Business Operations

Business Operations

Foxconn Shines a Light on Solar Energy

Manufacturers across the U.S. are taking new steps toward sustainability. For Foxconn—a consumer electronics contract manufacturer and solutions provider with U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—that effort is about to get a big boost.

The project: Foxconn is developing a massive field of 2,000 solar panels covering nearly eight acres of land around a retention pond at its Racine County campus in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin.

  • The panels are expected to go live at the end of July, when they’ll generate approximately one megawatt of power, which will be used to manufacture data servers.
  • “That’s about 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide saved every year and enough energy to power about 300 American homes,” said Robert Schlaeger, head of U.S. government relations for Foxconn.

The big picture: The project—a partnership between Foxconn and utilities provider We Energies—is part of a bigger initiative from Hon Hai Technology Group in Taiwan.

  • Hon Hai already uses green energy for about 40% of its power consumption across global operations. It has pledged to run wholly on green energy by 2040 and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • “This is really a top-down approach for the entire technology group under the leadership of our Chairman Young Liu,” said Schlaeger. “You can see how that trickles down to the things we try to achieve at a regional level and within those regions, down to the site level.”

The impact: In 2022, the technology group spent $75 million globally on 1,877 energy-saving projects. Schlaeger views sustainability projects such as the Foxconn solar field as an important signal of the company’s commitment.

  • “As Foxconn grows and responds to market demand around the world or within the United States, renewable energies demonstrate the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship across supply chains—to our customers and to our communities,” said Schlaeger.

The business case: Investments like this one are important to the company’s long-term future, but they also matter to customers right now.

  • “We have customers who want to know that they are employing contract manufacturers like us that are producing their product in a responsible manner,” said Schlaeger. “What type of energy are you using? Where does the energy come from? These questions are important to our customers—and we want to show them that whether you look to our aspirations as a whole, or down to the site, you can see our commitment to green energy.”
Business Operations

Emerson Finds Energy in Sustainability

When Emerson’s first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer Mike Train talks about his company, his enthusiasm shines through.

  • “What we do to enable our customers is huge,” said Train. “We have an important role to play—and I get a lot of energy out of that.”

An aggressive push: The technology and engineering company, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, has been making big moves in sustainability over the past few years—beginning with a goal in 2018 to reduce some of its greenhouse gas intensity by 20% over 10 years.

  • At the time, the goal was ambitious, and the company wasn’t quite sure how it would achieve it. But employees banded together and pulled it off.
  • “We actually achieved the goal in 2022—six years early,” said Train. “But the act of putting out a goal and not knowing exactly how we’d solve for it … has been driving the culture of our company. Our employees are proud we put it out there, proud to have participated, and it’s activated thousands of people to get excited about what we’re doing.”

An inclusive approach: Since then, the company has applied a range of tactics. From “energy treasure hunts,” in which teams search for energy waste in facilities, to renewable energy procurement and collaborations with supply chain partners, Emerson is finding interesting and inclusive ways to make an impact.

  • The company has gone from getting 3% of its power from renewables to getting to 49% from those sources. And it now has a commitment to use 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Emerson is setting other big goals, too, from net-zero operations by 2030 to a zero-waste-to-landfill pledge, along with other water and biodiversity actions.

An effective framework: The company has a three-part approach to its sustainability practices.

  • Greening Of Emerson involves the actions Emerson is taking to reduce its own footprint by minimizing waste and engaging its supply chain.
  • Greening By Emerson involves the company’s activities to help a wide range of manufacturing customers improve their own sustainability, often through Emerson’s automation portfolio and expertise. This, according to Train, is where Emerson has its biggest opportunity for impact.
  • Greening With Emerson refers to the company’s work with government and research organizations on policy and innovation, offering technical expertise and manufacturing perspective to help drive action.

A group effort: Train has seen the company coalesce around these goals—from the sustainability team he works with every day (“they bring a lot of energy and passion to what we’re doing”) to the rest of the company’s 74,000-person workforce.

  • “The fun part of sustainability is everyone is learning it together,” Train continued. “You’re allowed and encouraged to borrow ideas from each other, so the collaborative part of sustainability is an awful lot of fun.”
Business Operations

NAM, Allies to Biden: Intervene in Port Talks Now

A labor strike on the U.S. East and Gulf Coast strike would have dire consequences for the maritime supply chain, the NAM and partner organizations told the Biden administration this week—which is why it’s vital the administration intervene now to restart stalled labor negotiations between dockworkers and an alliance of port operators and ocean carriers.

What’s going on: “Earlier this month, contract negotiations broke down between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the US Maritime Alliance,” Bloomberg Government (subscription) reports. “The current agreement, which covers about 45,000 dockworkers at facilities including six of the 10 busiest US ports, expires Sept. 30.”

  • The NAM and more than 150 other industry organizations on Wednesday urged the administration to “immediately work with both parties to resume contract negotiations and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity.”

Why it’s important: Other global shipping-related setbacks and threats mean the U.S. cannot withstand another challenge, the groups said. Continued Houthi terrorist attacks on commercial ships in the Middle East have resulted in “congestion and lack of equipment at overseas ports, carrier capacity issues as they continue to divert vessels away from the Red Sea and increased freight rates.”

Precedent set: Last September, after 14 months of negotiations and several work stoppages and walkouts, West Coast dockworkers reached a labor agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association—following NAM-urged intervention by the Biden administration.

  • “We witnessed a significant shift of cargo from the West Coast to the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports because of the challenges and uncertainty during the last West Coast port labor negotiations,” said the groups. “While much of that business has remained at the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, we are starting to see a shift back to West Coast gateways, where a long-term contract is in place, especially as we enter the busy peak shipping season.”
Business Operations

Hillenbrand: Sustainability Drives Innovation, Value

Manufacturers across the U.S. strive to make their operations more sustainable. Many are also laser-focused on the equipment they produce and how it can support their customers’ sustainability endeavors.

At Hillenbrand—a global industrial company that provides highly engineered, mission-critical processing equipment and solutions for markets including durable plastics, food and recycling—sustainability is at the core of everything it does.

The intention: Hillenbrand President and CEO Kim Ryan shared that the company doesn’t have a stand-alone sustainability strategy, but rather has made sustainability “the way we do business.”

  • Hillenbrand is a signatory to the United Nations’ Global Compact, Convention Against Corruption and Women’s Empowerment Principles.
  • “Our sustainability journey is guided by our purpose, ‘Shape What Matters For Tomorrow,’ which was collectively established and is embraced by all Hillenbrand associates,” Ryan said. “Our recently released 2023 Sustainability Report demonstrates our continued commitment to this goal as it shows our progress and focuses on our industrial products that positively impact the world around us.”

The progress: Highlights of the 2023 report include a focus on product innovation, continued transparency through additional data related to key environmental metrics such as water and waste, and disclosure of three years of Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions data. They also include 15 Scope 3 categories.

  • “With the release of our fifth annual sustainability report, our journey continues to evolve and improve,” Ryan continued. “‘Make It Matter’ is a core value at Hillenbrand, and we’re committed to seeking out innovative solutions that push us toward a more sustainable future.”

The angle: The company’s success in sustainability is driven by its leaders, who ensure that the value is deeply ingrained in day-to-day operations.

  • “Secular and global macroeconomic trends are now driving the need to adapt and engage associates, customers and stakeholders more than ever,” Ryan told us. “Taking into account these trends allows us to continue working toward a more sustainable future by providing innovative solutions.”

The value: Ryan sees Hillenbrand’s sustainability efforts—which the company sees as being supported by the three pillars of people, products and partnerships–as a value add for everyone.

  • For example, by designing more-efficient systems that produce more sustainable products, Hillenbrand is committed to creating industrial solutions that have a positive impact on the world.
  • Whether it’s helping customers reduce energy emissions or using Hillenbrand’s technology to produce more sustainable packaging, customers can reap the benefits of this commitment.
  • “For us, there has been great value,” Ryan concluded. “If you approach this as a cost center, that is what it’s going to be for you. If you approach this as something that could actually create value for you and your customers, then I believe that’s what it has the opportunity to become.”

Further reading: Learn more about Hillenbrand’s commitment to sustainability here.

Business Operations

In Search for Workers, One Manufacturer Pulls Out the Stops

Marvin, a window and door manufacturer based in Warroad, Minnesota, is looking thousands of miles south to fill job openings (The Wall Street Journal, subscription).

What’s going on: Marvin employs about 700 people at its Warroad location. With older-generation workers retiring at the rate of about one employee a week and a town population that hasn’t grown in decades, the company “came up with a recruitment plan called ‘The Path North,’ which aims to find workers in Puerto Rico and Florida willing to uproot their families and settle in a cold northern town”—but it’s proving a difficult sell, even with generous relocation bonuses and temporary housing.

  • Unemployment in Puerto Rico and Florida is low, so Marvin is fishing for talent in relatively sparsely populated ponds.
  • Of the 115 workers who came from Puerto Rico in the past eight or nine months, just 63 remain at the company.
  • Marvin has 10 other locations throughout North America.

Why it’s important: Marvin’s challenge is emblematic of “manufacturing in America today. The U.S. population is barely growing, baby boomers are exiting the workforce,” many young people are unaware of the many advantages of working in manufacturing and “[t]here is little political will for lasting immigration reform that could fill workforce gaps.”

  • If current trends continue, the U.S. will have 2.1 million open manufacturing positions by 2030, according to a joint study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate.

Well worth it: Still, for those who come to Marvin, the rewards are significant.

  • The company helps employees find permanent housing and is even an investor in a local apartment complex.
  • There is job security, too. When orders slowed at one of its factories a few years ago, the company offered cash bonuses to employees willing to relocate to Warroad.
  • Marvin has also helped Warroad schools hire Spanish-language translators to assist the children of new hires.

The final say: “Tapping into new talent pools is especially critical in rural areas, whether it’s done via relocation support, engaging second chance populations or participating in initiatives such as the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America program, which is building connections between the military community and the manufacturing industry by bringing in new workers,” said MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “We need to engage all talent pools to fill the 500,000 jobs in manufacturing today.”

Business Operations

Manufacturing in 2030: The Opportunity and Challenge of Manufacturing Data

As manufacturers move toward building smarter factories with connected machines, the data those systems produce can offer a host of benefits: improved efficiency, better productivity, informed decision-making, value creation and, ultimately, competitiveness. Yet becoming a data-driven business comes with its share of challenges. In this year’s Manufacturing in 2030 Survey, Data Mastery: A Key to Industrial Competitiveness, the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council sheds light on the successes and opportunities for how manufacturers are transforming their operations with data.

Security and privacy concerns: As factories become more connected, cybersecurity becomes a greater imperative. For this reason, survey respondents validated that both data security and data privacy are essential.

  • More than 90% of respondents have a formal or partial policy on data security and data privacy.
  • About two-thirds of manufacturers have a formal or partial policy on data quality.
  • More than 60% have a corporate-wide plan, strategy or guidelines for data management, but only 15% follow the plan in its entirety.

How data is used: As manufacturers advance along their M4.0 journey, data is becoming their lifeblood, driving insights and decision-making. Yet the survey revealed a gap between available data sources and their utilization, a notable area for improvement as the industry looks toward the future.

  • Spreadsheets are still king: 70% of manufacturers enter data to them manually, and 68% still use them to analyze data.
  • 44% of manufacturing leaders say the amount of data they collect is double what it was two years ago, and they anticipate it will triple by 2030.
  • While nearly 60% of manufacturers use data to understand and optimize projects, there is a shift toward using data to make predictions about operational performance, including machine performance, in the next decade.

Business impact: Most manufacturers leverage data to find ways to save money or promote business growth. However, less than half have a good understanding of the dollar value of their data.

  • Only about 25% of manufacturers have high confidence that the right data is being collected.
  • Most manufactures have only moderate confidence in their analytic capabilities.
  • Top challenges include data that comes from different systems or in different formats (53%), data that is not easy to access (28%) and lack of skills to analyze data effectively (28%).
  • However, despite those challenges, 95% of manufacturers say data makes for faster and/or higher-quality decision-making.

The bottom line: An overwhelming majority of manufacturers (86%) believe that the effective use of manufacturing data will be “essential” to their competitiveness. But to realize data’s potential, manufacturers must figure out how to organize and analyze their data effectively, ensure that their data is trustworthy and align their business strategy closely with their data strategy.

Explore the survey: Get a deeper look at the current state of data mastery in manufacturing. Click here to download your copy.

Business Operations

In It for the Long Haul: C.H. Robinson Takes on Sustainability

It’s not every day that an international company meets an ambitious sustainability goal two years early. But last May, that’s exactly what happened at 119-year-old transportation logistics provider C.H. Robinson.

  • The goal under discussion: a company-wide reduction in intensity of Scope 1 and 2 emissions—those emissions generated by the company’s own operations—of 47% (more than the 40% targeted). C.H. Robinson had previously calculated meeting the objective by 2025.

Simple but effective: “Most of it was looking at where we could find inefficiencies” and correcting them, said C.H. Robinson Vice President of Environment, Social and Governance Rachel Schwalbach. Some changes came from suggestions “our own employees brought forward: LED lighting, responsible use” of electricity.

  • Efforts also included a marked increase in the company’s use of renewables generally. From 2019 to 2023, C.H. Robinson renewable-energy purchases rose 40%.

Not an either/or proposition: The Eden Prairie, Minnesota–based company—which solves logistics challenges for clients through freight forwarding and other innovative transportation solutions—is proof positive that businesses don’t have to choose between good environmental stewardship and profitability.

  • In fact, “sometimes the sustainable option is actually the less expensive option,” Schwalbach told the NAM. “C.H. Robinson is working with suppliers every day to drive out waste, and often that’s been because we’ve looked at it through a lens of cost savings or time reduction. Now it’s also through the lens of sustainability.”
  • What’s more, “if you’re approaching sustainability right, it should be tied to your overall business strategy. Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure you’re compliant with rules and regulations” as you meet sustainability requirements.

A competitive advantage: Reducing the footprint of operations can be a competitive advantage for manufacturers, too.

  • “We get asked about sustainability by nearly all our stakeholders, so it really has to be a part of strategic decision making across the business,” Schwalbach continued. “Our shippers are also getting asked about [sustainability] by their investors and customers. People across the business are thinking about it, so it’s [to our advantage to] make sure it’s integrated across all areas.”

No business is an island: Businesses must keep in mind that sustainability is a shared interest, and the environment’s health is best served by teamwork, not isolated efforts, according to Schwalbach.

  • “As companies continue to put big [sustainability] goals out there, I cannot emphasize enough the need for collaboration across industries, as clichéd as it sounds,” Schwalbach said. “Having people who are willing to come to the table and say, ‘Hey, let’s figure this out together,’ is going to be pretty critical.”
  • For C.H. Robinson, that means engaging with customers, carriers and a broad range of other stakeholders.

Supporting climate-friendly practices: The right moves by policymakers can also help support the private sector’s sustainability efforts.

  • “As we’re looking increasingly at alternative fuels and electric vehicles here in the U.S., we need an electric grid that can support the transition to a lower-carbon economy,” Schwalbach said. “Continuing to invest in [strengthening] the grid will help us invest in the right technologies. We need to be able to move forward quickly in a way that doesn’t cause disruption to the supply chain and transportation.”
  • Companies want clarity around regulations, too. “There are so many [regulations] coming out right now, and companies want to know, ‘How do I get the right [climate-related] data? How do I make sure the data are accurate?’”

In for the long haul: So what’s next for C.H. Robinson? A continued focus on conservation, for one thing.

  • “You meet your goals, and that’s really exciting, but there’s no time to sit around,” Schwalbach said, adding that the company is now in the process of figuring out “what new sustainability goals will look like for carbon reduction.”
  • Ultimately, those goals will be met by ensuring a commitment to the environment remains a company-wide focus, she told us.
  • “Doing sustainability well means it’s integrated. C.H. Robinson is a 119-year-old company, and sustainability is about making sure we’re going to be successful for another 119 years.”
Business Operations

Lockheed Martin to Aid in Missile Production

Lockheed Martin is helping strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base (

What’s going on: The defense contractor’s Space Systems business unit recently finalized a modification contract deal to “provide systems engineering, test planning and long lead material to support missile production” to the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs.

  • The contract, valued at $99 million, is expected to be finished by Feb. 2, 2027.

Why it’s happening: “Nations are reinforcing their military capabilities to strengthen their defense structure in the growing threat environment.”

  • Spending by countries on defense capabilities—including missiles—has picked up in recent years, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Breaking Defense).
  • “Lockheed’s weapon systems include precision strike weapons with long standoff ranges to keep pilots and aircraft out of harm’s way.”

Why it’s important: The growing number of global threats now confronting the U.S. and its allies mean we must be prepared, and manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin are a critical part of the equation.

Business Operations

Rio Tinto Seeks to Meet Growing Copper Appetite

The demand for copper is skyrocketing—and global mining company Rio Tinto is powering forward full throttle to meet it (CNBC).

What’s going on: “The red metal, considered a barometer for economic health, is a vital component for the construction and defense industries as well as a key component in electric cars, wind turbines and the power grid.”

  • However, current mines and in-the-works projects “will meet only 80% of copper needs by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.”
  • “There’s this growing consensus that demand fueled by the energy transition is going to outstrip supply, and that’s why analysts say we are simply not going to have enough of it,” said CNBC Markets Reporter Pippa Stevens in a recent CNBC video. “And copper really is the backbone of decarbonization goals.”

The challenges: Copper mining is difficult and expensive—and it takes 10 to 15 years to build each mine, Rio Tinto CEO Bold Baatar told CNBC.

A beneficial metal: Copper is the most economical conductor available, and directly and indirectly, it supports more than 395,000 U.S. jobs and more than $160 billion in economic output.

Behind the scenes: CNBC went behind the scenes at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott operations in Utah, where “about 200,000 metric tons of copper are produced annually.”

  • There, Rio Tinto is increasing its open-pit mining operations and has started an underground project to mine higher-grade ore.
  • Kennecott is unique for its smelter and refinery, “where the ore is processed into almost pure copper.”

Permitting challenges: Another of Rio Tinto’s projects, the Resolution Copper mine in Arizona, has the potential to power up to 25% of U.S. copper demand—but it has been mired in a regulatory morass for the better part of two decades.

  • “The last hard-rock mine that was permitted was in 2008,” Rio Tinto Copper Chief Operating Officer Clayton Walker told the news outlet. “We’ve been working on the Resolution Mine for about 18 years.”

Independence is possible: “Theoretically, there are enough reserves in the U.S. that we could become independent for our copper needs,” Walker continued. “It’s just, how do we do that? How do we get the permits?”

What the NAM is doing: The NAM has been engaging directly with the Biden administration and members of Congress through meetings and briefings at NAM headquarters to push for comprehensive permitting reform.

  • In addition, the NAM, along with members of the NAM’s Council of Manufacturing Associations and Conference of State Manufacturers Associations, last summer launched Manufacturers for Sensible Regulations, a coalition that seeks to speed up the frequently slow, arduous federal permitting process for energy infrastructure projects and address the large number of regulations being churned out by the federal government.
Business Operations

Announcing the Winners of the 2024 Manufacturing Leadership Awards

The names are in! The Manufacturing Leadership Council—the NAM’s digital transformation division—is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 Manufacturing Leadership Awards.

Now in its 20th year, the awards competition recognizes outstanding manufacturing companies and their leaders for groundbreaking use of advanced manufacturing technology.

“The class of 2024 should indeed be proud of their achievements in advancing the digital model of manufacturing,” said MLC Founder, Vice President and Executive Director David R. Brousell. “The awards reflect the truly incredible amount of innovation taking place in all sectors of the industry.”

Manufacturing Leader of the Year: Cooley Group President and CEO Daniel Dwight is the 2024 Manufacturing Leader of the Year.

  • Dwight, who also serves on the MLC’s Board of Governors and is a member of the Executive Committee of the NAM Board of Directors, has overseen a significant turnaround in Cooley’s business performance through digital transformation, with a commitment to investing in smart factory technologies and developing a digital-ready workforce and business culture.
  • In addition, the MLC named Cooley Group the 2024 Small/Medium Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year.

Large Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year: Intertape Polymer Group is the 2024 Large Enterprise Manufacturer of the Year.

  • The award recognizes IPG’s achievements in digital transformation, including technology integration and workforce training.
  • The company has also made noteworthy strides in sustainability through reductions in both energy usage and waste.

More honors: The MLC also announced winners in 11 project and individual categories, as well as the winners of the Manufacturing in 2030 Awards. The latter are given to projects with particularly forward-thinking innovations.

  • The MLC honored all finalists and winners at the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala last night in Marco Island, Florida. A complete list of finalists and winners is available here.

Nominations for the 2025 season of the Manufacturing Leadership Awards will open on Sept. 16, 2024. More information is available here.

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