Partners launch Industry 4.0 campaign to support manufacturers

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Industry 4.0 technology sectors include connected factory, data analytics, modeling and visualization, 3D printing, advanced robotics and cybersecurity. Courtesy Lakeshore Advantage

A group of economic development entities launched a multicounty initiative to help local employers embrace the future of manufacturing.

Lakeshore Advantage, with support from The Right Place, Greater Muskegon Economic Development (GMED), the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West (The Center-West) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), said Thursday, Oct. 7, they launched a West Michigan Industry 4.0 campaign to increase manufacturers’ smart manufacturing technology adoption readiness.

Industry 4.0, also known as “the fourth industrial revolution,” is the next phase of manufacturing improvement. It is defined as the convergence of digital and physical technologies or digitization within the manufacturing sector. Industry 4.0 technology sectors include connected factory, data analytics, modeling and visualization, 3D printing, advanced robotics and cybersecurity.

Incorporating Industry 4.0 technologies into operations helps manufacturers to create opportunities for improved efficiency, higher revenues and increased innovation, Lakeshore Advantage said.

“With 1 in 3 of our region’s jobs in manufacturing, Industry 4.0 technologies are essential to West Michigan’s economic health,” said Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president. “This campaign will help 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 our partners for collaborating on this initiative and are excited to continue working with employers and smart manufacturing implementers as we focus on our region’s industry success.”

Lakeshore Advantage received $92,787 in state grant funding to increase manufacturers’ Industry 4.0 technology adoption readiness. Close collaboration with regional economic development partners allowed for the initiative to be extended to Ottawa, Allegan, Muskegon and Kent County employers.

“We are eager to launch this campaign to help our region’s manufacturers increase their global competitiveness through Industry 4.0 resources,” said Randy Thelen, president and CEO, The Right Place. “We need to drive new prosperity in our community, so it’s imperative that we empower businesses with the education and assets necessary for them to benefit from smart technologies and automation.”

The campaign includes a readiness assessment, informational case study videos and a website where employers can learn more about statewide resources and tools available to them. The resources are designed to make Industry 4.0 and its benefits relevant to area manufacturers and connect them with next steps to implement new technologies.

“We strongly encourage area manufacturers to visit the website, where they can hear directly from other companies about how Industry 4.0 has improved their business,” said Morgan Carroll, director of business development for GMED. “They can also access the assessment tool on the site at no cost. It will take them through a series of detailed questions to help identify areas within their organization that may need attention if they are going to remain competitive. This is something that every manufacturer should take advantage of.”

Natalie Chmiko, vice president, Pure Michigan Business Connect and international trade for the MEDC, echoed those sentiments.

“For Michigan to remain a global leader in manufacturing, it’s critical that we work together with manufacturers across the regional supply chain to ensure we are keeping up and continuing to lead in the next revolution in manufacturing,” she said. “We are pleased to support these efforts in West Michigan to help prepare our manufacturers to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies and reimagine how processes work and (how) products are made in the 21st century.”

Ross Haan, president of Impact Fab and an adopter of Industry 4.0, said, “Industry 4.0 helps make automation cost-effective, flexible and accessible to smaller job-shop manufacturers like Impact Fab. Integrating Industry 4.0 practices helped us increase productivity by over three times from some of our previous manufacturing methods,” he said.

More information is on The Center-West’s Industry 4.0 website. Details about how the state of Michigan is preparing the manufacturing workforce for the future are here.

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