From the weird and wonderful to the downright comfortable, innovative projects are coming out of Michigan’s manufacturing industry in Sterling Heights. Metromode takes a closer look at five of them.
Tunkers MoVi electric vehicle made a splash at last year’s Sterling Heights Technology Show and the new scooters are about to hit the market. Currently the vehicle is being marketed to transport maintenance workers within large facilities.
“Many automakers or tier one suppliers use golf carts, three-wheel bicycles or traditional foot travel to transport people and tools,” says Tunkers vice president George Owens.
With the scooter's size, maneuverability, and versatility the new technology could be a game-changer for some factories. MoVi’s are 100 percent electric and have a range of approximately 18 miles per charge, with a maximum speed of 11 mph.
But Tunkers doesn’t want to stop at supplying factories. The company sees potential for individual commuters, security services and airport personnel. They are even developing a 'police package' for officers to use in large urban areas, for meter reading or patrolling city events where vehicle traffic and crowds are prohibitive.
A hard-core hoodie
Clothing isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of when it comes to technology, but the team at GETTEES have been applying some serious tech to t-shirts.
The family-owned manufacturer wants to raise the bar in the apparel industry and has created a new women’s hoodie made from flexible, medium-weight fabric. The design boasts no bulky shoulders, no saggy front pocket, reinforced seams, two hidden pockets and a hood that doesn’t make a weird point on your head. It’s initiatives like this that saw the company win the city’s Dream Big Company of the Year award for 2019.
Founder Mathew Hunt grew up in Sterling Heights and says the location was a natural fit for his factory, which started out by hiring former novice automotive sewers who were looking for work.
“Once we started this process it was all about building this in our own community, and creating jobs in our own community,” Hunt says.
Intelligent Traffic Systems
Siemens Mobility opened a new Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) office in Sterling Heights this year, and we can expect to see some high-tech concepts coming out of it. The global company says the office will directly deliver road transportation products and solutions, and contribute to developing tech around autonomous and connected vehicle systems.
“Our new space will not only provide room for future growth but allows us to service our key customers in close proximity and enhance our engagement with the automotive industry in Michigan,” says Marcus Welz, president of Siemens Mobility ITS in North America.
“As both the road infrastructure and automotive industry makes a shift towards an autonomous and connected future, it is important that we grow in lockstep with them, supporting innovations with our connected vehicle technology.”
Edible Hand Sanitizer
Cleaning products might not sound like something an astronaut has on their “to pack” list, but space explorers from NASA will tell you just how important a good hand sanitizer can be. A company that works out of Sterling Heights’ Velocity Hub is working on non-toxic products and has been hired by NASA’s food tech branch to supply them with a special kind of food-safe sanitizer for their team.
Dr John Lopes and his wife, Rose, started Microcide in 1990 to develop cleaning products and now supply many companies in the health, food, and personal care industries, as well as developing products for the Mars Exploration Program.
“[NASA astronauts] are going for a three-year period—traveling to Mars and back—and they want them to be absolutely safe,” says John Lopes.
Lopes says their company has thrived at the Velocity center because of the way working alongside other companies fosters innovation and encourages research. “You don’t feel like it’s a private company, it feels like you’re at a university,” he says.
Cathy and Jerry Sitek are the husband-and-wife-team behind Human Balance and Stability Systems.
Human Balance and Stability Systems
Cathy and Jerry Sitek know first-hand what kind of pain and fatigue factory workers can experience after standing for long periods of time. So the couple decided to do something about it. They formed their company in 2016 and designed the StandRite-Pro, a shin support system that focuses on unlocking the knees and reducing lower back torque.
“By reducing fatigue by controlling postural sway as we stand, we can improve engagement, productivity, quality and morale,” says Jerry Sitek. “If people are not focused on how bad they feel, they will focus on the task they do.”
The Sitek's joined Sterling Height's Velocity Hub and at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator the couple say they found a wealth of information and connections, and they believe Sterling Heights is a major source of manufacturing and industry expertise and opportunity.
“Aside from critical business development direction, the hub engaged with us in several grant opportunities,” says Sitek. “The hub is ideal for novice entrepreneurs looking to start up a business in any sector.”