Since its inception more than 126 years ago, Emerson has been a leading voice for manufacturers across the globe. Emerson now has a stronger opportunity than ever before to make an impact on manufacturing—through Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David Farr.
Farr recently began a two-year term as chairman of the board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the largest manufacturing association in the United States. This prestigious new role builds upon Farr’s longtime NAM advocacy, which has led to legislative victories in key international trade issues.
Question: Emerson has a history of strong involvement with the National Association of Manufacturers, and your chairmanship will only grow that connection. Why was this the right time for a more prominent partnership between Emerson and NAM?
David Farr: I have a lot of respect for the important work done by NAM, and its tireless advocacy on behalf of over 12 million men and women who work in manufacturing across the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with NAM on an issue that is close to my heart: the continued strength of U.S. manufacturing.
Manufacturing makes such a significant impact in the world: innovating for customers, providing jobs for employees and their families, and giving back in meaningful ways to our communities and the country. We have an exciting opportunity ahead of us, to work together and refine how our country sees and supports manufacturing. We can rekindle that feeling of achievement and pride among our people and reignite the potential of manufacturing—to leave the world in a better place than we found it.
Emerson also has a special connection to some of the hotbeds of manufacturing resurgence and innovation in the country. Austin, Texas, is home to an important Emerson Automation Solutions facility—a key part of our business. It’s also ranked as one of the best places to do business and start a business, thanks in no small part to its growing knowledge workforce and leading innovation companies. I’m delighted that Emerson facilities in Austin hosted the kickoff of NAM’s 2017 “State of Manufacturing” tour, sharing insights and promoting dialogue across the industry.
Question: “Manufacturing” is a broad area that touches many industries. What are some of the top priorities that will make the biggest impact across the board in the United States?
David Farr: We have an incredibly skilled and dedicated workforce, but the unfortunate reality is that U.S. manufacturers too often find themselves at an unfair disadvantage. We must bring a laser focus to creating a level field of play and a fair and open trade environment to our manufacturing partners.
Through countless conversations with manufacturers, we’ve heard loud and clear that their biggest priorities are tax reform, regulatory reform, infrastructure investment and education and training.
These are complex issues, but NAM is working closely with policymakers to address them in a thoughtful, strategic way. The impact of not fixing some of these issues is significant. Take infrastructure, for instance. Right now, the U.S. ranks 16th in the world in infrastructure quality. If we don’t fix our infrastructure crisis, we’ll lose 2.5 million jobs by 2025—because of that issue alone. A well-managed, thoughtful infrastructure program would drive massive productivity gains for the economy and improve quality of life for tens of millions of Americans.
Question: Technology has so drastically impacted our daily lives. What has this evolving technology meant for manufacturing?
David Farr: Technology has been a tremendous benefit to manufacturing. There’s a mistaken belief that technology is stealing jobs from people, but technology is actually “future-proofing” jobs and careers. We’ve seen it firsthand as Emerson works with customers to help implement real-time monitoring and Internet of Things solutions. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be invested in the Internet of Things this year alone—and our industrial customers at Emerson are eager for new ideas on how to leverage its power.
Today, technology largely is the core foundation of the job in manufacturing. Where we trained people to perform manual processes before, we’re now encouraging and training skilled workers who know how to work with today’s technologies in modern manufacturing.
Knowledgeable, skilled workers are more vital than ever before, but we have a skills gap to overcome as the workforce adjusts to the new, technology-focused manufacturing jobs of today. The number of unfilled openings for manufacturing jobs in 2016 was the highest in 15 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. We know there are more than 350,000 manufacturing jobs available today, making it crucial to prepare our workers for the evolving needs of the industry.
The transforming needs of the workforce have also reinforced the importance of inspiring boys and girls, at a young age, to explore the infinite possibilities of studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Significant investments in time, energy and funding are being made today by manufacturers—including Emerson—in organizations, schools and communities to engage our best and brightest at a young age.
Question: What inspires you about the future of manufacturing and the partnership with NAM?
David Farr: I have worked in manufacturing for nearly my entire life, and I’m excited about our ability as business leaders to create new opportunities for growth and forge new paths to strengthen this great country.
The industry is optimistic about new policy directions and a renewed focus. U.S. manufacturing is truly poised for a resurgence that can be sustained well into the future, if we are smart about it. The steps we take and decisions we make together today will largely shape the outcome and determine our future success.