New opportunities for small and mid-size Blue Water manufacturers to embrace Industry 4.0

When it comes to the future of manufacturing, many believe that it’s well underway. It’s the fourth wave of the industrial revolution, experts say, a period where manufacturing and computer technology are becoming more intertwined than ever.

It’s called Industry 4.0.

The first wave of the industrial revolution began in the late 1700s, a period defined by the introduction of water- and steam-powered machines to the manufacturing process. The second wave followed, introducing electricity, mass production and assembly lines. The third wave brought computers and automation.

Today, in the 21st century, it’s Industry 4.0, a period of manufacturing that’s being defined by technologies that include the Industrial Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, Big Data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, advanced materials and additive manufacturing, and modeling, simulation, visualization and immersion. And if manufacturers are going to succeed well into the future, industry experts believe that it’s time to embrace the technologies of Industry 4.0.

“There are several key benefits for our region’s manufacturers to implement Industry 4.0 small changes to their business systems and processes,” says Dan Casey, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County.

“Smart factory changes can reduce material waste, help to solve labor shortages, create efficiencies and increase production. Most importantly, by becoming an early adopter of I4.0, a manufacturer is creating a competitive advantage for their business.”

Fortunately for St. Clair County manufacturers, the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County recently announced a partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Region 6 Economic Development partners, Automation Alley, and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center to launch the I-69 Thumb Region’s Industry 4.0 initiative.

Part of a larger statewide campaign to help 50 percent of Michigan’s manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0 practices by 2025, the Industry 4.0 initiative has awarded a $138,000 grant to the seven counties of the I-69 Thumb Region. The St. Clair County EDA is managing the project and serving as its fiduciary on a local level.

Surveys are being conducted with area manufacturers with demonstrations and outreach events to follow throughout the year. Engaged companies will have access to grant funding for training new employees and upskilling existing employees.

Visit the EDA of St. Clair County online for more information about embracing Industry 4.0.

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