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Top Takes on Manufacturing, Politics and Policy
By Rachel Hostyk – April 26, 2019 – SHARE Facebook Twitter

Hello and Happy Friday! Your latest reminder that we live in a sci-fi universe: “Robotic device winds its own way through beating pig heart.”

Top Headlines

Durable Goods Sales Jumped in March

Durable goods sales rose at an unexpectedly fast pace in March, reports The Wall Street Journal (subscription)—the best showing in seven months and largely thanks to aircraft orders. The numbers:

  • Orders for durable goodsproducts designed to last at least three years, such as computers and machinery—jumped 2.7% in March from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $258.52 billion, the Commerce Department said Thursday.”
  • “Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.8% increase in the month.”
  • “A decline in orders for February was revised to 1.1%, smaller than the 1.6% drop that was initially reported. Through the first three months of 2019, demand for durable products was up 3%, compared with the same period a year earlier.”

And more good news:

  • “A closely watched proxy for business investment, new orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, was up 1.3% in March after increasing 0.1% in February.”
  • “The business investment measure rose 2.8% in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2018.”

This publication is a first look at breaking news, not the last word on anything. For the Official NAM Position on any given policy, please contact the staff leadership.

Reporting Requirements for Pay Data

A federal judge has set the deadlines by which employers must turn over to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pay data relating to race, sex and ethnicity. (When I wrote about this issue earlier in the month, I noted that the agency had proposed a deadline—but now we have the official schedule.) Here’s what employers need to know, from Bloomberg Law (subscription):

  • “Employers must turn over two years of pay data to the agency, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled. Fiscal year 2018 data is due by Sept. 30, but she said the agency may choose the second year of data it will request from employers: either 2017 or 2019.”
  • “If the agency selects 2017 data, it will be due by Sept. 30, along with the 2018 data. If the agency chooses to collect 2019 data, it will be due in Spring 2020. The judge ordered EEOC to make a decision by May 3 and to inform employers about the 2018 data by April 29 on its website.”
  • “The current version of the pay data collection is slated to expire on Sept. 30, but the judge extended that to April 5, 2021, to account for the more than 18 months the collection was stayed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.”
The NAM has filed an amicus brief in this case and will continue pushing for changes that lessen the burden on employers. You can read more about the misguided implementation of this rule in a recent NAM blog post, here.

Interview with a Maker (and STEP Ahead Award Winner)

Limor Fried is the founder and owner of Adafruit Industries, a manufacturer of educational electronics and the leading source of educational materials for young makers. She’s also one of the Honorees of The Manufacturing Institute’s 2019 STEP Ahead Awards, which recognize accomplished women in manufacturing. I spoke to her briefly about the origins of her company and what she recommends to young people interested in making things.

Input: How did you come to create Adafruit?

Fried: I’ve always liked to make stuff and work with my hands. I studied engineering at MIT, and as I learned about electronics in class, I’d build projects in my spare time. I made a little MP3 player, a cell phone jammer, even a gaming device like a Game Boy. Then I published these projects online. People around the world would see my blog posts, and they’d email me, saying, “Wow, these projects are so cool. I want to make my own MP3 player. Can you sell me a kit of the parts needed?”

Right after I graduated, I started making kits for people. I’d order all the parts and assemble them into a kit pack on my own. That was 13 years ago. Today, we have a facility here in Manhattan, with a pick-and-place line that does all the assembly. I don’t have to cut out parts and put them in bags anymore.

For me, creating a manufacturing company tapped into that same joy of creating that I felt when I was five. I’m just doing things on a bigger scale now.

Input: Do the kids who use your products keep in touch as they grow up? 

Fried: Absolutely. We’ve had kids appear on our show-and-tell program, which we host every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. It’s been going on for 10 years, so the eight- or nine-year-olds who appeared in the beginning will email us years later to say, “I really loved building these projects as a kid and so I became an engineer.”
The early exposure matters a lot. You get kids into manufacturing at a young age, and they realize that you need the same skills when you’re older, too. As an engineer, you’re just working with bigger schematics and more CAD drawings.

Input: On the same subject, when it comes to inspiring more young people to go into manufacturing, is there anything else we should be doing?

Fried: Manufacturers and engineers can make a tremendous difference by mentoring children in their local school or community. The school probably has a robotics, 3D printing or metalworking club that would love to have an experienced adult come in and share his or her knowledge. You can also go to local events, like Maker Faires or state fairs, to show off some of the cool stuff that your company has built. There are many ways to get involved.

Input: How do you respond to young people who say, “I’d like to start my own business just like you did”?

Fried: The best advice I have is to start with a small run. Build something and then share it with people and get their feedback. It’s okay to build the first few products by hand. If your design is popular, then you can look into adding automation. Trying to optimize your automation early on can make things difficult because you end up optimizing the wrong thing. I made my first few kits by hand, as I said. It took longer, but I learned a lot about what to look for in the equipment I purchased later.

The whole interview was fascinating, and you can read it here. You’ll learn more about how Adafruit is helping people with disabilities customize the technology we all use to suit their needs.
Industry Headlines
NAM News
  • Read NAM Director of Tax and Domestic Economic Policy Charles Crain on the SEC’s new committee, the Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee. One of its founding members is Terry McNew, president and CEO of NAM member MasterCraft Boat Holdings.
  • The White House Press Office cites NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Linda Dempsey on why the USMCA will be so beneficial for manufacturers.  
  • Fleet Owner covers the groundbreaking of Kenworth Truck Company’s expansion of a Chillicothe, Ohio, facility, mentioning the appearance of NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.
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Questions or comments? Email Rachel Hostyk at [email protected].
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Photos courtesy of Getty and/or David Bohrer/NAM.
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