Supply Chain and Policy: Past, Present and Future

Panelists in the event, clockwise from bottom right: Dan Swinney, Founder of Manufacturing Renaissance; Harry Haney, a supply chain and operations expert; Haven Allen, CEO and Co-Founder, mHUB, an independent hard tech and manufacturing innovation center; David Boulay, President of IMEC (the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center).  Top right, moderator, Jeff Korzenik, Chief Investment Strategist, Fifth Third Bank.

What is the outlook for the global supply chain? How are current challenges that impact the supply chain affecting our economy? These were the kinds of timely questions explored in a January event held by Fifth Third Bank in Chicago.

“Supply Chain and Policy: Past, Present and Future,” was held on January 19, 2022. The event, the first of a three-part series, addressed a broad array of issues connected to the supply chain, which determines how products and services go from manufacturers to end customers.

Dan Swinney, Founder of Manufacturing Renaissance, shared his perspective about the supply chain and related issues at the event.  Other panelists included Haven Allen, CEO and Co-Founder, mHUB, an independent hard tech and manufacturing innovation center; David Boulay, President, of IMEC (the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center), and Harry Haney, a supply chain and operations expert. This event was moderated by Jeff Korzenik, Chief Investment Strategist at Fifth Third Bank and author of the book Untapped Talent: How Second Chance Hiring Works for Your Business and The Community.

Korzenic said at the event that issues tied to the supply chain “should be a priority for all of us.” While speaking about the implications of this issue, he added that “We in the U.S. have a lot to gain. Every manufacturing job has a high multiplier. We used to stay they created 3 jobs, but the current thought is that they create 6, 7 or 8 jobs.”

This event was held at a time when challenges facing the global supply chain have become increasingly prominent as the nation and world’s manufacturers respond to the pandemic. Panelists discussed how and why manufacturers are vulnerable at this time – and how they can be resilient.

National and Global Impact

Swinney said that while the challenges related to the supply chain and other issues faced by small and medium-sized companies have been exacerbated by the current pandemic, the “sources of our problem lies in our own country – and the failure to have a really bold formal industrial policy that mobilizes all the rest of our society to the manufacturing sector.” It’s a sector, he adds, that needs to rebuild.

Manufacturing represented about one-quarter of the gross national product in the 1960s; now, that figure is close to 11 percent.

Key challenges, Swinney said, will include responding to the impact of retirement of Baby Boomers on production, management, engineering, and ownership. He also emphasized the continuing skills gap, which leaves many companies without the talent they need to fill jobs. In Chicago, for examples, data has shown that 58,000 jobs in the field remain unfilled because of the skills gap.

Swinney added that he “is encouraged by discussions on the federal level,” which have led to the introduction of the Manufacturing Reinvestment Corporation Act, legislation designed to bolster the manufacturing sector. The legislation was introduced by Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky last year and reflects input from and priorities of a growing coalition of organizations around the country, including Manufacturing Renaissance.

The bill, Swinney added, focuses on a range of key issues that can impact the supply chain and the manufacturing sector in general – including changes that bolster education and training, ownership and transition policies, public-private partnerships, and inclusion in the sector.

Haney said that many supply chain leaders in the manufacturing field will need to be engaged on policy issues in a new way. “For a long time, the whole government affairs piece was foreign territory. That has to change. Education, infrastructure – these things will get solved by getting everyone engaged. The voice of practitioners who feel the impact of these decisions – that carries a lot of weight in D.C. They love hearing from people who understand the root causes.”

Range of key Issues

The discussion on supply chains also featured comments on a wide range of other issues impacting the manufacturing sector, including productivity, challenges in worker and operation safety, inventory, capacity, and labor availability.

Panelists also suggested that even with the many challenges of today’s world, there’s opportunity.  “We’ve seen just tremendous change in demand, and with that an explosion of hardtech and manufacturing innovation,” said Allen. He added that “We’re all seeing right now this revolution of electrical vehicles and modernizing our grid, and this is putting tremendous demand in evolving our supply chain.”

The time is right, Boulay said, to keep this conversation going. “The topic of manufacturing is a congressional hot button,” he said. “Supply chains have always been at play. It’s been a sleepy topic, and now it’s a hot topic. “

Meanwhile, Swinney confirmed that what is needed is a collaborative approach. “We’ve agreed that the manufacturing sector can’t remail in a silo,” he said. “It has to be linked with a broad range of partners. We need to reach out to all players to be involved. This is a bipartisan issue.”

To watch Supply Chain and Policy: Past, Present and Future, click here.

Future sessions in this series:

Wednesday, February 23, 2022, 9-10:30 a.m CT: Reimagining the Supply Chain: Creating a More Agile Approach

Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 9-10:30 a.m. CT: Reshoring: Fact or Fiction?

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-Dan Baron