When Carrie Shapiro began her career as an engineering student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, she didn’t expect to work in manufacturing—but the moment she walked into a manufacturing facility near her school for an interview, she was hooked.
“I’ve had so many opportunities in manufacturing that I never wanted to leave,” said Shapiro. “From the very beginning, I was able to keep learning and growing and making better relationships.”
Today, Shapiro serves as the vice president of sourcing execution at Georgia-Pacific—a pulp and paper company—where she guides procurement and uses her expertise in supply chain operations to benefit the company’s 110 facilities. As a leader in the industry, she’s also focused on helping potential creators understand all that manufacturing has to offer.
A changing world: Shapiro’s role has been especially important over the past few years, as the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath forced companies to adjust their supply chains and react to shortages in real time. For Shapiro, that process required rethinking risks, using data effectively and focusing on achieving stability before optimization.
- “The mistake that we often make is we try to optimize something that’s not stable,” said Shapiro. “If you’ve got chaos in your supply chain, you have no business trying to optimize it. You have to stabilize first.”
A need for humans: As Shapiro notes, data has become more readily available than ever before, and new tools are helping organizations make smart adjustments in real time. Yet, human decision-making and critical thinking still have a vital role at the center of manufacturing.
- “Tools are great, software is great, tech is great—but it should be an enabler and not a magic wand,” said Shapiro. “You still have to know your process, understand your current state and know your capabilities across the supply chain to make effective decisions. Tools don’t absolve you from doing the real work of continuous improvement.”
Leading by example: At a time when women are underrepresented in the manufacturing industry, Shapiro feels a responsibility to help other women succeed.
- She serves as a mentor with Pathbuilders, where she helps high-achieving women reach their fullest potential. She also coaches young engineers in the Steven A. Denning Technology & Management Program at Georgia Tech and serves as a longstanding member of the Next Generation Manufacturing Women’s Roundtable.
- “One of the most important roles that I play is to be a visible leader and to show there is a path to leadership inside manufacturing as a female,” said Shapiro. “Having someone who looks like you in a leadership position really matters. That representation matters, and it’s meaningful to people coming up in the organization.”
- On the strength of her long record of mentorship, Georgia-Pacific has nominated Shapiro for a 2024 Women MAKE America award, given by the Manufacturing Institute (the NAM’s workforce development and education affiliate) to outstanding women in the field. (Stay tuned for the ceremony!)
The last word: Shapiro encourages other manufacturing leaders to be active in lifting up individuals who might otherwise be overlooked.
- “I’ve had incredible supervisors who have pulled me up through the organization, who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” said Shapiro. “Sometimes people look at a candidate and think they might be a stretch for the position—but they may just not look like a traditional candidate.”
Washington, D.C. – The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, in partnership with Cognizant, released a study that examined the different approaches manufacturers take in making investment decisions.
“As manufacturers continue to evolve, the nature of work and skills must adapt to meet the needs of the changing industry. Manufacturing leaders must prioritize investments to best position their companies in a competitive marketplace and set themselves up for success over the long term,” said NAM Chief Economic and Director for the Center of Manufacturing Research Chad Moutray. “Three investment priorities emerged across manufacturer size and industry: increasing throughput and lowering costs where possible, creating new opportunities for growth, and building a stronger, more resilient workforce. Nearly all the companies we interviewed emphasized the importance of investing in their workforce.”
The study consisted of an online survey and in-depth interviews of manufacturing leaders from June to August 2023.
The following are highlights of the report:
- When asked about their top priorities for current dollars, nearly 74% of manufacturers reported building a robust and trained workforce as a key area for investment, which fits in with the larger macroeconomic conditions of the tight labor market and shortage of available workers.
- When business leaders were asked how they would spend a marginal $1 million, 61.5% would invest in new equipment. These findings point toward a desire to make smart investments that will transform operations and the production process, while also ensuring that the workforce can adapt to such changes.
- Additional areas of focus for marginal dollar investment included investing in improved processes and operations (60.2%), optimizing existing equipment (53.4%), investing in new equipment (51.7%), investing in new technologies (46.6%) and research and development (44.9%).
- When considering their future growth strategies, manufacturers identified a stronger domestic economy for growing sales (69.5%), increased efficiencies in the production process (67.8%) and maintaining a robust and trained workforce (67.0%) as the most significant factors in contributing to expansion.
From survey data and interviews, three investment priorities emerged across manufacturer size and industry:
- Increasing throughput and lowering costs where possible
- Creating new opportunities for growth
- Building a stronger, more resilient workforce
The Manufacturing Institute builds a resilient manufacturing workforce prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future. Through implementing groundbreaking programs, convening industry leaders and conducting innovative research, the MI furthers individual opportunity, community prosperity and a more competitive manufacturing industry. As the 501(c)3 nonprofit workforce development and education affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, the MI is a trusted adviser to manufacturers, equipping them with solutions to address the toughest workforce issues.
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Last week, Saint Paul College in St. Paul, Minnesota, which boasts a student body that is 65% people of color, became the 19th stop of 20 for the Creators Wanted Tour, a joint project of the NAM and the Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education affiliate of the NAM.
Over three days, with Union Pacific as the lead sponsor, the stop drew more than 600 visitors, from students to educators. Meanwhile, 42,000 online signups in Minnesota helped the campaign surpass 1.5 million nationwide from students and career mentors interested in modern manufacturing careers.
Twin Cities kickoff: Union Pacific Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker gave the keynote address at the kickoff event, emphasizing the reward of manufacturing careers. He was joined by MI President and Executive Director Carolyn Lee, Saint Paul College President Dr. Dee Dee Peaslee, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doug Loon and Trane Technologies Vice President of Product Management Dave Molin.
- “When I talk about opportunities, I’m talking about really good-paying jobs … At Union Pacific, we’re talking jobs that are … averaging over $100,000 a year, and that’s without benefits, and so you just really have an opportunity to make an impact from that perspective,” said Rocker.
- “At Trane Technologies, our vision is to boldly challenge what’s possible for a sustainable world,” added Molin. “It is the engine of our company, and we live it every day. And to do that, we need bright minds and the best minds in the world. We need diverse thinkers, we need creators, and our doors are open to everyone.”
- Notably, leaders from key government business and workforce partner organizations attended the kickoff, including the Minnesota State Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota Parent Union and St. Paul Area Chamber, representatives from the offices of U.S. Reps. Brad Finstad (R-MN-1), Angie Craig (D-MN-2), Dean Phillips (D-MN-3), Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) and Michelle Fischbach (R-MN-7), Mayor of South St. Paul Jimmy Francis and State Reps. Jon Koznick (R), Emma Greenman (D) and Samantha Sencer-Mura (D).
Experience and exploration: Students delved deep into immersive activities, from solving manufacturing-related puzzles in the Creators Wanted mobile experience to virtually navigating a locomotive through Union Pacific’s simulators. Equally captivating was the sight of the actual railroad track, which was complemented by insightful career anecdotes from Union Pacific professionals.
- Eighty-seven percent of students surveyed reported a significantly improved view of modern manufacturing careers after completing the immersive experience.
Live Q&A sessions: The stop also offered structured opportunities for students to learn about manufacturing organizations’ support for the next generation of talent, along with the importance of mentorship and personal development in shaping successful careers.
- The first session, featuring two Union Pacific senior managers—Amy Bang, Sr. manager of diversity and inclusion, and Ken Kuwamura, Jr., manager of talent acquisition—and Saint Paul College instructors, zeroed in on the crucial roles of mentorship, diversity and passion in career selection.
- The second session, with Jake Yernberg, automotive instructor, Saint Paul College; Caitlin Bundy, manager of corporate sustainability, Union Pacific; and Preeti Subramanian, senior product manager, Trane Technologies, accentuated the pivotal role of manufacturing in tackling global challenges. Panelists pointed out the advantages of the manufacturing sector, citing competitive pay and the sector’s potential in addressing global issues, such as sustainability and climate change.
Interactive Learning: Everfi®, Ecolab and Schwan’s joined Union Pacific in bringing in representatives to give students career advice—and offer activities to spark their curiosity.
- Everfi® showcased a new digital education program, “Future Creators,” co-developed with the MI and Union Pacific, to give middle and high school students a peek into STEM careers.
- Saint Paul College also took students on a tour of its robust Trades and Technical Education program.
Beyond the Tour: The Twin Cities event is a part of Union Pacific’s overarching “Careers on Track” initiative, which aims to inspire more women and youth to pursue modern industrial careers, and the Creators Wanted campaign’s sustained drive to enhance perceptions of manufacturing careers in the United States and empower more people to create the future.
The last word: “I want all of you out here, the students, to have an opportunity to go out there and win and compete and further your careers and do well in life,” said Rocker, echoing a theme the Creators Wanted Tour has promoted since its inception: manufacturers and manufacturing care about students and their future.
Next up: The pioneering Creators Wanted Tour concludes next month, Oct. 17–21, at the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio.
Discipline, reliability, a team-player mindset, leadership—manufacturers are looking for all these qualities in the talent they recruit. What if companies could tap into a population not only equipped with these skills but experienced in using them in high-stakes situations?
Well, the Manufacturing Institute—the workforce development and education affiliate of the NAM—has good news, if you haven’t heard it already: this population exists, and it’s military talent. Transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military spouses have a wealth of skills and experience that translate easily into a manufacturing context.
So how can manufacturers reach these workers and make the best use of them? The MI recently convened both military and manufacturing leaders in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for its third Workforce Solution Series event, where they answered this question and offered a range of useful advice. Here are some of the highlights.
Generally speaking: Major General Eugene J. LeBoeuf, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command, highlighted the talents and skillsets that Army reservists can offer the manufacturing industry, including agility, a can-do attitude and a thorough grounding in engineering, logistics and mechatronics.
- With nearly 190,000 soldiers, the Army Reserve comprises much of the readiness force of the U.S. Army. Many of these reservists are underemployed or unemployed, which means they represent an opportunity for manufacturers.
- Manufacturers interested in hiring from this labor pool can partner with the Private Public Partnership Office, which connects companies with reservists at no cost.
Reaching military talent: Several panelists emphasized the importance of developing recruitment processes that encourage military talent to apply and interview for manufacturing jobs.
- “Make sure that the requirements you’re listing in your position descriptions are actually required. Do you really need someone to have a master’s degree to get the job done?” asked Rob Patton, vice president of Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation.
- As a recently transitioned service member, James Goppert, HR business partner at WestRock, explained some of the challenges that military talent may face when entering the workforce. “Having to explain military skills and certifications to a civilian in an interview was strange. It would have been helpful to have someone on the other side who understood my experiences.”
Open to all possibilities: Jennifer Goodman, senior manager of talent initiatives at Coca-Cola Consolidated, drew on her experiences as a military spouse. “Military spouses are 92% women and have a 22% unemployment rate. That’s a huge labor pool that’s going underemployed or unemployed.”
- While relocation is often a concern for companies, Goodman points out that it does not have to be a disadvantage. “Think of manufacturers who have locations across the country. Maybe you can start a military spouse at one location and then move them to another. Or, if they’ve proven themselves after a few years, you could transition them to remote work.”
- “The benefits don’t stop with the one military spouse you hire,” she added. “We’re a very loyal community with great word of mouth and a larger referral network.”
The last word: “Don’t underestimate the value of an event like this Solution Series can have. You can take the information, energy and passion that you get from meeting with people who have the same goal of building a stronger economy and use it to power you forward,” said Nathan Huret, economic development director for Catawba County.
Learn more: To get started—or continue—with hiring military talent, check out the extensive resources of the MI’s Heroes MAKE America initiative, which prepares prospective military workers for new and rewarding careers in manufacturing.
The Manufacturing Institute’s 10th annual STEP Ahead Awards took place in Washington, D.C., last week, honoring some of the most impressive and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry today. The Awards are part of the STEP Ahead program, which is designed to help advance women’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, engineering and production.
- The event highlighted the 2022 STEP Ahead Honorees (100 women who are leaders in manufacturing) and the 2022 STEP Ahead Emerging Leaders (30 women under 30 years old who have already had a significant impact on the industry).
The awards ceremony took place on Thursday night, with hundreds of guests in attendance at the National Building Museum and hundreds more viewing the ceremony online. The program featured:
- 2022 STEP Chair and former 3M Senior Vice President Denise Rutherford;
- 2022 STEP Vice Chair and Cornerstone Building Brands President and CEO Rose Lee;
- MI President Carolyn Lee;
- MI Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Inclusion AJ Jorgenson; and
- NAM President and CEO and MI Board Chair Jay Timmons.
Sponsors included an all-star roster of manufacturers, including Arconic Foundation, BASF Corporation, Cornerstone Building Brands, PTC, Trane Technologies, ABB, Molson Coors, Novelis, Rockwell Automation, SABIC, Sherwin-Williams and Toyota.
What they said: Carolyn Lee lauded the Honorees and spoke about the importance of closing the skills gap by bringing more women into the manufacturing industry.
- “My hope is that 10 years down the line, when we meet here for the 20th anniversary of these awards, the young women we will honor won’t have even heard of the glass ceiling, because it’ll be ancient history,” said Lee.
- “And that will be thanks to the support system, the mentorship and the sterling examples set by the women in this room and the support from our allies.”
Rutherford spoke about leaders’ opportunities to work together to make important progress.
- “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that being a great leader, as an individual or as a company, means that we don’t go it alone,” said Rutherford. “True change only happens when we work together as trusted allies, advocates and sponsors.”
Rose Lee laid out the qualities that all the Honorees showed and highlighted their shared successes.
- “The STEP Ahead Awards recognize women in science, technology, engineering and production who exemplify leadership within their companies and within their communities,” said Lee. “Tonight is their night to celebrate their accomplishments.”
Timmons praised the STEP Honorees and called on allies to continue supporting women in the manufacturing industry.
- “Your achievements, your success and your dedication are showing women what’s possible in manufacturing,” he said. “If you can see it, you know you can be it.”
35×30: Carolyn Lee and Jorgenson spoke about the 35×30 initiative—a program designed to close the skills and talent gap in manufacturing by adding half a million women workers to the industry, increasing women’s representation in manufacturing from 29% today to 35% by 2030.
- The campaign will train more than 1,000 women mentors, build new tools and resources and work with manufacturing leaders to deploy proven strategies to attract and retain female talent.
- It will also support young women throughout their education by offering best-in-class leadership development programming and creating a STEP alumnae-funded scholarship.
- “Tonight, we are done with waiting for other leaders to ‘change things,’ to make society better, more equitable,” said Jorgenson. “We are the leaders. So, tonight, we ask you to join us, to lead.”
New commitments: To help this new initiative along its way, Arconic Foundation President Ryan Kish and Ketchie CEO Courtney Silver stood up during the ceremony to pledge new financial commitments to the program.
The last word: The gala featured a stellar musical performance by award-winning singer–songwriter Rachel Platten, which left not a dry eye in the house. Inspired by the women of STEP, she surprised the audience by singing a new song she’d written for her daughters. It captures what the women leaders of today want to tell the girls who will someday be their heirs:
Girls, you were born to run. To reach the stars and chase the sun.
Girls, you’re wild and free. The wind is at your back, the world is at your feet.
The big number: 74.4% of respondents in the Q2 NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey cited the inability to attract and retain workers as their primary business concern, even amid signs of a cooling labor market. This is the third consecutive quarter in which this concern appeared at the top of respondents’ list.
- In the previous survey, more than 59% of manufacturers said that not having enough employees would impact their ability to make investments or expand.
Manufacturing: Manufacturing employment rose by 7,000 in June, continuing to seesaw from month to month over the year to date.
- The sector added just 15,000 workers during the first six months of 2023, slowing materially after adding a robust 385,000 and 390,000 employees in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
- More positively, there were 12,989,000 manufacturing employees in June, just shy of February’s total of 12,988,000, which was the most since November 2008.
Nonfarm payrolls: Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 209,000 in June, slowing from 306,000 in April but still a good figure. The U.S. economy has added 1,669,000 workers through the first half of 2023, a robust pace.
- The unemployment rate edged down from 3.7% in May to 3.6% in June, as the economy remains at or near “full employment.”
- The number of employed workers increased from 160,721,000 in May to 160,994,000 in June, which was not far from April’s record level (161,031,000). Those who were unemployed declined from 6,097,000 to 5,957,000.
- The labor force participation rate remained at 62.6% for the fourth straight month, the best rate since March 2020.
Job openings: There were 604,000 manufacturing job openings in May, down from 668,000 in April and the lowest level since February 2021. Even with the overall labor market remaining solid, the number of job postings in the sector continues to cool notably, as expected.
- Total quits in the manufacturing sector rose to 293,000 in May, an 11-month high. In addition, total quits in the overall economy increased to 4.015,000, the most since December.
- With that said, layoffs in the manufacturing sector have also risen, up to 139,000 in May, the highest level since July 2020.
- Meanwhile, nonfarm business job openings declined from 10,320,000 in April to 9,824,000 in May, a solid reading. In May, there were 62.1 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in the U.S. economy.
Wages: The average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers in manufacturing jumped 1.0% to $26.41 in June, with 5.6% growth over the past 12 months, up from 4.7% in May.
➔ Key takeaway: Manufacturers continue to cite an inability to attract and retain workers as their top challenge. While there are signs that the labor market is cooling, both for manufacturers and the macroeconomy, employment remains not far from a 15-year high while wage growth continues to increase very solidly.
Which manufacturing sectors experienced the most growth in job openings over the past year? We used Lightcast™ to dive into the 789,969 unique job postings for the past 12 months (May 2022 to May 2023) and organized by North American Industrial Classification (NAICS) codes. In this case, we are better able to understand what sectors are experiencing the most growth. As a reminder, the data get more granular with increased digits.
The top manufacturing sectors over the past 12 months at the 3-digit NAICS level, ordered by the number of unique postings, were:
- Computer and Electronic Products (NAICS 334) – 103,507 unique postings
- Transportation Equipment (NAICS 336) – 93,075
- Food Manufacturing (NAICS 311) – 78,397
- Machinery (NAICS 333)– 74,193
- Chemicals (NAICS 325) – 72,254
The top manufacturing sectors over the past 12 months at the 4-digit NAICS level, ordered by the number of unique postings:
- Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing (NAICS 3345) – 66,411 unique postings
- Beverage Manufacturing (NAICS 3121) – 54,837
- Aerospace Products and Parts (NAICS 3364) – 40,541
- Pharmaceuticals and Medicines (NAICS 3254) – 27,442
- Motor Vehicle Manufacturing (NAICS 3361) – 25,006
➔ The takeaway: Though growth in manufacturing has been broad-based, many of the sectors leading job creation over the past year require advanced skills and yield high salaries. Looking at only the top five 4-digit NAICS manufacturing sectors list above, the median advertised salaries for those five sectors over the past 12 months was $36.12 per hour.
* Lightcast™ data accessed on June 16, 2023.
Speaking of the importance of flexibility, a Harvard Business Review survey of 5,700 onsite US workers in industries like manufacturing, transportation and health care found a mismatch between the flexibility options that companies provide and what employees actually want.
What companies are offering: The most common flexibility options that onsite workers reported were relaxed dress code (55%), flexible start and end times (33%) and choice over hours they worked (31%).
What onsite workers want: When asked what flexibility options they would change jobs to get, onsite workers reported increased paid time off or vacation time (57%) and four-day work weeks (44%).
Employee engagement matters: People with engaging work and one week of vacation report 25% higher well-being than actively disengaged workers who have six or more weeks of vacation, according to Gallup research.
- Among those with fully onsite work responsibilities, Gallup finds that those with a four-day work week report lower active disengagement and higher overall well-being.
Lack of flexibility is a top workforce challenge for employees, according to a recent report released by the MI. To address this concern and help employees attract and retain more workers, the MI has been convening manufacturing leaders to discuss flexibility solutions, identify what’s working and share insights. Here are some of the key takeaways.
The shop floor challenge: Flexible work arrangements for shop floor workers are different from those offered to office staff or remote workers, as manufacturers must fulfill in-person production requirements and timelines.
- Companies have gotten creative, testing out different options including compressed work weeks, rotating schedules, flex scheduling, shift swapping and phased retirements.
A data-driven approach: Participants in the MI’s working group conducted surveys to gauge the types of flexibility their employees wanted. Companies then assessed production needs before determining what flexibility options they would test, sometimes with the help of a consultant.
- One company collected data on recruitment and retention as part of their pilot to help evaluate its effectiveness.
- Other companies utilized employee engagement surveys to assess the success of their pilots.
Support system: Companies in the working group talked about the importance of creating support structures for flexibility plans.
- For example, one company hired a training and scheduling coordinator to manage their new systems. Others employed technology platforms to organize shifts.
- Supervisors also needed to be trained to handle new systems and manage flexibility requests while meeting production demands, the participants noted.
Stay tuned: The MI is planning to release a white paper based on the working group discussions in the fall.
This year’s biggest celebration of manufacturing is coming up soon in October—and manufacturers who want to take part should start planning now.
On MFG Day—Friday, Oct. 6—and throughout the rest of the month, manufacturing companies, community colleges and associations will have their best opportunity to show young people all the industry has to offer them, via factory visits, career fairs and more. So how can companies make the most of it?
Recently, the Manufacturing Institute—the NAM’s 501(c)3 nonprofit workforce development and education affiliate—hosted a webinar to share tips, insights and resources for companies interested in putting on their own MFG Day events.
The participants: The webinar, titled “Making the Most of Your Event,” was hosted by MI Director of Student Engagement Jen White. It included presentations and insights from GenMet Corporation CEO Eric Isbister and American Honda Motor Co. Assistant Manager of Government and Industry Relations Meredith Reffey.
Find your event: Manufacturers can engage in a range of different kinds of events—from career fairs to school visits to challenges and competitions.
- The most common MFG Day event is a facility tour or open house, which allows students, educators and parents to see firsthand the work that manufacturers do every day.
- But whether a manufacturer opens their doors for a tour or designs a “Parents’ Night” for family members, the most important thing is to find an authentic way to connect with community members, the panelists recommended.
- “If you are reaching students and educators, parents, even community members, then you’re … growing awareness of manufacturing and hopefully exciting folks about potentially working in the industry,” said White.
Show yourself: According to Isbister, the first priority of an MFG Day event should simply be to present careers in manufacturing as a viable option for community members.
- “We’ve had over 3,000 students tour here, and our goal … is to let them know that manufacturing exists,” said Isbister. “Most of them don’t, most parents don’t. Most teachers and guidance counselors and school board members don’t have the faintest idea of what we do. And when they walk in the building, their jaws hit the ground, and they’re excited to see things.”
Expand the circle: While engaging students is important, companies should be sure to invite others in the community as well, Isbister said.
- “Don’t just invite students [to your event], but teachers and guidance counselors and administrative people and school board members,” said Isbister. “If you get a student, you got one. If you get a teacher, you got 24. If you get a school board member, you’ve got the person with the pen who can authorize things—and that’s important, too.”
Know your audience: According to Reffey, it’s critical to meet audiences where they are.
- One of the most important lessons Honda has learned from past events is that high school audiences respond well to hands-on activities—particularly those that have an element of competition. By offering activities that the audience enjoys, manufacturers can amp up excitement and promote more engagement.
- “High school students can act very ‘too cool’—but if you set things up as a competition, they break out of their shells,” said Reffey. “Put a racing simulator in front of ’em, they seem to come unglued. They get so excited to participate.”
Get involved: The MI has a range of resources designed to help manufacturers create effective events—and White emphasized that those resources are open and available to all manufacturers interested in using them.
- “Being involved with MFG Day, hosting events, using the branding that’s available on the website, registering your events on MFGday.com and all of our resources and toolkits are 100% free to you,” said White. “You do not have to be an MFG Day sponsor. You do not have to be an NAM member. It is 100% free for you to use. We want as many companies and partners of manufacturers involved in MFG Day as possible.”
Learn more: Manufacturers are encouraged to reach out with any questions to [email protected].