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How to tackle extraordinary fragility of U.S. manufacturing

John Dyck CEO Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute
By John Dyck CEO, Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute

FIELD INTELLIGENCE: Smart Processes, Solutions & Strategies

COVID-19 revealed some deep-rooted shortcomings in our approach to manufacturing and to supply chain design in the U.S. Well beyond the immediate and urgent need for PPE, we saw dramatic swings in both supply and demand for almost everything bought and sold here.

In an unprecedented move, the CEOs of 14 Manufacturing USA Institutes have joined forces to create a decisive set of strategies, policies and recommendations designed to strengthen America’s manufacturing base and improve our ability to respond to future disruptions. We outlined the creation of several specific initiatives that will enable us to learn from the recent past and ensure we’re aggressively working toward a much more resilient supply chain and manufacturing base.

We were privileged to work with U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Marco Rubio and Reps. Haley Stevens and Troy Balderson, who have leveraged these insights and recommendations to create a bill titled, “The Resilient Manufacturing Task Force Act.” They introduced this legislation in July to reinforce the U.S. supply chain against future disruptions, recommending the formation of the following:

1. National Manufacturing Guard

The Manufacturing Guard would be available as a national response effort, modeled after the National Guard’s mission to mobilize rapidly in times of national emergency. It would coalesce the manufacturing expertise within companies based in the U.S. by each designating one or more expert leaders to join.

When an actual crisis occurs, the Manufacturing Guard would be called upon to activate a strategic supply-chain pivot, fast-tracking what now can take many weeks or even longer.

2. National Supply Chain Data Exchange

This set of supply chain resiliency and visibility tools, built on a real-time, digital backbone optimized to provide an end-to-end connection between manufacturers and their suppliers, would be accessible by all manufacturers. This will prepare them for supply chain disruptions and enable resilience, reshoring and product and production agility.

3. Technology Corps: A gateway to America’s 21st Century workforce

The Technology Corps would accelerate training and career opportunities for Americans between the ages of 18 and 24, serving as a pathway for this population of over 33 million to higher education, military service, national service or entry into the workforce.

The one-year program would nurture a diverse, American workforce that is ready for manufacturing in an increasingly digital economy. For those who do not go on to college or military service, we urge a two-year national service option at any of the 15 institutes that form the Manufacturing USA network.

According to the Institute for Supply Management, nearly 75 percent of U.S. businesses experienced supply chain disruption as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. It also highlighted the perils and vulnerabilities associated with a “just-in-time” global supply chain designed with near-ideal assumptions regarding socioeconomic and political stability.

Ironically, our historic tendency to avoid any semblance of a national manufacturing strategy is also complicit in the extraordinary fragility and lack of resilience that has come to light.

The next disruption will further exacerbate our vulnerabilities. There’s a clear need for a thoughtful and deliberate strategy to reinforce U.S. supply chain against future threats.

With the actions outlined in the proposed Act, we’ll be ready.

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