Manufacturing’s Transformation: Industry 4.0

This article appeared in the May 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Michigan is the world’s manufacturing leader but all it takes is one small change to shift the balance and allow another state to push past the Great Lakes State. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here and, as any history buff can attest to, revolutions are rarely small — they bring monumental shifts to the status quo and force entirely new direction. The 2018 MFG Forum sought to address the emerging issue of Industry 4.0; the disturbances it will cause, the new technologies popping up and resources to help solidify a winning strategy for manufacturers of all sizes.

Along with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) and more than a dozen nationally recognized technology and cyber security experts, MMA gave industry leaders a glimpse into manufacturing’s not-so-distant future and the results were eye-opening.

“MMA does a great job of creating a relevant agenda for each MFG Forum,” said Phil Sponsler, the 2017 John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award recipient and president of the Jackson- based Orbitform LLC. “On top of that, the high level of networking has proven to be an added perk for me. I came in expecting for industry leaders to explain their perceptions and visions of Industry 4.0 in a way that would boost my business and I wasn’t disappointed.”

The $450 Billion Disruption You Can’t Afford to Ignore

“The electrification of manufacturing is the biggest disruption in the history of the industry.”

From the moment strategic automotive consultant Paul Eichenberg said those words, manufacturers knew Industry 4.0 wasn’t going to be just some small change — the shift from mechanical to electrical components will redefine Michigan manufacturing and the automotive industry which started it all.

With as much as 80 percent of a car’s current components tied to the internal combustion engine, a phase-out of this technology in favor of electrical components won’t just alter the Big Three automakers’ future, it will impact every business along the supply chain and potentially alter what it means to be a manufacturer.

“The electrification disruption is a very relevant topic for us — a significant amount of our business is related to automotive parts,” said Bernhard Kerschbaum, CEO for Battle Creek-based Rosler Metal Finishing USA. “I will have to keep the market developments Paul discussed in mind and ask myself what can we do as a company to adjust to the changing landscape and what opportunities will open up for us from these changes.”

Whether your business was worried about the next six months or looking decades down the line, Paul’s expert insights gave attendees a clear awareness of where the industry was heading and the strategic thinking every business owner must begin implementing.

“During the presentation, I was compelled to consider how quickly this industry shift is happening and how my business can be better positioned to support the inevitable move away from combustion engines,” said Ron Geisman, president of Horton- based Lomar Machine & Tool Company.

UHY’s Deep Dive into Industry 4.0

Not every Forum expert owned a manufacturing facility — some have worked decades with globally recognized brands and walked away with a keen understanding of the direction technology is pulling the industry. UHY LLP’s Thomas Alongi explained how that change can allow for both new innovations and new fears for small to mid-sized manufacturers whose long-term strategies are now disrupted in ways they never expected.

“Industry 4.0 is already a disruptor in many sectors. I have clients that are well on their way into the fourth industrial revolution and I have clients that believe they will be unaffected,” Alongi said, pressing business leaders to look past their facility’s four walls and to how technology will act as a long- term game changer. “Which one do you want to be?”

“Tom’s presentation was another example of the high-level discussion happening throughout the Forum,” said Sponsler. “His focus on opportunities and threats really emphasized the possibilities available to us and offered new ways of looking for what can be achieved.”

What to Watch For: Manufacturers Talk Tech

For the manufacturer who considers the MFG Forum as a chance to connect with fellow employers and learn the challenges their peers face, a panel presentation offered attendees insight into technology’s growing impact on manufacturing — not just what it does, but what it is.

“Advances in manufacturing technologies have equalized global competition and capability,” said Rick Blake of Edgewater Automation, joining representatives from PwC, Brose North America, and Eckhart on-stage. “These well-lit, clean and advanced automated systems we use today are more agile; they are better equipped to provide data and create at the highest quality possible…manufacturing is changing at the speed of technology and every day we are learning.”

Staying Secure on a New Battlefield

Cyber security is becoming part of every business strategy and representatives of the FBI, Michigan State Police and Merit Network came to Novi to help Forum attendees identify traits of a cyber attacker, recognize business weak points, build culture and policies for strong cyber security and provide resources to help.

“It’s no longer a matter of if you will be targeted, but when,” said Rebecca Taylor, NCMS senior vice president.

As an industry with growing visibility to cybercriminals, the days of pretending cyber threats don’t exist has long since passed. You have employee data. You have patents and schematics. You have client data and confidential communications. All of this has value — and not just to you. It’s your responsibility to protect it.

“At no point along the supply chain are you too insignificant to be a target of cyber attacks,” said Ron Kraus of the Michigan State Police, bringing a brief silence to the event.

The Convergence of Tech and a New-Look Industry

Success in Industry 4.0 requires more than the adoption of robotics and automation, it involves a new strategic mindset where Informational Technology overlays all aspects of Operations. Whether a small family owned business or a global corporation, manufacturers need to learn how to navigate the complexities of both OT and IT to ensure a single, focused direction.

“In today’s modern marketplace, speed of information and services is critical, both internally across organizations and externally for customers and supply chains,” said David Behen, vice president and chief information officer for La-Z-Boy. “Without connecting Operational and Information technologies, companies cannot keep pace with increasing consumer demands.”

By integrating IT with the business, IT is able to collaborate more with internal customers, help end users’ platforms perform at peak efficiency, identify, embrace and utilize industry changers like big data, the Cloud, IoT, and cyber security, and communicate more effectively with all suppliers and customers.

“This session really showcased specific items I need to be aware of on both topics — Industry 4.0 and cyber security,” said Kerschbaum. “These are the essential pieces I know I need to keep my business competitive and relevant in the industry.”

“Business leaders who attended walked away with several bona fide actions and added facts to their foundational thinking that will help them be successful going forward,” said Sponsler. “You might say the MFG Forum generates a level of competitive edge for your company. Everyone should mark the next MFG Forum on their calendar and the calendars of their colleagues and peers.”

It’s never too early to start planning for 2019. What emerging issues does your business need to learn more about? Connect with MMA today and help us provide more expertise to grow manufacturing and give you a competitive advantage.

About the Author

Brett GerrishBrett Gerrish is MMA’s communications coordinator. He may be reached at or 517-487-8533.