, and logistics sectors and revealed that the global pandemic has dramatically changed attitudes toward risk. . . ."

Hiring for attitude while hunting for skilled labor in manufacturing.  The Fabricator 1/26
"There's an old saying that employers hire for skills and fire for attitude. Many fabricators would agree. After all, you can teach a technical skill, but changing a person's poor attitude is a harder nut to crack. . . ."

China and U.S. face "reckoning" over trade disruptions in 2021.  Supply Chain Quarterly 1/18
"Supply chain managers are accustomed to navigating the annual supply disruption following Asia's pending Lunar New Year celebration, but a range of factors in 2021 could make China's logistics policies even harder to predict than usual, an international trade expert is warning. . . ."

Operations Managers: Rising to the Challenges of 2021.  IndustryWeek 1/20
"After a difficult 2020, relief for operations-intensive organizations may be on the horizon in the form of COVID-19 vaccines. There's no doubt, however, that the business environment remains challenging. As the pandemic continues to ravage Europe and the United States, governments, entrepreneurs, and ordinary people are now hoping the situation will ease around the middle of this year. . . ."

Steel prices reach levels not seen since 2008.  The Fabricator 1/18
"The benchmark price for hot-rolled steel reached a new record high of $1,080/ton last month, according to our check of the market Jan. 11-12. That surpasses the previous high of $1,070/ton recorded by Steel Market Update (SMU) in 2008, and it leaves steel buyers with some important questions:
How much higher can steel possibly go?
When will the price peak?
Will the eventual correction be a gradual decline or a dramatic death spiral as in 2008? . . ."

How Safety Leaders Can Manage the Impact of COVID-19.  EHS Today 1/21
"The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have varied and widespread impacts on enterprises in nearly all industries as well as across the entire public sector. Besides sustaining significant hits to their revenues, employers able to remain or resume operating have had to navigate dramatic changes to their workplaces, business processes and workforces. . . ."

BDO: 50% of manufacturers plan to secure backup suppliers in 2021.  Supply Chain Dive 1/14
"Manufacturers weathered the struggles of 2020 by being agile and resilient, maintaining relationships with suppliers, finding new sourcing options quickly and implementing technology to shore up needs for remote work and keep up with the increased use of e-commerce. Companies must remain vigilant in 2021. . . ."

No Political Discussions at Work? Not So Fast. (Podcast)  Gallup 1/19
"With heightened tensions surrounding political, racial and other issues, many employers have become conditioned to avoid sensitive topics in the workplace -- even creating policies that outright ban such conversations. But is this the right approach? Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, joins the podcast to advocate for discussions rather than debates, and why building an environment where healthy conversations can take place is key for modern workplaces. . . ."

Get ready for metamorphic manufacturing.  SME 1/14
"Metamorphic manufacturing, also known as robotic blacksmithing, is poised to bring about faster time to market, less material waste, more available materials, less energy used and more control, proponents said. . . ."

  Talking vaccines: The new communications hurdle for employers.  SmartBrief 1/13
"COVID-19 continues to surge. While the news about vaccines presents a light at the end of the tunnel, the road remains long. The FDA approvals, distribution protocols and rollout of the coronavirus vaccine bring with them a fresh set of challenges for employer-employee communications -- and as many questions as answers. . . ."

6 Top Trends in Industrial Robots for 2021.  ASME 1/13
"The use of industrial robots in manufacturing and industrial facilities continues to rapidly evolve. According to a November 2020 Reportlinker report, industrial robotics is the top robotics segment and expected to grow from $76.6 billion in 2020 to $176.8 billion by 2025, a compound annual growth rate of 18.2 percent. This growth is driven largely by manufacturers that plan to use robots to counter the looming skills gap, especially for material handling tasks. . . ."

Lean As A Habit.  IndustryWeek 1/11
"There’s a good bit of literature out there that reports on the high failure rates of large initiatives like a lean enterprise implementation. Do a websearch on “failure rate of lean implementation” and you’ll find articles that indicate between 50% and 95% of all lean initiatives fail. The latter percentage might be a bit high, but the question of why so many programs fail is prompted nonetheless. The answers to that question are legion, but I think the fact that lean methods and practices are too often seen as “events” rather than “habits” is a common cause of program failure. . . ."

On Factory Floors, a Chime and Flashing Light to Maintain Distance.  New York Times 1/12
"The 2019-20 National Basketball Association season was suspended for over 140 days after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. But once play resumed in late July, no other players tested positive. . . ."

Jabs equal jobs? Fed sees possible economic boom if vaccine gets on track.  Reuters 1/12
"One U.S. Federal Reserve official says there is now a “clearer focus” about the economy’s path forward and a horizon for a fuller recovery. Another says the pandemic’s “endgame” is here. A third predicts 2021 will prove “impressive.” . . . "

(Re)Create a Winning Employee Experience in 2021.  Gallup 1/8
"To create a best-in-class workplace, leaders need to consistently deliver on the fundamental, unchanging elements of a great employee experience. . . ."

Six steps toward predictive analytics success.  Plant Engineering 1/7
"The journey toward smart manufacturing through digitalization can seem overwhelming when we find ourselves mired in too many parameters and variables to analyze and simply too much data. . . ."

What Disruption Reveals About Engaging Millennial Employees.  Gallup 1/6
"Millennials are the biggest age cohort in the U.S. workforce, the least engaged, the most likely to quit, and pingpong tables and free beer aren't fulfilling their notoriously high expectations of their employers one bit. . . ."

Post-Pandemic Adjustment: Getting Your Supply Chain Right.  Chief Executive 1/5
"Post-Covid, CEOs face a tough re-adjustment period including analysis of new and possibly permanently changed consumer behavior patterns and expectations, and the need for a serious re-assessment of the most basic fundamentals of their entire supply chain and operations. In addition, company leaders must balance the need to spend on digitization efforts even while short-term revenues are dangerously low due to Covid-related disruptions. Vulnerabilities that didn’t exist before place stress on the company, and vulnerabilities that already existed (but had long been ignored) place even more. . . ."

Speeding the Adoption of Additive Manufacturing.  Manufacturing 1/7
"Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing offers a number of potential innovations in product design, while its flexible manufacturing capabilities can support a distributed manufacturing model - helping to unlock new business potential. However, when companies begin to consider all that is needed to make additive a reality— such as generative design, part consolidation, and topology optimization—it becomes clear that the traditional ways of designing and manufacturing parts are falling away. . . ."

Supply chain resiliency starts with supplier mapping.  Supply Chain Quarterly 1/5
"Last year, the procurement and supply chain management profession was challenged like never before. Despite facing numerous upheavals inflicted by supply chain disruptions in the last decade, most companies still found themselves unprepared for COVID-19. When the outbreak began in China, the disruptions were significant and far reaching, but 70% of organizations did not have a clear sense of what parts of their supplier network were affected. Instead, they were still in a “data collection and assessment” mode, manually trying to identify which of their suppliers had a site in the specific locked-down regions of China. The effort was exponentially complicated as countries around the world went into various stages of lockdowns and restrictions and supply chain experts spent several months reacting and responding. . . ."

U.S. factory activity approaches 2-1/2-year high; COVID-19 hitting supply chains.  Reuters 1/5
"U.S. factory activity accelerated to its highest level in nearly 2-1/2 years in December as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pull demand away from services towards goods, though spiraling new infections are causing bottlenecks in supply chains. . . ."

Procurement panel talks concerns, new focuses for 2021.  BIC Magazine 1/1
"In starting the new year, many owner companies are renewing their focus on safety, making it a priority to keep both workers and the surrounding community safe from the potential threats of COVID- 19 to operations. Jay Brown, procurement director at Flint Hills Resources, said his company has had to change all work and maintenance practices, team structures and engineer controls to mitigate spread of the virus and be a 'good neighbor.' . . ."