Lakeshore Advantage receives $92K grant to usher in Industry 4.0 readiness

Lakeshore Advantage is one of 10 economic development organizations to receive a state grant to help manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0 technologies into their operations. 
 
The economic development agency, which assists employers with growth opportunities in Ottawa and Allegan counties, received $92,787 in grant funding to increase manufacturers’ Industry 4.0 technology adoption readiness. Implementing Industry 4.0 technologies into operations helps manufacturers by creating opportunities for improved efficiency, higher revenues, and increased innovation.
 
“With one in three of our region’s jobs in manufacturing, Industry 4.0 technologies are critical to West Michigan’s economic and job growth,” says Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage President, in a statement. “This grant supercharges initiatives to secure our region’s place as an Industry 4.0 leader, recognizing West Michigan as the place to be for leading-edge manufacturing technologies. We are grateful to (the Michigan Economic Development Corp.) for funding this initiative, and are looking forward to working with employers, smart-manufacturing implementers, and regional partners as we focus on our region’s industry success.”  
 
Four-county partnership 
 
Lakeshore Advantage applied for the grant in partnership with The Right Place, Greater Muskegon Economic Development, and Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center-West (The Center-West). This partnership will allow for the Industry 4.0 readiness initiative to be extended to employers in Ottawa, Allegan, Muskegon, and Kent counties. The partners are providing an in-kind match of $21,400 to this project.
 
“This is a great example of what can be achieved when we work together as a region to support our businesses in the area,” says Randy Thelen, President & CEO of The Right Place Inc. “Together with partners, we will bring state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 resources to our region’s manufacturers, increase their global competitiveness, and drive new prosperity in our community.”
 
The economic development partners will assess the stage of Industry 4.0 adoption of the region’s manufacturers and navigate them to the appropriate Industry 4.0 implementation partners, including The Center-West.
 
“For over 25 years, The Center’s program has been a valued regional resource for manufacturers in West Michigan,” says Justine Burdette, Vice President of Technical Services at The Right Place and Regional Director at The Center-West. “This new Industry 4.0 assessment provides tremendous value, no matter where a manufacturer is on their technology journey. It provides a complete road map, recommending both current and future technology improvements throughout the production value chain.”
 
Relevant benefits
 
The grant will enable tools to be created, including a readiness assessment and awareness campaign with informational videos and a website. These new resources will make Industry 4.0 and its benefits relevant to area manufacturers and connect them with next steps to implement new technologies.
 
"We know that, right now, the biggest challenge our manufacturers face is their inability to find and retain qualified workers. One strategy to help address this is to implement Industry 4.0 practices, and to become as efficient as possible with the people they already have,” says Morgan Carroll, Director of Business Development at Greater Muskegon Economic Development.  “These funds will allow companies in our region to learn about Industry 4.0 and apply its principles to improve their productivity and reduce the impact the current workforce shortage is having on their business."
 
Ensuring future adoption
 
In total, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved nearly $2 million in grants for 10 nonprofit organizations around the state to provide regional Industry 4.0 programming and services. The funding is part of an MEDC-led effort to ensure that 50% of Michigan manufacturers are prepared to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies at some level by 2025. (See the complete list of grantees here).
 
“Through our statewide Industry 4.0 awareness initiative, 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,” says Josh Hundt, Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President at the MEDC. “We’re pleased to support the efforts of Lakeshore Advantage, The Right Place, Greater Muskegon Economic Development, and Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center-West, to support this effort by working collaboratively to build Industry 4.0 awareness and readiness among manufacturers in several key industries in their region.”
 
Industry 4.0, also known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” is the next phase of manufacturing improvement. Emerging technology sectors encompassed in Industry 4.0 include Cybersecurity, Augmented & Virtual Reality, Big Data, Robotics/Automation, Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing, Simulation, System Integration, and Cloud Computing/Internet of Things.
 
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.