Automation Alley Positions Michigan as a Global Leader in Industry 4.0

Ready or not, Industry 4.0 is here.

This so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly transforming manufacturing in Michigan, in the U.S. and around the world. The velocity, scope and systems impact of these transformational changes is unprecedented in modern history.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a.k.a. Industry 4.0, brings a fusion of technologies to the physical manufacturing of products,” explains John Bedz, program manager for entrepreneurship and defense at Automation Alley, which is a sponsor of the 2018 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. “We are trying to educate Michigan companies and prepare them to embrace and utilize these technologies in their manufacturing processes.”

The first three Industrial Revolutions, according to Bedz, were driven by 1) the use of water/steam power, 2) the introduction of electricity and 3) the rise of computerization and information technology. Industry 4.0 originated as a German concept and has since gone global. In Bedz’s view, it encompasses eight separate technology sectors:

  • Additive manufacturing and advanced materials
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Big Data
  • Cloud computing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Modeling simulation visualization and emergence
  • Robotics and automation
  • Industrial Internet of Things

As a nonprofit technology and business manufacturing association, Automation Alley offers an array of business-development programs, networking events and related services for its members, which range from the Big 3 automotive companies to nascent startups comprising little more than “two guys/gals with an idea.” It also collaborates with industry, academia and government to fuel economic growth, spur innovation and create jobs in Michigan. Automation Alley, established in 1999, is part of the SmartZone network coordinated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“Manufacturing is booming in Michigan, and there’s more need than there is capacity to fill it,” Bedz reports. “We’re seeing the most explosive growth among midsize tiered supplies to the automotive and manufacturing world.”

A major challenge, and concern, for these suppliers, however, is finding customers with tech-savvy employees who know how to use highly complex, technologically advanced products, tools and systems, such as robotics, automated manufacturing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and IoT. Many companies are simply not prepared and need help.

Bedz and his team typically take a company through what they call a business growth Industry 4.0 assessment. “We help them develop a strategy for how their company can become the type of learning organization that can adapt to these new technologies,” he explains. “This allows them to meet the technology challenge rather than become a victim of it.”

Automation Alley also serves as a facilitator and connector for startup companies and venture investors at the MGCS.

“Through our own programs and by leveraging Michigan partner programs for funding, we can help small companies grow and get ready to seek investment and interface with larger companies that may become future customers and partners,” Bedz explains. “We operate at the intersection where small companies with great ideas meet up with big companies that need great ideas.”

For more information on how to apply for Automation Alley’s Industry 4.0 Assessment, please visit https://www.automationalley.com/Programs/ACT-40.aspx.

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