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March 23, 2020 APPI Energy is committed to monitoring the COVID-19 developments and how it is affecting the current energy markets and what that means for the foreseeable future. We are dedicated to serving our clients and making the best recommendations based on the market and client needs, even in the most uncertain of times. Last week, the prompt-month (April) natural gas contract closed Friday, March 13 th , at $1.87/MMBtu. Pressuring prices downward, natural gas demand is likely to decline on a combination of spring-like weather engulfing most of the country coupled with a likely reduction in demand from COVID-19. Total U.S. consumption of natural gas ...
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As I write this, there are nearly a quarter of a million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally. This pandemic has challenged businesses around the world to develop innovative ways of working, including having employees work from home in order to minimize the spread of the virus.  While telework is not a new concept for some employees, the surge in this practice is deeply disruptive to many, especially as an employee’s job normally provides access to the in-person social engagement so necessary for well-being. Psychologists expect that conditions of extreme stress, as have been experienced over the past weeks, will contribute to sharp increases in anxiety ...
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NAM Monday Economic Report   Clues on the Economic Damage from COVID-19 Emerge Weekly initial unemployment claims  jumped from 211,000 to 281,000, the highest level since September 2017. This figure will spike dramatically this week, likely approaching 1 million, with more businesses being forced to close or reduce activity and both firms and consumers pulling back on spending outside of the home. The data released last week foreshadowed the economic damage that will likely emerge over the coming weeks. Manufacturing activity in the  New York  and  Philadelphia  Federal Reserve Bank districts both pulled back sharply in March, ...
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MTI Spring Meeting MTI's leadership has been meeting weekly to track and discuss the latest data and developments on the Coronavirus and its impact on MTI members.  After much discussion, MTI's Board of Trustees has decided to cancel the 2020 Spring Meeting in Sonoma, CA.  MTI is working out details with the hotel to reschedule the Sonoma location for the 2022 Spring Meeting.  Please see notes below on registration fees and hotel rooms. REGISTRATION FEES MTI will refund 100% of all paid registration fees to all members who were registered. HOTEL ROOMS If you had a hotel room booked please call the host hotel :   The Lodge ...
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Monday Economic Report

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Outlook Worries Send Rates to Historic Lows Despite Federal Reserve Action Financial markets continued to be rocked by concerns about the coronavirus outbreak and the negative impacts on economic activity and the outlook. Global equity markets have pushed further into contraction territory, and investors are flocking to the safety of bonds. As a result, Treasury yields and  mortgage rates  have hit historic new lows. On the positive side, lower rates have led to  sharp increases  in mortgage applications and refinancing activity. The Federal Open Market Committee  reduced  the target federal funds rate as an emergency response on March 3, suggesting ...
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As organizations continue to invest in building out IoT environments, a failure to secure mobile access could prove disastrous.   While cybersecurity breaches understandably result in data exposure, the extenuating circumstances can prove far more extensive, especially for today’s highly connected enterprise. According to the recent Verizon 2020 Mobile Security Index, a mobile security compromise, in particular can have a range of other consequences such as downtime, supply chain delays, lost business, damage to reputation, and regulatory fines. “We definitely see that mobile security as a threat vector is increasing considerably with just about 40% of ...
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Daily stand-up meetings might be the quickest way to waste your time as a leader. Here’s why a daily stand-up meeting doesn’t work and what to do instead. “Is this daily stand-up meeting over yet?”   The meeting is only 8 minutes in and no one has uttered those words outright…. but they don’t need to. Each of your team members’ faces is blank. Mouths are moving, shaping the words, “what I worked on” and “what my blockers are,” but no one is truly listening. This is the reality of   daily stand-up meetings , and it might be   your   reality as a manager.   As a manager, you’ve likely witnessed this first-hand. Your daily stand-up meetings have ...
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Below are three innovative ways that organizations are investing in their employees to set themselves up for the next decade, while protecting themselves from the current manufacturing downturn. Staffing shortages, tightening margins, and a widening generational skills gap currently threaten the manufacturing sector. Although the industry has historically been a driving force for the American economy, new data suggests the need for companies to look for innovative ways to invest and compete in the next decade.  According to data from the  Bureau of Economic Analysis , manufacturing is now the smallest share of the U.S. economy. The industry currently ...
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In a time of growing public concern, CEOs should be a voice of reason. Thankfully, facts are on your side. When is a   Black Swan   really a Lame Duck in disguise? The question seems pertinent following the news reporting on COVID-19, the pathogen associated with the Coronavirus outbreak. For weeks, the news media has whipped up fears over the virus. While its 2,700 fatalities and 80,000 infected people are an unfolding human tragedy, the numbers are a trifle of the 400,000 deaths and 3 million to 5 million infections annually attributed to a more common virus, Influenza. This comparison does not imply that COVID-19 is not a health crisis worthy of media ...
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Many generations of older Windows systems are still widely used in industrial Internet of things (IIoT) and industrial control system (ICS) installations. The fact that Windows 7 reached end-of-life last month only broadens the  already-vulnerable attack surfaces of IIoT and ICS  networks and gives hackers even greater opportunity to infect them with malware and disrupt operations. They’ve already started. Earlier this month, TrapX Security  found  a new malware campaign targeting IoT devices running embedded Windows 7 at several global manufacturing sites. The malware uses a self-spreading downloader to run malicious scripts. These can interfere with the ...
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Inadequate backup plans and limited supply chains have put the automotive industry in an especially tenuous position for surviving the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to two analysts studying the situation. Should the situation extend close to the first day of Spring, the effects of that lack of preparedness could become especially acute. The virus, first discovered in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31, 2019 has already killed 2,129 people as of Feb. 20 according to the   World Health Organization.   All but three of those deaths are in China, but the coronavirus has been detected in people in 27 countries. The outbreak has caused automakers and suppliers ...
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Work-based learning programs, apprenticeships, and daycare options are gaining traction. The growing demand for a skilled manufacturing workforce becomes more apparent as global competition increases and products and processes become more complex. Solving manufacturing problems in this new era of globalization and digitization requires diversity of thought, skill, and background, and women are valuable in these environments. However,  according to the latest U.S. Census , women make up just under half of the working population in the United States, but account for only 29% of the manufacturing workforce. The lack of female representation in manufacturing ...
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Safety leadership is the bedrock of any world-class operation.   Safety culture is the shared beliefs, experiences, attitudes, and passions of a group of people. A world-class safety culture in a work environment is a way of life and a belief to send all employees safely back home every day—and in the process, help the company make money, showing to senior executives that safety makes good business sense. It is an outstanding safety culture that proactively manages employee and business safety decision-making. It is an environment that allows management and employees to make decisions based on what is the right thing to do both for safety and running ...
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Continued Progress Globally, but with Risks from Coronavirus The Monthly Toplines Prior to the ongoing novel coronavirus global health outbreak, the Chinese economy was starting to show signs of stabilization. Manufacturing activity expanded for the sixth straight month, despite the  Caixin China General Manufacturing PMI  slipping from 51.5 in December to 51.1 in January.  Real GDP  grew 6.0% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, the same pace as in the third quarter. But that remains the slowest pace of growth in China since the first quarter of 1992. First quarter growth is likely to weaken materially.  The bulk of the sentiment ...
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Blockchain technology will enable both manufacturers and their customers to watch products move through the supply chain. Blockchain is being used today to track products and their ingredients backwards and forwards through every stage of the supply chain. In addition to improving responsiveness to product recalls, companies can ensure product quality and shorten delivery times, while also enabling customers to watch in real-time as their items move through their manufacturing lifecycle. The concept of Blockchain technology is simple. Every time factories, distributors, shippers, warehouses, and retail stores log a transaction related to an item, such ...
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Last week I attended the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Board of Directors Meeting located in Washington DC. NAM, celebrating its 125 th year as an association, had an outstanding agenda for this meeting. The speakers included Vice President Mike Pence (R), General “Fighting Joe” Dunford Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD), Betsy DeVos US Secretary of Education, and Ivanka Trump Advisor to the President. It is quite obvious that NAM gets the attention of all lawmakers, both inside and outside the Beltway, and is an influential advocate for business in ...
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Because industrial control systems (ICS) security is complicated, it is vital to have comprehensive defenses.  In traditional cybersecurity, a breach can expose, corrupt, or even hold enterprise data systems captive.  While a traditional data breach can cost money and debilitate enterprise IT systems, a cyberattack on industrial control systems can affect mission-critical data and operations. Given that industrial control systems control everything from nuclear power plants to refineries, power grids, factories, and heavy equipment, ICS security is vital.  While IT systems are hardware in software in traditional enterprise settings, industrial control ...
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AI has become a buzzword for most recent tech releases. Question is whether or not it's living up to the hype. Hype is a crucial component to introducing any emerging technology into the marketplace. It draws attention and, in many instances, entices organizations to come out onto the bleeding edge.  However, at some point, manufacturers need to move beyond the hype and realize the return on their investment.   A recent report by Lux Research,   Artificial Intelligence: A Framework to Identify Challenges and Guide Successful Outcomes ,   takes a deeper look at the current state of AI. The goal was to provide companies with an outcome-focused framework ...
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Finding solutions to close the manufacturing skills gap through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The skilled labor shortage is nothing new. Depending on who you ask, this problem goes back several years or several decades, and it’s getting worse all the time. In 2006 and 2007, many marveled when the unemployment rate dipped below 5%. As of November 2019, it had not exceeded 4% in the previous 20 months.  At the FABTECH® 2019 expo, which ran Nov. 11-14, many fabricators indicated that they had just about given up on finding skilled workers to fill technical positions. It’s not just a problem for those in manufacturing—this problem is ...
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Why building a digitally enabled supply chain is hard, and what to do about it. In an earlier article,   we looked at an inconvenient truth of supply-chain technology: the modern supply chain is still a fundamentally human endeavor. Smart algorithms may be able to generate faster, more accurate demand forecasts, for example, but executing against those forecasts requires the combined effort and alignment of hundreds of individuals across the organization, each with their own preconceptions, incentives, biases, motivations, and limitations. In that article, we argued that understanding the importance of the human factor presents an opportunity for companies ...
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