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Few people would argue that technology has made it easier for companies to connect with their customers. At a minimum, most businesses have a website, which provides their customers with information about products and service without requiring even a phone call.
Technology has also changed day-to-day business operations for many companies. If you’re looking for an insurance quote, technology allows an agent to quickly compare the features and costs of various products and make the most suitable recommendations. Real estate professionals have mountains of data instantly available, enabling them to conduct a quick market analysis and offer advice for acquisitions and sales.
However, along with the benefits technology provides, cybersecurity is a growing concern. Businesses are seeing the need to take more proactive measures to protect their own data and that of their customers.
Technology has created some problem-solving misperceptions, too. Sometimes it’s presumed that technology offers a solution to just about any problem, but that’s not necessarily true. While technology can certainly boost manufacturing efficiency, there’s still something to be said for human involvement. There’s no doubt that certain tasks are better left to people, because they can provide insight that machines can’t. Also, when it comes to tackling performance and personal problems in the workplace, there’s no substitute for human interaction.
Q: What should our company consider when having a new website built?
A: Understand what you’re purchasing. First, make sure your site will be on your own platform or an open source platform, like WordPress or Shopify. You don’t want to be held hostage if things don’t work out. Second, have your site custom-made. Development companies often sell a template, which is usually cheaper, but you’ll end up paying more when you try to customize it.
Although templates will give you multiple styles and functions, ultimately you won’t use 80 percent of the prepackaged code. That makes the site heavy and more susceptible to malware.
All of the work performed at BMG Media is custom, which allows them to create a site that’s lean, clean, and made specifically to help your business grow.
Blake George, Founder
975 E. Maple Rd., Ste. 100
Birmingham, MI 48009
Q: How has technology made commercial property acquisition and investing easier?
A: As a full-service commercial real estate firm, Imperium Group is focused on the development, acquisition, and operation of retail and mixed-use properties in major Midwest markets. They’re continually looking toward the future, and like to base their business decisions on what they believe the real estate landscape will look like in five years. A key facet of having a forward- looking mindset in the age of the internet is embracing and leveraging data analytics and new technology, which ultimately benefits stakeholders and clients.
Imperium Group’s acquisition and development process requires not only access to various data sources, but involves a systematic approach to combining and evaluating that data. Their strategic investments have allowed them to drastically reduce the amount of time needed to underwrite new opportunities. Timing is everything in the real estate business, and the team at Imperium Group confidently makes decisions based on the best and most timely data available.
Today’s marketing landscape is video-driven, and Imperium Group’s cutting-edge marketing technology brings their properties to life. With an investment in drone technology and advanced software, their in-house technology team creates and produces videos to showcase developments to investors and stakeholders worldwide. It’s expected that this trend will continue into the future.
Simon Matty, Senior Adviser
50 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste. 255
Troy, MI 48084
Q: In today’s technology-driven world, why are human-operated assembly lines still valued over robots?
A: Despite[A1] industry increases in automation and robot utilization, the team at Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA) believes a predominantly human assembly workforce continues to offer the most operational advantage and flexibility. The human worker’s abilities to think, learn, and adapt — paired with their mobility and dexterity — are unmatched by even the most advanced automated technology.
Although robots have proven exceptionally effective with regard to precision and repetitive motion, as well as working under hazardous or poor ergonomic conditions, they also have significant limitations. Because they must be designed and programmed for every motion and tool utilization, robots are thereby confined to specific tasks and cannot be reallocated with any degree of speed or fluidity. Further, robotic automation can force manufacturers to tailor product designs in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.
It remains MANA’s philosophy that a well-trained, conscientious, empowered human assembly team with production aids is best able to produce a quality product by way of its ability to adjust to variation, adapt to new requirements, notice flaws, collaboratively problem-solve, perform corrective action, and communicate product concerns. As an extension of Mahindra’s product development team, MANA’s assembly workers often provide valuable feedback for improvements that lead to product or process alterations.
Mahindra Automotive North America
Robert J. Eickholt, VP of Manufacturing
275 Rex Blvd.
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
Q: Has human resources services benefited from technology?
A: As technology evolves, HR professionals are required to evolve — and, therefore, HR and benefits services must evolve or risk becoming extinct. At Ulliance, evolution means the services delivered, the tools utilized, and the performance metrics measured, which leads to highly engaged employees. To that end, the three types of primary services that Ulliance offers companies are employee assistance, wellness programs, and leadership coaching.
Ulliance programs have evolved as technology has made their services more readily available to employees through greater connectivity, interactive websites, phone apps, and even video coaching and counseling. However, what Ulliance has experienced over the last 30 years is that technology doesn’t replace the human factor. It’s a mistake to think that technology alone can change people’s lives and fix their personal and performance challenges, as technology is incapable and ineffective by itself to resolve a work or life problem.
While technology is very efficient, when paired with human interaction it becomes optimally effective and equates to a higher quality experience. The result is employees and human resource professionals engaging in meaningful service that resolves personal and performance work/life challenges. The human connection is imperative to seek resolution to these issues, and that’s where Ulliance comes in: They make a difference in people’s lives every day.
Kent Sharkey, President and CEO
Human Resource Management Solutions
900 Tower Drive, Ste. 600
Troy, MI 48098
Q: What can we do to reduce our business’s commercial auto insurance premiums?
A: Commercial auto premiums are rising largely due to three factors:
- More vehicles on the road
- Driving records/experience have deteriorated due to the limited availability of new hires, and …
- Medical costs for auto accident victims have increased dramatically.
Not only will instituting your own “loss control” program benefit you in the long run, but it will encourage your insurer to offer you their best possible rates. Make it a part of your hiring process to have a potential hire provide you with a copy of their current Motor Vehicle Report (MVR), and obtain a copy of your driving employee’s MVR on an annual basis (be sure to get their permission in writing). If an employee takes a vehicle home, have them supply you with a current copy of their family’s personal auto policy to mitigate crossover claims on your policy from personal use. Institute toxic substances screening after any incident and before hiring.
Finally, develop a professional relationship with a great agent to gain the best strategies to keep more of your money for a longer period of time. Today, technology has made it easier for at the team at First Independent Descamp Insurance to analyze data, compare rate factors, and keep an eye on trends, which results in more savings for their clients.
First Independent Descamps Insurance Agency
Jim Daniel, Agency Principal
14500 Lakeside Circle
Sterling Heights, MI 48313
Q: How can a small business improve its IT security?
A: The weakest point in IT security is humans. URLs can be blocked and site monitoring can be performed, but it comes down to educating the end user because scammers and the people who are phishing are getting smarter.
If you’re running a small business, look at who you can partner with in your industry. Could you build a small consortium in your area and work with an IT security professional to implement some of the best practices? At Northwood University, they’re starting to implement the CIS Critical 20 Controls (Center for Internet Security actions to protect an organization and data from cyber attacks), which will allow them to tighten their IT security and keep their data — and their clients’ data — safe.
IT security is no longer a one- or two-person responsibility. End users need to participate by seeking out some training, and there are many different places that offer free training online. Or, if you prefer, you can seek out professional help.
Davis Yost, Associate Director of IT Security
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640
Q: I’ve heard the phrase “smart building” used for some new construction projects. What is a smart building, and is it a benefit for myself or my company?
A: Traditionally, smart buildings use technology to monitor the workplace environment and make real-time adjustments to building systems to optimize temperature, lighting, energy use, and life safety.
Many companies experience wasted time searching for resources, have inefficient office space utilization, and experience an increased demand on the office environment. Integrating the latest technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) with smart buildings promises to increase workforce productivity, optimize space utilization, and improve employee attraction, retention, and satisfaction.
Mobile applications, combined with presence-sensing, provide employees with immediate access to book the nearest meeting space that meets their resource and size needs. Face-to-face communication is supported through colleague-finding technology (within the office/campus) to easily find, interact with, or network socially. Companies that deploy this technology are saving their employees a minimum of 15 minutes per day from time waste, and experience a 20 percent reduced need for office space.
Data collected through analytics and business intelligence tools provide company leadership with the knowledge they need to adjust strategies and delivery of services, identify cost savings, improve the return on investment, and provide the ideal work environment.
In sum, the economics of smart buildings and employee productivity, satisfaction, and well-being have many more benefits compared to the traditional focus on saving energy.
Eric Twigg, The Innovation Oracle
777 Woodward Ave., Ste. 300
Detroit, MI 48226
Q: Has the continued evolution of technology had an impact on the practice of law?
A: Technology continues to evolve rapidly, not only with respect to our personal use of technology but also with respect to how we use technology in our businesses. In the field of law, there are websites that offer legal services, allegedly without the involvement of an actual lawyer. These websites are forcing attorneys to change how they use and implement the latest technology, in order to compete with on-demand legal service providers. In addition, clients are utilizing third-party bill review services in an effort to cut their legal spending.
Law firms must embrace technology in order to respond to these new uses of technology in the industry. They also need to explore the use of technology in the form of automation, artificial intelligence, case management software, and invoice review. There’s now software specifically tailored to the legal industry to address each of these particular needs, and this software can help increase accuracy, efficiency and, ultimately, profitability, and the implementation of such technology is becoming essential in order to compete in today’s highly technical business atmosphere. A strong IT department and technology committee are essential to ensuring law firms are fully equipped in today’s digital age.
Patrick E. Winters, J.D.
Shareholder and Technology Committee Chair
38505 Woodward Ave., Ste. 100
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304
Q: How is technology transforming manufacturing?
A: Massively. Rapidly. Culturally. There’s no shortage of terms that illustrate how the adoption of advanced technologies is dramatically changing the manufacturing industry. This is a new era, merging the physical and virtual world using fully integrated, collaborative systems. Whether it involves cybersecurity, augmented and virtual reality, big data, robotics/automation, 3-D printing, simulation, system integration, Cloud computing, or the Internet of Things, this blended environment optimizes processes for manufacturers, enabling them to improve efficiency, reduce waste, increase revenues, and enhance innovation — all while bringing products to market faster, with an increased quality level.
Today, manufacturers can design, model, and validate products in a virtual world without the investment in costly trials. Interconnectivity enables decisions to be made in real time, based on current information and without delays, when analyzing and reporting the data.
Successfully adapting new technologies starts with an understanding of the voices of both the business and the customer, to identify how the organization could benefit from innovations. Proper prioritization, using a needs-based assessment, results in an adoption that is both strategically sound and capable of generating savings to support additional investments going forward. This is an ongoing process, as technology will continue to evolve and provide meaningful opportunities for manufacturers.
Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
Robert Lyscas, Vice President
Q: How do I resolve an intellectual property matter as quickly as possible? I have an issue that I need to resolve, but I have a limited budget.
A: Show strength — and do so as quickly as possible. This works whether you’re the plaintiff or the defendant. Research your matter as thoroughly as you can, and develop your position — especially your strengths — as quickly as you can. This involves organizing a team (including counsel), focusing on the issue, and spending money up front, but you end up spending much less if you have a well-developed position going in.
Doing so makes the other side respect you, and it diminishes the tendency they have to try to walk all over you. If you show weakness, lack of resolve, and lack of preparedness, it will only embolden the other side, which will cost you more in the long run. You want to be like the crocodile: By the time the other side learns you’re in position, it’s way too late.
Howard & Howard Attorneys, PLLC
Andrew (Jake) Grove
Intellectual Property Litigation
450 West Fourth Street
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Q: As an automotive manufacturer or supplier, what is a significant cybersecurity threat I can expect to face?
A: One of the greatest cybersecurity risks that affects automotive manufacturers and suppliers is the threat of ransomware, where cybercriminals infiltrate networks to lock down systems, servers, databases, and files, and demand a ransom in exchange for providing the decryption key. Regular day-to-day business grinds to a halt in ransomware attacks, because businesses are prevented from accessing files and databases, communicating internally and externally, and operating necessary equipment.
Every minute that factory machinery is idle equates to thousands upon thousands of lost dollars. Preparing for and preventing ransomware attacks requires administrative, technical, and physical safeguards. All employees should receive ongoing phishing training, as phishing emails that use fraud to obtain log-in credentials from unsuspecting employees remain a common method criminals use to gain unauthorized access.
In addition to training, manufacturers and suppliers should invest in back-ups of their systems that are frequently run and segmented appropriately from the operational environment. Businesses should also invest in cyberliability coverage and prepare an incident response plan.