Photo courtesy of ThisIsEngineering

December 8, 2020: Kathleen Achtenberg, Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Working to extend Michigan’s national leadership in advanced manufacturing, the Michigan Strategic Fund has approved a statewide effort to ensure 50 percent of Michigan manufacturers – or 6,200 businesses – are prepared to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies at some level by 2025, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today.

Industry 4.0 is defined as the convergence of digital and physical technologies, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, the Cloud and cybersecurity. Approximately 42 percent of Michigan’s current labor force could be negatively impacted by automation, and with MEDC’s strategic focus on retaining companies and fostering high-wage skills growth in target industries such as Advanced Manufacturing, there is a strong need for a multipronged effort to ensure Michigan’s small to medium-sized manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0 technologies.

“Michigan is the place where manufacturing and technology come together to create a more productive industry and resilient workforce,” said MEDC CEO Mark Burton. “We are once again using innovative public-private partnerships to create solutions to Michigan’s most pressing economic challenges. In this case, we’re working to ensure Industry 4.0 readiness for our small and medium-sized manufacturers, which will protect our leadership in manufacturing and position our workforce for success.”

The initiative includes efforts to drive awareness on the importance of Industry 4.0 readiness and technical support to help small- to medium-sized manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0 technologies through a partnership with Automation Alley and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC). An RFP for a grant program of up to $2 million to support regional needs related to Industry 4.0 readiness that are complementary, but separate, from the Automation Alley and MMTC efforts was also approved.

As part of the overall initiative the Michigan Strategic Fund today approved the following actions that will help support MEDC’s goals of ensuring that Michigan’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers are aware of the importance of preparing for Industry 4.0 and the resources and services available to help them:

  • A $2.5 million agreement with Automation Alley to provide outreach and Industry 4.0 readiness assessments to manufacturers across the state.
  • A $3.05 million agreement with MMTC  to provide outreach, education and Industry 4.0 technical assessments to manufacturers across the state.
  • Authorized up to $2 million in grant funding, and approved the issuance of a Request for Proposals from Michigan-based nonprofit or governmental regional organizations for grants to increase manufacturers’ readiness to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies. The RFP is expected to be issued on Friday, December 11 at https://www.michiganbusiness.org/public-notices-rfps/.
  • $1 million to McCann Detroit for an in-state advertising campaign specific to Industry 4.0 awareness and availability of services.

As part of this new agreement, Automation Alley will deliver additional support services specific to adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies through education, Industry 4.0 readiness leadership assessments and evaluations, and opportunities to share Industry 4.0 knowledge with a wider range of Michigan companies. A longstanding partner of the MEDC, Automaton Alley is a nonprofit manufacturing and technology business association and Michigan’s Industry 4.0 knowledge center, with a global outlook and a regional focus. Automation Alley provides programming that will help manufacturing and technology companies increase revenue, reduce costs, and think strategically as they adapt and implement Industry 4.0 technologies.

“Automation Alley is laser focused on ensuring Michigan small and medium-sized manufacturers are aware of how Industry 4.0 will impact their businesses—and the strategic steps they must take to begin or advance their digital transformation. Technology is moving at break-neck speed, and our manufacturers cannot afford to be left behind,” said Tom Kelly, Executive Director and CEO, Automation Alley. “We must take action now if we wish to remain a globally relevant manufacturing powerhouse. We are honored to partner with the MEDC on this initiative to further boost our efforts, and we look forward to welcoming more companies into our ecosystem so they may learn to harness the power of Industry 4.0 and reap its benefits.”

As part of the proposed grant agreement, MMTC will collaborate with Automation Alley and MEDC to advance adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies by Michigan small- and medium-sized manufacturers through development in areas including an in-depth assessment to demonstrate opportunities for business improvement and increased efficiency, including a unique and personalized plan for technology implementation within each facility, technology roadshows to present each of the Industry 4.0 technologies through interactive experiences and course trainings including a general overview and in-depth review of key technologies. This agreement builds on MMTC and MEDC’s ongoing partnership in supporting Michigan’s manufacturers. Since 1991 MMTC has been dedicated to supporting Michigan manufacturers to work smarter, to compete and to prosper and serves the official representative of Michigan in the MEP National Network ™.

“We appreciate the MEDC and the Michigan Strategic Fund for their leadership with this initiative and the opportunity to collaborate for the benefit of our state’s manufacturers,” said Mike Coast, President of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. “With this additional funding we will expand our work with Michigan’s small and medium-size manufacturers, serving as trusted advisors, to identify and implement technologies that make the most sense for their operation and that will enable them to manufacture smarter, thrive and prosper in an increasingly challenging and global business environment.”

Research has identified a lack of awareness of the impacts of automation on future growth among small- and medium-sized manufacturers. To grow that awareness and to ensure long-term competitiveness of the state’s manufacturing sector as this shift to digital manufacturing occurs MEDC will launch an advertising campaign that will also serve to connect manufacturers to Industry 4.0 educational resources being provided through Automation Alley and MMTC partnership. The targeted statewide paid awareness and education campaign will launch in early 2021 and will include advertising, social media, digital media, events, content marketing and more.

Taken together, this Industry 4.0 initiative continues to build in Michigan’s rich manufacturing heritage and technological know-how to develop the innovative, high-tech products of the future. With the 5th largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the country and more than 13,000 workers employed in industries related to Industry 4.0 and automation – the most in the nation –this effort also secures continued opportunity and stability for Michigan’s manufacturing workforce for years to come.

For more information on Industry 4.0 resources in Michigan, visit www.michiganbusiness.org/industry4-0/.