An Interview with Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, an estimated 17.4 million jobs in the United States — about one in six private sector jobs — are supported by manufacturing. In 2013, this production contributed $2.08 trillion to the economy.1 Jay Timmons, NAM’s chief executive, shares some insights.
What opportunities do you see for manufacturing with such recent innovations as additive manufacturing?
While this technology is now gaining attention in the public’s eye, it is important to realize that 3D printing and other additive manufacturing tools are not new to our industry. Manufacturers have been using them to innovate on their shop floors and their design labs for the past 30 years. Manufacturers know that to compete, they have to deliver superior products incorporating the most advanced processes. Frankly, this is why we like to say that manufacturing companies are technology companies.
Now, with the even more widespread deployment of these technology-driven tools across all industries, manufacturers have more ways to speed up their innovation process. They can move more quickly from concept to prototype and then to commercialization of new technologies and processes. We will see cost savings as entire items or parts are 3D printed, saving time and reducing inventories. It will also allow manufacturers to operate more efficiently. On the labor front, it will attract the next generation of innovators — the millennials — to bring their technological know-how to manufacturing as we continue to utilize these tools.
What do you see as potential benefits and pitfalls of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?
The talks with Europe on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) pose an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen and expand the already robust economic ties between the United States and European Union. We need a comprehensive agreement that addresses a broad range of bilateral trade and investment issues that will put both our economies in a stronger position globally and help spur the growth that both economies seek.
A successful T-TIP would eliminate tariffs, non-tariff barriers, red tape at the border and duplicative and unnecessary regulatory differences, while setting in place strong standards that mirror the commitment of both the United States and European Union on issues from transparency and intellectual property to investment. These ambitious objectives have been sought before, but never have the political will and the economic need been greater to achieve a truly growth-producing agreement between two of the world’s largest economies. As these negotiations proceed, it will be important for both the United States and European Union to resist the urge to take issues off the negotiating table.
What role will standards play as manufacturing responds to evolving and more interconnected systems?
Standards are important to manufacturers because they help to drive quality, reliability, efficiency, interoperability and safety. Manufacturing processes and manufactured products that are safe, reliable, good quality and efficiently produced are good for any manufacturer’s bottom line. Suppliers can more easily understand and meet the needs of their customers through the use of standards. And customers benefit through improved products that are more efficient, reliable and safe.
How do you recommend your stakeholders consider and implement sustainable manufacturing processes?
A common misconception is that sustainable manufacturing practices and the profitable interests of a company are somehow in conflict with each other. In truth, sustainability and profitability go hand in hand. Whether it’s reusing or recycling raw materials or finding ways to operate machines more efficiently to lower energy costs, manufacturers are finding ways to improve their margins while reducing their environmental footprint.
But good environmental practices are only part of the sustainability story. Committing to worker safety, creating employee training programs and building strong relationships in the communities where they operate by participating in events like Manufacturing Day — where manufacturers open up their shop floor to the public — all play a role in good sustainability practices and serve the best interests of an entire organization.
The NAM’s Growth Agenda outlines four goals that will help foster a manufacturing resurgence in America; what would you recommend that manufacturers do first to further that process?
Manufacturers need to engage lawmakers and the public for a growth agenda that is grounded in the four principles that made our country great: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity. And we — employers and employees — need to participate in not just the general elections, but also the primaries, as well as hold elected leaders accountable and help elect candidates who know how to support these principles and to govern.
As 2014 draws to a close, what is your top priority for the NAM for 2015?
The NAM’s top priority is to sustain, secure and extend the manufacturing comeback in the United States.