Remaining competitive in Michigan’s manufacturing space will require owners of all sizes of businesses to shift their mindset beyond simply buying equipment to automate their processes.
That’s according to Tom Kelly, the CEO and executive director of Troy-based Automation Alley, who participated in a panel discussion at last week’s Advanced Manufacturing Expo at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
“It’s beyond automation — it’s about a digital mindset, it’s about really thinking digitally as an organization,” Kelly said in an interview with Crain’s Grand Rapids.
Kelly, who spoke during the event’s panel covering updates on Industry 4.0 adoption in Michigan, oversees the nonprofit Industry 4.0 knowledge center.
As a World Economic Forum Advanced Manufacturing Hub (AMHUB), Automation Alley’s mission is to help small, mid-sized and large companies launch into the digital age of manufacturing. The organization has more than 2,300 members across Michigan, almost 400 of which are located in the greater West Michigan region.
Since assuming the organization’s CEO role in 2016, Kelly has worked to refocus Automation Alley’s mission from solely automation to a more holistic approach to the concept of Industry 4.0.
“The term ‘automation’ had become almost a pejorative because, back in the day, automation was equated with job loss, not job gain,” Kelly said. “Manufacturing, as you look around here (in West Michigan), tends to be extremely conservative and very slow to adopt. They’re a ‘show me’ kind of people, right? And we were saying, but if you wait to see when to act, you will have missed the opportunity. So I refocused our mission 100% around being Michigan’s Industry 4.0 knowledge center.”
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