Report: Michigan manufacturing must embrace Industry 4.0 to succeed

Automation Alley is working to prepare Michigan for the next industrial revolution. A new report should help Michigan manufacturers better understand their case.

The nonprofit technology and manufacturing business association is celebrating the release of its annual Technology in Industry Report, its eleventh year doing so.

The Oakland County-based organization believes that the world is in the midst of its fourth industrial revolution, or what Automation Alley refers to as Industry 4.0. Manufacturing is being disrupted by technology, and if Michigan is to remain a manufacturing center, it's going to have to embrace these technologies early on.

According to Automation Alley, there are eight transformative technologies changing the way we manufacture things: the Industrial Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, Big Data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, advanced materials and additive manufacturing, and modeling, simulation, visualization and immersion.

Among its findings, the Technology in Industry Report concludes that one key to succeeding in Industry 4.0 is Big Data, and using it to predict future trends by utilizing real-time intelligence to understand today’s trends, and not yesterday’s.

Other findings include:

  • While some jobs may be eliminated due to technological changes, other jobs will be created. It’s up to manufacturers to re-skill and up-skill its labor force to stay competitive.
  • North America is well behind both China and Europe in embracing Industry 4.0. Tier 2, Tier 3, and smaller manufacturers are especially behind.
  • Future workers must develop people skills, nurture conceptual and futuristic thinking, and embrace continuous learning in order to succeed in Industry 4.0.

Automation Alley isn’t new to Industry 4.0. In a 2016 profile, Tom Kelly, executive director of Automation Alley, told Metromode that Industry 4.0 should impact southeastern Michigan jobs even more so than autonomous vehicles.

The key is to embrace it now before it’s too late, according to Kelly.

"We are positioned well to win the next battle. Stop fighting the battle from yesterday. That's over. But now, with the digitization of everything, we can win. So let's run like crazy down that path," says Kelly. "We're in great shape to do that."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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