U.S. factory activity accelerates as orders jump to more than 16-1/2-year high

Lucia Mutikani, Reuters Business News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. manufacturing activity increased more than expected in August as new orders surged to their highest level in over 16-1/2 years, but employment at factories continued to lag amid safety restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The upbeat report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) strengthened expectations for a sharp rebound in economic activity this quarter, though the outlook is uncertain as money from the government dries up. Manufacturing is not out of the woods yet as the coronavirus crisis lingers.

Factory activity is being driven by demand for goods used at home like electronics while capital investment remains weak. The ISM said manufacturers described sentiment as “generally optimistic, though to a lesser degree compared to July.” The economy, which slipped into recession in February, suffered its deepest contraction in at least 73 years in the second quarter.

“The economy isn’t back to normal regardless of what these upbeat surveys of purchasing manager executives are telling us,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “Time will tell if companies should be more vigilant about expansion plans. Government pandemic stimulus programs are starting to sputter, and attempts to limit bankruptcies and foreclosures, and those paycheck protection schemes, are all set to fade.”

The ISM said its index of national factory activity increased to a reading of 56.0 last month from 54.2 in July. That was the highest level since November 2018 and marked three straight months of growth.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for 11% of the U.S. economy. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index rising to 54.5 in August.

Underscoring the uneven landscape, manufacturers of transportation equipment said “airline industry continues to be under great pressure.” Makers of machinery said “capital equipment new orders have slowed again.”

In contrast, manufacturers of electrical equipment, appliances and components reported “strong demand from existing and new customers.” Similar sentiments were echoed by makers of chemical, wood and fabricated metal products.

Fifteen industries including wood, primary metals and computer and electronic products reported growth in August. Printing and related support activities, petroleum and coal, and furniture and related products contracted.

“Manufacturers tied to services hit hard by the pandemic continue to struggle,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte North Carolina. “As the pandemic drags on… manufacturers, even those tied most tightly to goods spending, are hardly in the clear.”

For now manufacturing is chugging along, and also picked up across the world in August. Factory activity in China expanded at the fastest clip in nearly a decade last month, while manufacturing remained on a recovery path in the euro zone.

Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher. The dollar dipped against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices rose.


The ISM’s forward-looking new orders sub-index increased to a reading of 67.6 in August, the strongest since January 2004, from 61.5 in July. Fifteen industries reported an increase in demand. Only one industry said orders declined. A measure of customers’ inventories dropped to its lowest level since June 2010, an indication that orders could rise further.

The survey’s measure of order backlogs at factories increased as did orders for exports.

Though factory employment continued to improve last month, it remained in contraction territory. The ISM’s manufacturing employment measure rose to a reading of 46.4 from 44.3 in July. This measure has now contracted for 13 straight months.

According to the ISM “companies and suppliers operated in reconfigured factories, with limited labor application due to safety restrictions.” It said “long-term labor market growth remains uncertain.”

Factory employment was already in decline before the coronavirus crisis because of the Trump administration’s trade war with China. Its struggle to rebound even as orders received by factories are rising fits in with economists’ views that the labor market is losing steam after being boosted by the reopening of businesses in May.

The government’s closely followed employment report to be released on Friday is expected to show 1.4 million jobs created in August after 1.763 million were added in July, according to a Reuters survey of economists. That would leave nonfarm payrolls about 11.5 million below their pre-pandemic level.

Even with manufacturing now in what some economists say is a V-shaped recovery, business investment remains lackluster.

A separate report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday showed construction spending edged up 0.1% in July after falling 0.5% in June, confounding economists’ expectations for a 1.0% rebound. While low mortgage rates boosted investment in homebuilding, outlays on nonresidential construction projects such as office infrastructure and power fell, potential headwinds to manufacturing.

Spending on public construction projects tumbled 1.3%, with big declines in education, highways and streets.

“Public construction will continue to be held down as state and local budgets are squeezed by the pandemic,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics in New York.

Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea RicciOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Member Spotlight: Blue Wolf

What drives the creation of a business?

Some business owners are left caring for a company that’s been passed down like a cherished artifact from one generation to the next. Others have a happy accident that turns into a household name. And for some, it’s just a matter of improving upon what already exists.

“My partner, Dennis Sand, and I started back in 2007 on a whim that we could build a better mousetrap,” said Ty Plowman, CEO of Blue Wolf, Inc. “It helped that it brought in a little extra beer money, too.”

The mousetrap Ty refers to is a suite of lighting products used primarily for civil and commercial aircraft, military aircraft and ground vehicles, border patrol, naval transportation, and more.

“The particular lights we manufacture are made to be used with night vision goggles,” said Ty. “It allows the people wearing the goggles to view illuminated instrumentation without blooming or harming the goggles.”
Although these lights aren’t the first of their kind, they’re fashioned from aluminum-based materials instead of plastic, making them uniquely rugged, compact and power-efficient. Each tiny light is equipped with a filter worth its weight in gold, that cuts out infrared light rays from the LEDs to make them compatible with night vision goggles.
“These lights are very durable – they just don’t break,” said Ty. “That’s unfortunate in some regards because we don’t get many repeat sales, but on the other hand, every time someone holds one of our lights, they comment on how nicely its engineered and they can tell right away that it surpasses what our competitors offer.”

Blue Wolf’s production isn’t limited to clients in the aerospace or military sectors. In fact, you might see their engineering innovations on a nearby lake or in a friend’s entryway. In addition to their signature tactical lighting solutions, the company manufactures underwater boat lights for wakeboarders and surfers as part of their Lifeform LED line. The team also recently launched Furl, a high-end consumer light that incorporates movement into its design.

“I’m an electrical engineer and my partner is a mechanical engineer, so it’s fairly common to also have people ask us for help with circuit boards or enclosures, or to support machining needs,” Ty said. “We really specialize in electromechanical design and build, so if you’ve got to make something that moves, or something that needs a board or box, we can help with that.”
Ensuring a solid, diverse cash flow has been instrumental in Blue Wolf’s survival during the global pandemic. As Ty puts it, having a plan, a backup plan, and one more plan after that will help your business adapt as the industry ebbs and flows.

“We don’t take a lot of risks, but we do like to go after low hanging fruit which is something not a lot of companies do,” Ty explained. “We excel at small production and make a lot of customers happy by picking up those short runs that are too costly for other manufacturers.”

For a company with roughly half a dozen employees, these quick hits provide opportunities to learn new skills and build networks that increase Blue Wolf’s exposure to customers, collaborations and industry resources.
“That type of networking is what ultimately brought us to SWIMA,” Ty said. “We read about the organization and heard about it from other companies in the aerospace industry. Joining felt like a good way to help get our name out there and find new contacts.”

Since becoming a SWIMA member in early 2020, Ty said he’s appreciated the time the association invests in keeping members up to date on local manufacturing news. Providing members with a single stop for resources, policy updates, events and projects, like the recent expansion of StanCraft Jet Center, is a time-saver for manufacturing companies of all sizes.
“It helps us know what other people are doing, and that’s important to us,” said Ty.

To learn more about Blue Wolf, visit www.bluewolfinc.com

An Employee Tested Positive for COVID-19? Take These Steps Next…

From Crisis Management Update, By Stephen Scott|August 10th, 2020

In the midst of the global pandemic, nothing is certain … except endless Zoom calls, taxes and the fear of what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. That last exception is likely on the minds of many business owners while numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase. It is my hope that this seven-step guide will provide employers some stress reduction in the event of a worker testing positive.

1. Isolate/quarantine the infected employee–Instruct the infected employee to remain at home until released by a physician or public health official. If a doctor’s note releasing the employee is unavailable, follow the CDC guidelines on when an employee may discontinue self-isolation. The guidelines contain specific requirements dependent upon whether the employee tests positive for COVID-19 and/or exhibits symptoms.

2. Conduct contact tracing to identify individuals in “6-15-48” zoneAfter learning that one employee (or more) has been diagnosed with COVID-19, act quickly to have the person(s) identify all other employees and/or third parties who might have been exposed during the infectious period. Ask the infected employee to identify all individuals who fall in the “6-15-48” zone: those who worked with him or her in “close proximity” (within six feet) for a prolonged period of time (15 minutes or more) during the 48-hour period before the onset of symptoms.

3. Address employees who were in close proximity to the infected employee–As per CDC guidance, notify all noncritical infrastructure workers who were in close proximity to the infected employee that they may have been exposed and send them home for 14 days to ensure the infection does not spread. While these employees are quarantined, instruct them to self-monitor for symptoms, avoid contact with high-risk individuals, and seek medical attention if symptoms develop. As noted below, these employees may qualify for Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave.The CDC has developed alternative guidelines for critical infrastructure workers. An essential business’ asymptomatic employees who have been directly exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 can continue to work if certain guidelines are met.

4. Recording, reporting and investigating the work-relatedness of COVID-19–OSHA recently unveiled new requirements for covered employers to make an increased effort to determine whether they need to record and report confirmed coronavirus cases in the workplace. To ensure compliance, document efforts to determine if the positive COVID-19 case was work-related. In most situations, after learning of an employee’s COVID-19 illness: 1. ask the infected employee how he or she believes the illness was contracted; 2. while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the infected employee his or her work and out-of-work activities that may have resulted in the contraction of the illness; and 3. review the employee’s work environment for potential COVID-19 exposure.
Look to the surrounding evidence to aid these efforts. OSHA’s guidance highlights that certain types of evidence weigh in favor of or against work-relatedness. When there is no alternative explanation, a case is likely work-related. Examples include:

  • when several cases develop among workers who work closely together;
  • if it is contracted after lengthy, close exposure to a customer or co-worker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19; or
  • if an employee’s job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with widespread transmission.
  • If a reasonable and good faith inquiry is made but cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a role in the confirmed case of COVID-19, the agency says the illness does not need to be recorded. Since Oregon OSHA announced that it intends to develop separate emergency temporary standards to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, also always check if there is new local and state guidance to determine if there are other investigation, reporting or recording obligations triggered by a positive COVID-19 case.

Look to the surrounding evidence to aid these efforts. OSHA’s guidance highlights that certain types of evidence weigh in favor of or against work-relatedness. When there is no alternative explanation, a case is likely work-related. Examples include:

  • when several cases develop among workers who work closely together;
  • if it is contracted after lengthy, close exposure to a customer or co-worker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19; or
  • if an employee’s job duties include having frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with widespread transmission.

If a reasonable and good faith inquiry is made but cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a role in the confirmed case of COVID-19, the agency says the illness does not need to be recorded. Since Oregon OSHA announced that it intends to develop separate emergency temporary standards to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, also always check if there is new local and state guidance to determine if there are other investigation, reporting or recording obligations triggered by a positive COVID-19 case.

5. Clean and disinfect the workplace–In the wake of a confirmed COVID-19 case, follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting the workplace. The cleaning staff or a third-party sanitation contractor should clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms and common areas) used by the ill person, with focus especially on frequently touched surfaces.If using cleaners other than household ones with more frequency than an employee would use at home, ensure workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace and maintain a written program in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. Simply download the manufacturer’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and share with employees as needed, and make sure the cleaners used are on the company’s list of workplace chemicals used as part of a Hazard Communication program.

6. Determine if other employees and third parties should be notified–Following confirmation of a COVID-19 case, and as recommended by the CDC, notify all employees (access sample forms at www.fisherphillips.com/data-bank-templates-forms) who work in the location or area where the employee works. Notification should be done without revealing any confidential medical information such as the name of the employee. An employer may obtain the employee’s signed authorization to disclose his or her diagnosis. Also notify any third parties who may have been exposed by the infected employee.Inform employees and third parties of actions taken, including requiring employees who worked closely to the infected worker to go home (if a nonessential business), and sanitizing and cleaning. Include a reminder about seeking medical attention if they exhibit symptoms. The failure of an employer to notify employees at its location of a confirmed COVID-19 case may be a violation of OSHA’s general duty clause, which requires all employers to provide employees with a safe work environment.

7. Determine if the infected employee/others are eligible for paid time off–Finally, determine if the employee is eligible for paid time off under company policy, local, state or federal guidelines. If an employer is covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the infected employee may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave. Other potentially exposed employees may also be eligible for emergency paid sick leave or other leave as provided in a company handbook. Be sure to maintain appropriate documentation for employees on leave.

Stephen Scott is an associate in the Portland office of Fisher Phillips, a national firm dedicated to representing employers’ interests in all aspects of workplace law. Contact him at 503-205-8094 or smscott@fisherphillips.com.

The SGW/Portsmith Partnership: Developing Products That Improve Human Existence

As an organization focused on knowledge sharing, collaboration, and advocacy, SWIMA is pleased when our sponsors and members espouse those same values. One example of a collaborative approach that is making a major impact in the time of COVID-19 is seen in an enterprise-level product developed right here in Boise: Portsmith’s ScanStand. 

Portsmith’s ScanStand Product

To meet the increasing need for unattended barcode scanning technology in several industries — including events, healthcare, and retail — our sponsor SGWDesignworks and their sister company Portsmith have built and are distributing the ScanStand to enterprise clients across the nation.

As cities begin the tentative process of reopening, the ScanStand will help ensure public health and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

10 Trends Causing Workplace Disruption

Liberty Mutual, Viewpoint

For businesses of all types and across industries, a variety of social, technological, and other emerging trends are disrupting day-to-day operations. Pandemics, cyber events, opioids, and other risk factors are negatively affecting productivity and profitability.

The Workplace Disruptions Risk Matrix featuring 10 factors contributing to workplace interruptions every day.

The Risk Matrix, produced by the editorial team at Risk & Insurance®, plots key factors contributing to workplace disruptions based on frequency and severity.  

Read more…

Idaho Commerce, Mexico Trade Office

Did you know we have Idaho Commerce employees dedicated to helping your company do business in Mexico?

The State of Idaho-Mexico Trade Office opened in 1994 in order to serve as a bridge between Mexico and Idaho’s business communities. The office provides in-depth market research assistance and works hand-in-hand with Idaho companies interested in exporting agricultural and commercial products to Mexico, as well as companies looking to source materials or explore manufacturing opportunities in the region. In addition, the Trade Office works to strengthen Idaho-Mexico relations in order to create jobs and expand Idaho’s presence in Mexico and Central America.

In March 2017, Fabiola McClellan was named the new director of the Mexico Trade Office. During her tenure, bilateral trade has increased over 16 percent; total trade in 2019 was valued at $482,947,333 (US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis). More specifically, Idaho exported $258 million worth of goods and services to Mexico in 2019, becoming the state’s fourth-largest trading partner behind Canada, Taiwan, and Singapore (Ibid).

The Mexico Trade Office looks forward to continuing to work with SWIMA/IMA because we know that our increased collaboration will solidify Idaho manufacturing’s presence in Mexico. In the coming months, the Trade Office looks forward to continuing to share and explore new manufacturing opportunities that we expect to arise as part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which goes into effect on July 1, 2020.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to our office directly (fabiola.idaho@attendmi.com).

Boise airport sheds flights, destinations, passengers as COVID keeps travelers home

lone traveler waiting in the arrivals area


It was supposed to have been a record-breaking year for the Boise Airport.

Instead, the number of people flying through the airport fell 94% in April from April 2019. That means highly anticipated new routes are on hold, and major airport renovations aren’t happening.

And it means you may not find the flight you’ve taken in the past to leave town. Today and through all least the rest of June, Boise does not have scheduled service to Minneapolis, Spokane, Houston or Sacramento — all cities that had service before COVID-19.

Spokesperson Sean Briggs said that there were on average 71 scheduled departures a day in June 2019. In 2020, officials estimate that number will be 31. That would be a sharp improvement from 18 in May and a slight improvement from 29 in April.

“Airlines are making schedule adjustments quite often,” Briggs said in an email.

Data from the airport show that only 18,086 people flew through Boise in April. More than 300,000 people flew in April 2019.

Only 807,396 people have flown through the airport from January through April, down more than a third from the 1.2 million in the same period last year.

Read more…

How to Write a Business Contingency Plan for a Force Majeure

Thomas Insights, Hugo Britt, April 23, 2020

A business contingency plan will give your organization a head-start over its competitors when a disruptive event occurs. It identifies risks, prioritizes them, and outlines the actions that need to be taken to minimize impacts and return to normal operations as soon as possible.

In light of disruptions surrounding the spread of COVID-19, there’s no better time than the present to prepare a plan for an event that can have a major impact on your business. As climate change continues to elevate the risk of extreme weather and natural disasters, especially in the Asian Pacific region, so increases their risk of having a detrimental impact on your business.  

Having to develop a plan from scratch in response to a disruptive event wastes valuable time, during which production is impacted and sales lost until the plan is finally ready to launch. By contrast, having a ready-to-go plan that can easily be accessed, tweaked, and launched will dramatically shorten the impact period and bring about recovery sooner.

Where should you start? With a brainstorming session. 

Brainstorm Potential Risks to Your Business

Start by listing the very broad categories of risk that could impact your business and lead to weaker sales. Factors may be external, such as:

  • The economy
  • Technology
  • Changing social attitudes
  • Government
  • Competition
  • Natural hazards

Or internal, such as:

  • Supply chain disruption
  • Workplace accidents
  • Employee availability
  • Infrastructure failure
  • Cybersecurity breach
  • Budget or schedule overruns

Then, brainstorm as many specific risks as you can envisage under each of these categories. For example:

  • The economy
    • Severe economic downturn or recession
    • Significant currency exchange rate change
    • New trade agreements and tariffs
  • Employee availability
    • A key employee quits suddenly
    • A large number of employees call in sick at once
    • Industrial action

Not every risk event will fit neatly into a single category. For example, COVID-19 straddles several of the above categories. As a disease, it is a natural hazard, but Coronavirus is also causing a severe economic downturn, supply chain disruptions, and impacting employee availability.

A business contingency plan may also identify positive impacts that may increase sales. Examples include an economic upturn or a competitor exiting the market. A plan should be in place to take advantage of new conditions, for example by hiring more operations staff to cope with an increase in sales volume.

Read more…

Support Local Gems on 4/24 and Beyond

support local gems image

Idaho small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and the backbone of our state’s economy. However, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has forced widespread closures of small businesses across the Gem State, threatening livelihoods, acute job losses, and imperiling the future of local establishments across our state.

That’s why SWIMA and IDAA have partnered with Senator Jim Risch and the Idaho Department of Commerce to participate in the “Support Local Gems” initiative.

On Friday, April 24th, we invite all Idahoans to find ways to support the small businesses in your community whose operations have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. April 24th will serve as an all-day celebration of the local businesses that make our communities thrive. You can participate by shopping at your favorite small businesses online, purchasing gift cards for future use (or for a loved one), ordering take-out or delivery from local restaurants, writing a review online, posting on social media about your favorite local business, or simply saying thank you to the businesses you frequent most often in your daily life. The outbreak has put many in difficult financial situations, but there are many ways to show your support.

Following the event and starting April 27th, Idaho Commerce and Visit Idaho will continue to promote awareness of the Support Local Gems program by sharing resources as well as the stories of Idaho communities, citizens, and small businesses on visitidaho.org and across its social media channels.

There is no question that COVID-19 has had a significant disrupting effect on all our lives. Now more than ever, it’s important to support the small businesses in the Gem State that provide local jobs, services, and unquantifiable community value.

If your financial situation allows, we hope you’ll join us and Support Local Gems on Friday, April 24th. Your support can make all the difference in a small business’s future.

how to support

Partners Launch Idaho PPE Exchange

The IPX is a non-profit exchange to quickly connect buyers and sellers of PPE. The IPX seeks to assist Idaho buyers in locating potential sources of scarce but critical supplies. The IPX hopes that buyers will find sellers close to their operations to shorten the supply chain. 

The IPX has no financial interest in any suppliers/buyers. The IPX earns no revenue from the site or any transactions that occur as a result of the site. 

No buyer should take any comfort that a supplier on the IPX has been vetted by the IPX. The IPX takes no responsibility for the claims or activities of any supplier. The IPX specifically does not make any comment, representation, or warranty on the reliability of the information posted, or the efficacy of any product that one may purchase from a supplier listed on the IPX. The IPX expressly warns each buyer to do their own due diligence before purchasing any product from any supplier whether listed on the IPX or not. 

IPX will not warrant or represent anything about any product posted. Caveat emptor rules the day. As a supplier, you assume full and total responsibility for truth in advertising, contract fulfillment, etc.

Learn more at https://www.idahoppeexchange.com/ .

Rural Payette Perfection

Teton Machining Solutions in Payette, Idaho, serves the aerospace industry with high quality machined parts

by Northwest Aerospace News Magazine

Jim Franklin, sales manager for Teton Machining Solutions in
Payette, Idaho says there are those that prefer urban lifestyles and
those that prefer rural lifestyles. The employees of Teton Machining
are those that prefer the latter, living in rural Payette, a town of
about 7,000 north of Boise. The city tagline is “What home feels

The company was named after the Grand Tetons as the initial
founder, Norm Meller from Ohio, loved to vacation in the Tetons
and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The company was started in Jackson
Hole, in Meller’s basement, to service customers in Utah. Later,
the company moved to Payette after picking up recurring work
with Hewlett Packard in Boise. They’ve been in business making
machined parts since 1952.

The company is employee-owned (Employee Stock Ownership or
ESOP) which Franklin said offers two main things, “Better retention
and better customer care.” He said the employees are involved
in the success or failure of the business and added, “You have to
be engaged especially when you own stock in the company – if it’s
decreasing it’s a real pain, if increasing a real pleasure.”
Franklin came to the company in the nineties, left, and then came
back 16 years ago. Andy Oyervides, president and CEO, has been
at the company since leaving the Marine Corps as a young man. He
started in an entry-level position and worked his way up to president.
Franklin said that it isn’t uncommon for employees to learn
the business and work their way up, due to being employee-owned
and in a small town.

Read full article here

Industry wants parents to stop steering children away from manufacturing

from the Washington Examiner, by Jay Heflin | February 06, 2020

The National Association of Manufacturers is aiming to convince parents who think manufacturing jobs are boring or dead-end jobs that it’s actually a good career choice for their children.“The current overarching issue for our sector is perception,” said Carolyn Lee, the executive director of the Manufacturing Institute, which is the nonprofit, social-impact arm of the NAM. “We have a challenge where parents, if they think about manufacturing, they do recognize that it’s important to the national economy and national defense, and they think it’s an important sector, but only about 27% of parents think it’s a good job for their kid.”According to Lee’s research, a majority of parents consider a career in manufacturing to be boring, or worse, a dead-end pursuit that goes nowhere.“It’s dirty, dark, and dangerous [to parents],” Lee said. “If you ask an adult to draw a picture of manufacturing, they’ll draw a smokestack. Nothing could be further from the truth.”The negative perception parents have about manufacturing likely rubs off on their children, who then rule out manufacturing as a career choice.”We know from our research that parents are the biggest influencers outside the student’s own personal experience,” Lee said. Manufacturing provides larger salaries and benefits than other industries, averaging $88,000 versus $66,000 in other sectors, according to the latest data from 2017. Yet the manufacturing sector lost over 4 million workers since the turn of the century, according to the Labor Department. It is facing a 2.4 million shortfall in filled jobs by 2028, and fewer than 3 in 10 parents would encourage their children to undertake a career in manufacturing, according to a 2017 study published by NAM, Deloitte, and the Manufacturing Institute. According to a recent NAM survey, more than 70% of manufacturers cite the inability to attract skilled workers as their top challenge.“We already had higher average [wages] and more manufacture benefits than other sectors. These are good jobs. … We’ve got to spread the word that these are jobs that people want,” Lee said. To spread the word, NAM will kick off a national tour next Wednesday dubbed “Creators Wanted,” which is aimed at boosting job growth in their sector by changing the negative connotation that parents and their children have with pursuing a career in manufacturing. The 20-state tour will run from April to September and will target schools, state fairs, and other public events, including the presidential conventions in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The tour seeks to show how manufacturing has changed for the better by showing that plants are no longer dust bins.“The mobile tour is an interactive, immersive experience to demonstrate and put participants through the use of modern manufacturing technology. So how do we use coding, how do we use … 3D printing and laser printing — all of the things that we’re using in our sector today that we build into a mobile … type of experience so that you have this immersive, personal experience with technology to give you the full feel of what the sector looks like and what these jobs and these opportunities are about,” Lee said. The NAM is hoping to reach roughly 250,000 people through the tour.“The campaign [is] exactly what our industry and country need to build the talent pipeline and secure the future of manufacturing in the United States,” said Michael Lamach, the NAM’s newly elected board chair, in prepared remarks.
The tour’s overarching goals are to cut the skills gap by 600,000 workers by 2025, increase by 25% the number of students enrolling in technical and vocational schools, increase by 25% the number of students enrolling in apprenticeships and reskilling programs, and raise from 27% to 50% the number of parents who would encourage their children to pursue a career in modern manufacturing.

Spokane-area aerospace manufacturers in holding pattern after Boeing announces temporary halt to 737 Max production

By Kip Hill , The Spokesman-Review

kiph@spokesman.com (509) 459-5429

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 17, 2019

Boeing’s decision to temporarily halt production of its new signature aircraft because of safety concerns isn’t likely to hit manufacturers in the Inland Northwest for several weeks, if at all, experts said Tuesday.

Spokane is home to more than 120 aerospace companies employing 8,000 people, according to Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s chamber of commerce. Many of those companies, if they’re suppliers of the Chicago-based corporation, provide products farther down the supply chain, said Mark Norton, chairman of the board of directors for the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium. It may be weeks before those companies know what, if any, changes Boeing will make to its orders as it awaits the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety determination on the 737 Max jet.

“Most of our group, fall in that tier 2 or tier 3 area,” said Norton, referring to Boeing’s supply-chain structure in which lower-tier suppliers make products that are shipped elsewhere before Renton, Washington, where the 737 Max is manufactured. “They’re one step removed from working with Boeing directly.”

Boeing announced Monday it would halt production of the aircraft temporarily beginning in January, sending its stock tumbling as the company seeks approval to put the Max back in the sky after a pair of deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The crashes have been blamed on the failure of onboard software intended to prevent stalling, and the FAA has yet to sign off on a fix.

That approval will eventually come, said Dean Cameron, the Spokane Valley publisher of the trade publication Northwest Aerospace News Magazine and a three-decade veteran of the aerospace manufacturing industry. In the meantime, he said, Boeing is unlikely to reduce orders as it looks to stock up on supplies for when the plane is approved for flight and manufacturing resumes.

“When they turn the switch back on, they’re going to need these people,” Cameron said.

Norton said a ripple effect on the local economy is likely, but he also pointed out the types of jobs that would be affected by changes in Boeing supply orders are also in high demand from other companies.

“In terms of local impact, I think you might see some companies pulling in their horns a little bit,” Norton said.

A representative of Exotic Metals Forming, a sheet metal fabricator for aerospace with a manufacturing facility on the West Plains, said Tuesday the company won’t know Boeing’s effect on its operations until after the holidays. Other companies in the region either didn’t return calls for comment on Tuesday or said they weren’t manufacturing parts for the new jet and thus do not anticipate any changes.

Kaiser Aluminum sells products to Boeing, but the company said through a spokesman Tuesday it couldn’t yet comment on the effect the jet’s halted production would have on its rolling mill in Trentwood.

Southwest Airlines

Also Tuesday, Southwest Airlines announced it was removing the 737 Max from its flight schedules through April 13, after recently agreeing to a settlement with Boeing over a projected $830 million in losses in 2019 tied to the grounding of the aircraft. Southwest, the largest customer of the new aircraft in the United States, will not see any service reductions in the spring from Spokane International Airport because of the 737 Max issues, a company spokesman wrote in an email.

“As I look at the revised period for Spokane, I see no changes,” Brad Hawkins, a Southwest Airlines spokesman wrote in an email Tuesday. There will be one fewer flight to Las Vegas on Sundays during the spring, but Hawkins said that schedule change is routine for the airline during the late winter and early spring months.

Go to original article here.

Smart Manufacturing in Action: Learn from These 6 Metal Leaders

How Connected Manufacturing Makes a Difference.
From IndustryWeek
DEC 18, 2019

No matter what type of manufacturing your company does, gaining real-time access to data and keen insight into what’s happening on your shop floor can help you achieve goals you once considered unattainable. It’s called connected manufacturing, and it’s having a ripple effect on the entire industry.

Here are six metal manufacturers that are already using smart manufacturing to their advantage.

Gill Industries

For years, Gill Industries tried to manage business and production processes across eight global sites by using QuickBooks and spreadsheets. Frustrated by the out-of-date information that resulted from this approach—and wanting to gather better performance metrics from throughout the company—Gill’s new leadership began looking for a way to standardize processes across all facilities. After establishing a single, cloud-based ERP system of record, Gill centralized its operational data, freeing up staff to focus on adding value rather than entering data. The company is now maintaining higher quality standards by conducting quality checks and recording production data in real time.

G&W Industries

G&W Industries’ legacy ERP system was so outdated that employees were resorting to manual, paper-based workarounds. Not only did the system divert the staff’s attention from more important tasks, but it also produced inaccurate inventory reports. It was clearly time for G&W Industries to upgrade to a modern, cloud-based platform that would provide real-time access to data. After making the transition, the company increased its on-time delivery rate from 85 percent to as high as 98 percent. In addition, G&W Industries now keeps just two weeks of raw materials on hand, compared to 3,500 sheets of metal previously.   

Hatch Stamping

In the midst of rapid growth, Hatch Stamping took a critical look at its business technology and decided to evaluate new ERP systems. The company eventually decided to integrate all of its data into an easy-to-use cloud-based solution. Employees can now enter and retrieve data in real time, enhancing the quality of all their decisions. This means Hatch can manage its resources more strategically by eliminating waste and reducing errors. For the first time ever, the company is managing accounts and inventories for each of its plants—providing its executives with a new level of transparency into the health of the business.

HK Metalcraft

When customers approach HK Metalcraft with complex needs, the company prides itself on being able to deliver. But HK Metalcraft finally reached a point where its legacy ERP system was doing more harm than good. The company’s president researched his options thoroughly before making the strategic decision to bring the company into the cloud. Today, HK Metalcraft applies real-time data to make better decisions about everything from optimizing profit and loss to reducing shop floor downtime. Rather than having to spend hours coaxing an aging ERP system into cooperating, staff can now use a modern cloud system to collect the information that will drive the company’s continuous improvement.

Wisco Industries

Wisco Industries used to think that lost production time caused by an inadequate ERP system was just part of the cost of doing business. The company eventually realized that by upgrading to a modern system, they could deliver on customer requests such as integrated quality. Wisco implemented a comprehensive, cloud-based ERP system that offers built-in quality and EDI functionality. Not only has Wisco made communication and compliance part of its operational strategy, but the company has reduced its overall inventory by 20 percent and its raw material inventory by 15 percent.


For Toyotetsu, “smart manufacturing” isn’t just another buzzword—it’s a path to competitive advantage. Seeking to achieve sustainable growth, the company realized it needed to build a technology foundation that would support connected manufacturing. Toyotetsu implemented a cloud-based ERP system, which enabled the company to integrate its programmable logic controls (PLCs) from more than 250 work centers. This integration, which will eventually reach 100 percent, gives Toyotetsu’s decision-makers better insight into every aspect of their manufacturing, making it easier for them to plan towards long-term business goals.  

Find out how your company can use modern technology to achieve true agility in a world of changing demand. Download a free white paper: Manufacturing Agility through MES Excellence.

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Employee Engagement, Business Vitality and Community Prosperity

From Workforce Watch, a publication of IndustryWeek

According to the Gallop “State of the American Workplace” report, only 25% of manufacturing employees feel engaged — the lowest percentage of all major occupations. How do we begin to turn this around?

I have to believe that helping employees better understand how the direct actions they take to improve company performance also increase community prosperity will drive a positively reinforcing loop of higher engagement. After all, their communities are where they live and raise their families. If each manufacturing worker understood how the prosperity of their local community depended, to some extent, on their employer, they would have a greater sense of purpose about their work — and therefore become more engaged.

I’d like to explore this idea of connecting manufacturing workers to their communities through the businesses they work for via the lens of “Good Money, Neutral Money and Bad Money,” as explained to me by Ed Morrison of Purdue University’s Agile Strategy Lab. It’s the economic philosophy espoused by David Morgenthaler. Morgenthaler was influenced by Dr. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (TOC), and interpreted three key measurements to explain how regional and community economies work. Building on TOC’s Throughput, Inventory and Operating Expense, he developed the concepts of Good Money, Neutral Money and Bad Money.

Good Money, Neutral Money and Bad Money

Good money comes into regions and communities from outside them. Consider tourism and hospitality dollars, local manufacturers sending their products to non-local customers, and local software developers providing their solutions to anywhere on the planet.

Once arrived, Good Money begins to circulate as Neutral Money as it passes through the gas station, the grocery store, the hairdresser, tire and oil-change shop, diner, boot store, and church donation plate. After six or seven circulations, taxes have effectively reduced it to zero. Neutral Money becomes Bad Money for an economy when it leaves. Think Amazon, Zappo’s, and the purchase of raw materials from outside.

It seems to me that communities prosper more when they increase and accelerate Good Money, accelerate Neutral Money, and diminish and decelerate Bad Money. Manufacturers, in particular, have a key role to play in accelerating and increasing Good Money in their communities.

Manufacturers and Their Communities

There are four necessary but not sufficient conditions for increasing a community’s prosperity — conditions that can only be created, maintained, and grown through intentional, purposeful civic collaboration. A community must:

  1. Be a quality, connected place, both physically and virtually
  2. Have a 21st century workforce and talent pipeline
  3. Be culturally innovative, entrepreneurial, collaborative
  4. Have and tell a new narrative

In communities with a manufacturing base, manufacturers and policy-makers must effectively collaborate to create these conditions for manufacturing success. Examples include exposing high-school students to manufacturing, easing permitting, and providing manufacturing-related curricula at high schools and community colleges.

An underappreciated need is to strengthen the collaborative advantage of community and regional manufacturers. This means setting aside historic grievances that may exist (perhaps with roots in talent-poaching), finding common ground, and crossing real and imaginary boundaries to tackle common or complex problems, or to take advantage of mutually beneficial opportunities.

Good Money is more abundant when manufacturers compete and win globally, to sell more products and generate more profits. To do so, they must get better more quickly than competitors in the domains that matter most by lowering costs, achieving higher quality, guaranteeing better delivery, and innovating more effectively. This type of business excellence can be hard to achieve unaided.

In most cases where a manufacturer achieves competitive advantage, it’s a community effort. If a manufacturer needs to better automate and use robots or needs to reduce shipping and warehousing costs or needs to develop an apprenticeship program, expertise, information, and other resources to help with these challenges are likely available in their community.

Without an effective community framework for collaboration, those resources may go untapped. When that happens, business excellence eludes a firm, and less Good Money comes into the community via that manufacturer, and it does so at a slower rate. As the influx of Good Money declines, there will be less Neutral Money and the amount of Bad Money will continue to increase.

Why Manufacturers Matter So Much

Very reductively, the idea is this: Community economies work in a simple fashion. There are three types of money:

  1. Good Money (outside)
  2. Neutral Money (already in circulation)
  3. Bad Money (money that is going outside)

Small businesses that cater to customers outside of their community — such as small manufacturers — bring Good Money into their communities. Good Money helps create jobs through a job multiplier effect, such as supporting community-based services (e.g., gas stations, etc.).

Communicating this important economic role that your “Good Money” company plays in your community to your employees can help improve morale and instill them with a sense of mission vs. just treating their jobs like a paycheck.

Alistair Stewart


Alistair Stewart is a Specialist at the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center, part of the MEP National NetworkTM. He has extensive experience leveraging operational excellence to accelerate and improve portfolio company performance for private equity investors, including consulting practice leadership with Giga Information Group (now Forrester) and positions of increasing responsibility with firms such as Baxter Healthcare, British Gas, and British Technology Group. He is Montana’s only Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

‘Made Here’ aims to attract students to manufacturing jobs in Idaho

By RACHEL SPACEK rspacek@idahopress.com

Oct 16, 2019

Bryan Minick/IdahoPress

NAMPA — Manufacturing jobs are not the same as they were 40 years ago, said Sheri Johnson, executive director of the Southwest Idaho Manufacturers’ Alliance, at the 2019 Made Here Expo. The expo aims to “inspire the next generation of manufacturers.”

The event on Wednesday at the Ford Idaho Center coincides with Manufacturing Month. It brought in over 60 exhibitors, manufacturers and companies from the Treasure Valley alone. Johnson said she was expecting 1,500 attendees, including over 1,000 local students.

“There are lots of great companies making stuff here,” Johnson said. “We are trying to plant the seed that these jobs exist.”

With an area unemployment rate at 3% or lower, manufacturing companies across the valley are “providing greater benefits, raising wages and changing their workplace culture” to attract employees, said Eric Forsch, business retention and expansion manger with Idaho Commerce.

“I grew up here, I was never aware of all of the manufacturing jobs here in town, and so I feel a personal responsibility to help share that story with all these youth,” Forsch said.

For Dave Allen, shop foreman for Boise Mobile Equipment, the difficulty is finding employees who are passionate about doing their jobs.

“I hope to get employees who want to show up to work and work,” Allen said. “A lot of people just want a paycheck, but getting people who are interested in what they are doing is hard.”

Boise Mobile Equipment designs and builds equipment for the firefighting industry. They start off with a basic truck or engine and add all of the necessary equipment for their customers. Allen said on Wednesday that the company was finishing up some fire trucks for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

He said they mainly work for customers in the western United States who fight rural fires, but they have some business with smaller city fire departments across the U.S.

On Wednesday, Allen and his coworker, Danny Weaver, were talking to students in front of one of their giant red fire trucks.

Students at the Made Here Expo were also drawn to Aviation Specialties Unlimited Inc.’s night vision goggles.

The googles, called E3 goggles, are aimed to make it safer to operate air crafts for law enforcement, search and rescue crews and air ambulances, said Patrick Crow, human resources manager for Aviation Specialties Unlimited.

Crow said the company was started by a couple in Idaho who wanted to make flying helicopters at night safer.

“We are the perfect example of an Idaho company,” Crow said. “This was started by a husband and wife. Their first office was inside an Airstream trailer. We now have 60 employees, a hangar and two air crafts.”

The company is located near the Boise Airport.

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Crow said the company is growing “slow and steady,” and decided to be an exhibitor at Made Here to show the public they exist in the Treasure Valley.

Nampa residents likely know about the large cheese-making factory located off Interstate 84, Lactalis, but the city is also home to other food manufacturing companies like Milne MicroDried.

Milne MicroDried had a booth at the event with samples of their dried fruits and vegetables. Justin Holthus, operations manager, said the expo was the company’s first major event in the community, though it has been around since 2012.

Milne MicroDried supplies larger companies with dried fruits and vegetables to put in their products, such as breakfast and nutrition bars and cereal.

The company has 80 to 90 employees in Nampa at varying levels of work, Holthus said.

“The unemployment rate is low and the growth in the valley is high, and with the amount of jobs that are out there, hiring has been challenging,” Holthus said. “It is all about being out there, getting to meet people and see who is interested in this, and for us to see what our future looks like. The more we can be prepared for the next few years in this hiring climate, the better off we will be.”

Casey Boothby, a computer science and STEM teacher at Vision Charter School, brought his middle school and high school students to the expo. He stood with a group of them as they were eyeing a virtual reality display.

“For me it is getting kids out in the world to see that there’s things besides just going to a university,” Boothby said.

He said many of the companies at the expo are less than a mile away from his school in Caldwell.

“It surprises them, this is just Treasure Valley stuff,” Boothby said. “My whole goal for my STEM classes is to connect them with the real world, so we have worked with places before and I have taken kids out to tour facilities. They don’t know until you bring them to something like this. They do not realize what is in their backyard.”

According to Johnson, there are over 1,700 manufacturers in Idaho with an average compensation per job that 40% higher than in other industries in Idaho.

A nationwide survey distributed by Deloitte shows events like Made Here are largely successful in exposing attendees to manufacturing jobs and sparking their interest in pursuing one. The survey found that 64% of people who attended Manufacturing Day events were “more motivated to pursue careers in manufacturing.”

The way Forsch put it, many manufacturing companies are “out of sight, out of mind” for students.

“Manufacturing is a huge part of our economy, it provides great paying jobs, they are great career pathways,” Forsch said.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

You can view the original article here.

Can an Apprenticeship Network Fill US Skills Gap?

Research by Dr. Johann Fortwengel, of King's College, found that it’s costly and complex for firms to run their own apprentice programs and suggests an apprenticeship network approach.  

Adrienne M. Selko | Oct 17, 2019

For as long as I have been interviewing companies about using apprenticeships to help close the skill gap, the discussion invariably includes the question of adapting the successful German model to the U.S. workforce.

This very topic was the subject of a recent conference, The International Skills Conference, hosted by the German American Chambers of Commerce, and held in Atlanta on Sept. 25. The conference brought together champions in apprenticeship programs, modeled after the German system, with businesses, regional and state leaders who are interested in solutions for small and middle-sized employers in order to fill the 2.4 million jobs in advanced manufacturing that will be needed by 2030.

Dr. Johann Fortwengel, who is a senior lecturer in International Management, King’s Business School, King’s College London, spoke at the conference on his research in which he studied the pros and cons of collaborating with other organizations to offer apprenticeships in a network, and how this collaboration can be managed for improved efficiency.

His research found that as it’s both costly and complex for firms to run their own apprentice programs increasingly firms are interested in collaborating with each other and partners like community colleges to create apprentice schemes.