Posted on 9/19/2018

Defense and Aerospace Diversification: Five Resources to Grow Your Business

John Bedz

The days are getting shorter, the vacation was great, schools are back in session. Maybe now is the time to get working on growing your business. Our region remains dominated by the vehicle industry, but when talking with the best small and medium manufacturing companies, most talk about balancing their business between automotive, defense, aerospace and other. Automotive is great for high volume, but cost reduction pressure drives the sector, and a downturn can leave your business at risk. The “other” category is often low volume and risky, in that the customers come with their own set of challenges. 

Let’s take a moment to focus on that nice middle sector called defense and aerospace. Our region, while rooted in automotive, ranks among the leaders in defense and aerospace contracting. Currently, Automation Alley has a few programs for companies looking at growing in defense and aerospace. Here’s a brief look at how your business can get involved with these programs, along with other area initiatives:

1. Take the Automation Alley ACT 4.0 Assessment. This effort provides companies with a report and a review of their readiness for the changes being enabled by Industry 4.0 technologies. The report provides a set of actions to consider as companies learn to face these technology changes with a plan. This program is funded through a contract with the Michigan Defense Center and costs the company only their time to complete, usually less than an hour per participant. To learn more, click here

2. Update your profiles with the programs in the defense sector. Contact Automation Alley’s defense office to make sure your manufacturing company is listed in the Automation Alley Diminishing Manufacturing Sources, Material Shortages (DMSMS) Program. The listing is free for U.S. companies, and the program has recently been expanded for use by all program offices in the Department of Defense. Our defense office also helps direct Michigan companies to other opportunities in this sector, either directly or through other contracting paths. To learn more, click here

3. The NEW Michigan Defense Center, Bid Targeting System (BTS). Our partners at the Michigan Defense Center have launched a powerful tool call the BTS. This tool scores a company much like a procurement office would. It reviews your profile and targets opportunities for you based on several factors. When a high probability match is found, their program has even secured matching funding to have an experienced group of companies help with your response. Participants will finally have a partner to help them through this new and sometimes daunting process. To register, click here

4. Explore how to develop new products and capabilities through Federal Programs. What if your company is more of an R&D company than a manufacturer? Join us at Automation Alley when our partners at BBC etc. present a training session at Automation Alley on Nov. 29 on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Attendees will get an overview of the program and participating agencies. The 2019.1 Pre-release of Research Topics comes out from the Department of Defense on Nov. 29 as well. BBC will present a DoD Specific training seminar on December 5th in East Lansing. The DoD spends over $1 billion a year on this program that provides funding for feasibility studies and prototyping funds to develop new capabilities for the warfighter. Statistics show that Michigan firms that have taken this training double their chances of winning an award. To lean more, click here

5. Become a Supplier to one of the Original Equipment Manufacturers (Primes) in Michigan. While Michigan is home to General Dynamics Land Systems, there are also several other Primes doing work in our state. Companies such as L3, BAE Systems, Lockeed Martin, Boeing and Navistar, as well as others, have small business programs and actively seek new suppliers to broaden their supply chains. Check with your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center office and they’ll help you take your first steps. 

Like with any new sector, defense and aerospace takes a little time to develop. There are some compliance issues that are unique to government work, but not insurmountable. Automation Alley and the team in Michigan is here to help you grow in this sector, and if you’re not sure where to start, contact us. Perhaps an assessment will help you start this next phase of growth for your business.

About the Author

John Bedz | Automation Alley

John Bedz is a technology consultant with a nearly two decade history of working with disruptive technologies. His current focus is with Automation Alley and projects at the intersection of the entrepreneurial and defense sectors. He is also the project manager of the Michigan Automated Systems Collaborative (MASC), an initiative that Automation Alley manages for the Workforce Intelligence Network of Southeast Michigan. MASC helps companies in need of assistance that are both developing and integrating automated manufacturing systems. Bedz also has experience with startups, capital formation groups, federal, state and regional economic development organizations and with mature companies integrating new technologies and products.


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