Lakeshore Advantage receives $92K to support Industry 4.0

Koops Automation Systems Courtesy Lakeshore Advantage

Lakeshore Advantage and its West Michigan economic development partners have received grant funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to increase area manufacturers’ Industry 4.0 readiness.

The Zeeland-based economic development agency said last week that it received $92,787 in grant funding from the Michigan Strategic Fund of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to increase manufacturers’ Industry 4.0 technology adoption readiness. Implementing Industry 4.0 technologies into operations helps manufacturers by creating opportunities for improved efficiency, higher revenues and increased innovation.

“With 1 in 3 of our region’s jobs in manufacturing, Industry 4.0 technologies are critical to West Michigan’s economic and job growth,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “This grant supercharges initiatives to secure our region’s place as an Industry 4.0 leader, recognizing West Michigan as the place to be for leading-edge manufacturing technologies. We are grateful to the MEDC for funding this initiative and are looking forward to working with employers, smart manufacturing implementers and regional partners as we focus on our region’s industry success.”

Lakeshore Advantage applied for the grant in partnership with The Right Place, Greater Muskegon Economic Development (GMED) and Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center-West (The Center-West). The partnership will allow for the Industry 4.0 readiness initiative to be extended to Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties’ employers. The partners are providing $21,400 of in-kind match to this project.

“This is a great example of what can be achieved when we work together as a region to support our businesses in the area,” said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place. “Together with partners, we will bring state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 resources to our region’s manufacturers, increase their global competitiveness and drive new prosperity in our community.”

The economic development partners will assess the stage of Industry 4.0 adoption of the region’s manufacturers and direct them to the appropriate Industry 4.0 implementation partners, including The Center-West.

“For over 25 years, The Center’s program has been a valued regional resource for manufacturers in West Michigan,” said Justine Burdette, vice president of technical services at The Right Place and regional director for The Center-West. “This new Industry 4.0 assessment provides tremendous value no matter where a manufacturer is on their technology journey. It provides a complete road map, recommending both current and future technology improvements throughout the production value chain.”

The grant will enable tools to be created, including a readiness assessment and awareness campaign with informational videos and a website. These new resources will make Industry 4.0 and its benefits relevant to area manufacturers and connect them with the next steps to implement new technologies.

“We know that right now, the biggest challenge our manufacturers face is their inability to find and retain qualified workers. One strategy to help address this is to implement Industry 4.0 practices, and to become as efficient as possible with the people they already have,” said Morgan Carroll, director of business development for GMED. “These funds will allow companies in our region to learn about Industry 4.0 and apply its principles to improve their productivity and reduce the impact the current workforce shortage is having on their business.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund last week approved nearly $2 million in grants for 10 nonprofit organizations around the state to provide regional Industry 4.0 programming and services. The funding is part of an MEDC-led effort to ensure 50% of Michigan manufacturers are prepared to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies at some level by 2025. A list of all grantees is online.

Industry 4.0, also known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” is the next phase of manufacturing improvement. Emerging technology sectors encompassed in Industry 4.0 include cybersecurity, augmented and virtual reality, big data, robotics/automation, additive manufacturing/3D printing, simulation, system integration and cloud computing/Internet of Things.

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