FRI AM News: Foxconn says digital transformation is manufacturing future; “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Vanessa Miller, Foley & Lardner

— Foxconn Technology Group’s vice chairman says digital transformation is the future for Wisconsin manufacturing.

At the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce “Made in Wisconsin” Luncheon this week, keynote speaker Jay Lee described the three core elements of the manufacturing industry’s future: digital transformation, industrial artificial intelligence and a smart manufacturing workforce.

Foxconn is based on smart, precision manufacturing. Its products vary from the iPhone to health care devices. Lee attributed the company’s quick adjustment during COVID-19 to making masks and ventilators being agile in the digital space.

Lee explained that industrial internet can find data on any weaknesses in the manufacturing system, like a health check, that the company can then take action to improve. 

Digital transformation is using the data over experience to make decisions, he said. Data is evidence that can be learned by people quickly and in turn prevents future mistakes by establishing baseline problem solving. 

“Today, there are many experienced people retired. Now, all the new coming young workforce, they have to repeat the same thing for another 10, 20 years to become experts, take too long,” he said. “Take the data driven approach to provide enough evidence for decisions people make. Eventually, anybody can repeat that success or to avoid the failure we have done.”

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— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Vanessa Miller, partner and co-chair of Foley & Lardner’s coronavirus task force and supply chain team. 

Miller also co-authored the firm’s recent supply chain disruption and strategies report. The report draws on responses from nearly 150 manufacturing executives in a survey conducted by Foley & Lardner.

One of four takeaways from the survey is companies moving away from just-in-time manufacturing models. These models are popular because the manufacturer doesn’t need warehousing or to worry about large stocks of inventory, Miller said.

“On the other hand … it’s a risky model if there is any hiccup in the supply chain,” she said. “We’re learning that companies are considering whether it’s best to have some inventory on hand, some buffer, to ensure that they’re not so tied to receiving just-in-time inventory from their supply chain partners.”

The other takeaways highlighted in Foley & Lardner’s report include putting less reliance on China for materials supplies, building more transparency into supply chains and adopting technology and innovation at a faster pace.

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Wisconsin added 23,800 total non-farm jobs in the month of September, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.4 percent from August’s revised 6.3 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate peaked in April at 13.6 percent as a result of the COVID-19 economic shutdown. Now, Wisconsin is at levels last seen in the summer of 2014.

Wisconsin also added 13,700 private-sector jobs in the month of September, the Department of Workforce Development released yesterday.

The Badger State continues to have a lower unemployment rate than the national average by more than two percentage points, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in September, down from August’s 8.4.

— DATCP will continue its pilot hemp program for another year. 

Under federal rules, the hemp pilot research program was scheduled to end on Oct. 31. The recently signed “Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extension Act”, allows states to extend their hemp pilot research programs until Sept. 30, 2021.

The department has determined that the hemp research program currently provides the Wisconsin hemp industry the greatest opportunity at this time. DATCP is in the process of extending the current hemp program operated under the authority of the 2014 Farm Bill to Sept. 30, 2021, the agency announced yesterday. 

DATCP must set up a new emergency rule in order to extend the current hemp program in Wisconsin and convert the current pilot program licenses and registrations to the continuing program. The conversion will occur automatically at no cost without any action necessary by licensees.

— The 10th annual Wisconsin Science Festival is underway at UW-Madison and around the globe with more than 100 virtual events.

From the novel coronavirus to food sciences — topics and events will also include a few opportunities to get out safely with others. The 2020 Wisconsin Science Festival will wrap up on Sunday.

Festival-goers can look forward to hands-on science experiments, live Q&A with scientists, demonstrations, performances, podcasts, behind-the-scenes tours and up-to-the-minute information about what Wisconsin researchers are learning about COVID-19. 

Check the Wisconsin Science Festival website for more detailed information about the full festival schedule: 

— Nearly 90 percent of UW-Madison undergraduates are completing their degrees within six years, setting a school record and exceeding other major public research universities.

According to the latest data from the university’s Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research, UW-Madison’s six-year graduation rate is now 88.5 percent, up from 87.6 percent the prior year. The latest figure is based on freshmen who entered the university in 2014.

An institution’s six-year graduation rate is the most common national metric used in higher education. UW-Madison’s rate exceeds last year’s peer average of 81.8 percent by nearly seven points.

The four-year graduation rate also improved at UW-Madison. For students who entered as new freshmen in 2016, the rate rose to 71.2 percent, the first time the figure has topped 70 percent. The rate is a 10-point increase from five years ago and is substantially higher than last year’s average for other peer institutions.  

“These are key measures of student success and help increase the affordability of a college education for our Wisconsin families,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Read more on the latest metrics here: 

— Six communities were selected for the new Broadband Connectors Pilot program group. 

They are: Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Ho-Chunk Nation, School District of Owen-Withee, Town of Cross, St Croix County and Fond du Lac County.

The joint pilot program will help provide technical assistance to help these communities apply for federal, state and private-sector broadband expansion funds, according to yesterday’s announcement by Gov. Tony Evers, the Public Service Commission and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

“As families, business owners, and communities across the state continue to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for affordable, accessible high-speed broadband is perhaps more important now than ever,” Evers said. “This joint program will provide critical support and resources to help local communities get connected.”

WEDC has identified broadband as one of the three key opportunities to help Wisconsin businesses recover from the pandemic.

“Throughout the listening sessions of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity this summer, residents came with one consistent message: they need broadband to stay connected for jobs, education, and healthcare,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “This pilot program will provide us with important lessons on how we can better use existing resources to fill in the gaps in coverage and reach more communities.”

— The State of Wisconsin Building Commission approved  $73 million in key projects across the state. 

Highlights of the approvals include renovation projects at the Central Wisconsin Center, Appleton Readiness Center and four UW schools; and preliminary designs of projects at the Madison Armed Forces Reserve Center Motor Vehicle Storage Building and Wisconsin Resource Center.

It will also include 20 repair projects located in 13 counties across the state for several executive agencies and the UW-System.

— Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm says “Wisconsin is in crisis” as the state reports a new record of 3,747 new COVID-19 cases in one day.

The seven-day average for single-day confirmed cases has more than quadrupled in six weeks from about 700 to almost 3,000. 

The state also reports 17 new deaths due to the virus, bringing the seven-day average to 18 deaths per day, almost double that of a month ago. Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll is now at 1,553.

As far as where these new cases are coming from, Palm said “at this point, the intensity of our community spread makes it really difficult to trace it back to a single source.” 

“Wisconsin is in crisis and we need to take this seriously,” she said yesterday in a health briefing. “It is up to all of us to take action to prevent further spread and help Wisconsin get through this.”

Iowa and Lafayette counties reported their first COVID-19 deaths yesterday. Milwaukee County leads the state’s count with 554 reported deaths followed by Racine County with 101 deaths and Waukesha County at 100 deaths.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— As COVID-19 hospitalizations break records daily, the Wisconsin State Fair Park Alternate Care Facility has yet to see patients in its second day of operation.

Palm said that yesterday, “We haven’t had any admissions thus far to the Alternate Care Facility.”

She said that the ACF is in close contact with hospitals discussing patient counts and the workload hospitals are seeing in anticipation of what might happen today. 

Hospitalizations are at an all-time high of 1,017 patients, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s coronavirus data dashboard. Intensive care units are also strained with 246 patients.

Southeast Wisconsin is operating at over 90 percent of its bed capacity, including intensive care unit bed capacity, according to DHS’ data.

Every region in the state is reporting staffing shortages, Palm said. The surge in hospitalizations is due to the surge in confirmed cases in early September, she added.

— The state health department’s weekly surveillance update marks 57 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties as “very high” for COVID-19 activity. The rest of the counties are ranked “high.” 

The state as a whole has a “very high” COVID-19 activity rate, “very high” burden of cases and a growing trajectory of cases. Wisconsin saw a 26 percent case increase in the two-week period leading up to Tuesday.

Milwaukee, Brown, Dane, Waukesha and Outagamie counties have the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the state. But only Brown County is in the top five for the highest infection rate.

Brown County has an infection rate of 48.1 cases per 1,000 people. In seven days, Brown County added 170 COVID-19 cases. The county has a cumulative total of 12,519 confirmed cases.

The second-highest infection rate in the state is Menominee County at 44.3 cases per 1,000 people. Its cases number 194, an increase of 20 over last week.

Oconto County’s infection rate is at 43 cases per 1,000 people. It added 57 cases in one week for a cumulative 1,634 confirmed cases. Shawano County also has 43 cases per 1,000 people. It added 131 cases in seven days for a cumulative 1,773 confirmed cases.

The fifth-highest infection rate in the state is Forest County at 42.3 cases per 1,000 people. Its cases number 388, an increase of four cases in seven days.

The state’s average infection ratio is 28.1 cases per 1,000 people.

See DHS’ data dashboard with county and regional breakdowns here: 

— Wisconsin tribes adjacent to or within counties identified as hotspots are also experiencing similar COVID-19 surges, according to the Department of Health Services.

The tracking that the Bemidji Area Indian Health Services is maintaining for the Wisconsin region shows that as of Oct. 8, the COVID-19 positive test rate among tribes was 12.6 percent. That means that 12.6 percent of the people tested for COVID-19 received a positive test result.

DHS data show that American Indians account for roughly 1 percent of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases (2,008) and deaths (19). American Indians account for 1.2 percent of the state’s population, according to the latest Census.


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