Industry 4.0

Michigan Manufacturing Sector
Photograph Courtesy of iStock

The rebound of the manufacturing sector in recent years has helped stabilize and propel the state’s economy. More growth is on the horizon, as recent federal policies favor production on American soil.

Still, Michigan lost 4,000 small- to medium-sized manufacturers over the last decade due to competition, bankruptcy, mergers, or acquisitions. That leaves close to 12,600 companies — 45 percent of which are automotive related — for the five locations operated by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center.

Each facility is an educational, research, and partnering complex staffed by experts, many of whom have years of manufacturing experience. The centers, located in Plymouth Township, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Traverse City, and Marquette, offer businesses new means to boost efficiency, lower costs, reduce waste, and more.

“Large manufacturers can do all the things that make up a smart factory, also known as Industry 4.0, but if you’re a small operation, the steps needed to boost your efficiency can be daunting,” says Mike Coast, president of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center in Plymouth Township. “That’s our sweet spot.

“Since 1991, we’ve built up a database of more than 10,000 records (as part of) helping manufacturers improve their operations. We use that to help companies measure their output relative to the competition, we offer classes on everything from cyber-security to lean production, and we test new methods of assembly with 3-D printers or new automation techniques.”

Apart from auto suppliers, the centers work with food processors, medical device makers, aerospace firms, and others in enhancing their operations.  “We work with companies so they can absorb new technologies at their own pace,” Coast says. “We also look at what manufacturers will need three to five years from now. We help Michigan manufacturers meet or beat their global competitors.”

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