The American Manufacturing Mission of Michele Nash-Hoff

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I recently spoke with Michele Nash-Hoff, president of ElectroFab Sales and author of four books, about her relentless drive to bring manufacturing back to America. The COVID pandemic raised awareness of supply chain vulnerabilities, and now more people are paying attention. She shares her growing concerns along with some possible solutions. 

Barry Matties: You're on a mission to bring manufacturing back to America. Tell me what you’re doing.

Michele Nash-Hoff: It's my mission and my life. I've actually been working on this since the 1990s. I've been on the board of the San Diego Inventors Forum for 10 years; I'm on the board of the American Jobs Alliance; and I was chair of the California chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America for five years. I'm now vice president of a new nonprofit called Industry Reimagined 2030. The goal is to dramatically increase the number of competitive American manufacturers by 2030.

Matties: What sort of support are you getting for this?

Nash-Hoff: For a long time, I felt like I was a voice in the wilderness. But the pandemic was a wakeup call and more people are aware that our country is not self-sufficient in producing what it needs. We need to pay attention; our national security is at risk. There are more and more people, even Congress, now paying attention to what the Coalition for a Prosperous America is saying. One of the first initiatives in Industry Reimagined has been to look at Lean manufacturing and why more manufacturers haven’t become Lean. We put together a working group of 20 industry experts to reimagine Lean, to make it easier to implement and understand, get faster results, and be less expensive to go through.

Matties: That makes perfect sense; you have reduced waste, lowered cost, and increased yield.

Nash-Hoff: Yes. I earned my Total Quality Management Certification in the ’90s and became certified in Lean manufacturing in 2014. I'm a big believer in how it helps companies be more efficient and competitive, add to their capacity, and bring manufacturing back to the United States. I've been affiliated with Harry Moser of the Reshoring Initiative since he started it in 2010. I've delivered hundreds of presentations on the total cost of ownership.

Matties: When you talk about bringing American manufacturing back, do you mean starting new companies, reshoring, or a combination?

Nash-Hoff: I mean reshoring. We've reshored about 1.2 million jobs in 10 years, but we lost 5.8 million, so we still have a long way to go. We have a deficit. It's mostly the multinational corporations at fault. 

Matties: An argument could be made, and I’m not defending one way or the other, that they're manufacturing where they're selling products.

Nash-Hoff: That’s not true. They went to China thinking they could do that, but it's been very difficult. Even though China has this huge population, it’s actually a smaller percentage (than the United States) of the population that can afford to buy American-made products. We're the largest market in the world, and everybody wants to be here. Why do we have Toyota, Kia, and BMW building plants here? It’s because they realize the benefits of being closer to their biggest market: their customer base. Our multinational corporations did it for short-term profits; they wanted to maximize profits and the return on investment for their investors. But it came with the consequences of losing the technology to Chinese companies; they steal our intellectual property. They learned how to do it, put in their own plants, and now they're making products in direct competition to the companies that offshored to China for their manufacturing.

Matties: Is national security your main motivation? I would think it ranks high on your list.

Nash-Hoff: It is high on the list, but manufacturing jobs helped create the middle class. They're still the foundation in the middle class. If we lose manufacturing, we lose the middle class.

Matties: An argument can be made that manufacturing jobs are going to the robots, so how many jobs are we really getting back?

Nash-Hoff: There are new blue-collar jobs being created with Industry 4.0 technologies. When we have the skills needed, we'll still have a shortage of skilled workers. If we don’t address it, there will be a shortage of, I believe, two million workers by 2030. I've written extensively about workforce training. We need more apprenticeship programs, and the community colleges around the country have stepped up to provide that kind of training. But only one corporation, Toyota—which is not even an American company—has really gotten behind it with its FAME USA program focused on workforce training.

Matties: What advice would you give to an organization looking for workforce training? What should they do?

Nash-Hoff: They should go to their nearest community college and work with them, because building a coalition of local manufacturers to work with the community colleges is how they've established apprenticeship programs in states like North and South Carolina. That's the way they're doing it.

Matties: That's great advice to build a coalition and not just go at it alone. What general advice do you have for technologists in our industry today?

Nash-Hoff: You need to plan for the future. We must again become a country where we're inventing and making things here, not inventing it here and making it overseas.

Matties: Thank you.

Nash-Hoff: My pleasure.



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