The Future of Manufacturing in Michigan


3_bWljaGlnYW4tMDE.jpgFor generations, manufacturing has sustained Michigan workers, families, and our economy. Although our state may be famous for its automotive sector, over the course of history, Michigan workers and companies have produced cereal and unique foods, fine furniture, recreational goods, and, of course, the vehicles and aircraft that helped American troops fight for freedom in WWII. As industrialization progressed, Michigan survived—and thrived—by innovating and adapting. As we look to the future, harnessing that same relentless spirit that put Michigan manufacturing on the map, we will be the force that propels us into tomorrow. As we face the impact of technology, increased global competition, and an ongoing labor shortage, our ingenuity and resilience will be crucial to creating an even brighter future. So what should be our priorities to keep Michigan manufacturers leading the charge? Read on to find out. 

Harnessing Technology’s Full Potential

No single factor is more impactful to our industry today than technology. At Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), we discuss Industry 4.0 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution for a reason—the first industrial revolution irrevocably altered the way our workers and our world functioned, and now, technology is doing the same for people in every line of work. Advanced technology offers significant opportunities for manufacturers to streamline operations, improve quality, and replace the jobs that are too dangerous or tedious to be in demand. Several technologies have changed the game for Michigan manufacturers in a range of sectors. 

Additive manufacturing in particular is one of the most popular and affordable Industry 4.0 entry points. More commonly known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing creates products by adding layers of material instead of removing material with die cutting, molding, or other “subtractive” methods. Manufacturers like World Magnetics have saved time and money by using 3D printing to create easily modifiable prototypes in-house instead of relying upon external producers. Similarly, SCHERDEL Sales and Technology began 3D printing production tools in their own factory, reducing costs and facilitating faster repairs. Additive technology is just one of many new advances, from collaborative robots to smart sensors/Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence, that will make manufacturing more efficient, create new job opportunities and unique career paths, and push our industry to continue evolving in the future. MMTC offers free Technology Opportunity Assessments to help companies identify and integrate the technologies that will improve their operations. We can also support companies in applying for Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) grants or other funding opportunities to expand their mobility operations or purchase and incorporate technology. 

Elevating Our Industry

It’s no secret that the manufacturing industry has faced a worker shortage for the past several years, fueled in part by uncertainty around the impacts of technology and global competition.  However, while manufacturing jobs—like the rest of our industry—may look different than they did 20 years ago, they offer more opportunity than ever. Companies will continue to need professionals who can help to integrate technology into current operations, repair complex machines and computers, use Industry 4.0 technology to design and manufacture a wide range of goods, and ultimately stay abreast of industry changes and adapt company operations. Today, skills gaps are largely driving current worker shortages, and, in response, states like ours are investing heavily in education and skills training programs to give the next generation of professionals the tools they need to make manufacturing a long-term career. 

Companies can support these efforts by helping potential workers understand the job opportunities and career trajectories available to them in various manufacturing sectors, providing on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs, and participating in events like our Industry 4.0 Roadshows that give participants a firsthand look at the technologies working behind the scenes to produce American goods. Additionally, companies can promote employee retention by upskilling staff, providing clear paths to advancement, and creating more positive workplace cultures. From Lean and Six Sigma certification to leadership training, MMTC supports small and medium-sized manufacturers in creating efficient and competitive companies that attract and retain top talent. 

Strengthening Domestic Supply Chains

“Once in a lifetime” events that disrupt our society upend our industry, too, and show manufacturers areas where we are vulnerable and need to innovate. The Great Recession slowed vehicle production and spurred Michigan leaders and manufacturers to diversify their work even further to protect revenues during periods of uncertainty. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic showed how a predominantly international supply chain can threaten the production of vital goods in the U.S across many sectors. As a result, many Michigan and regional manufacturers are looking for ways to make their supply chains more resilient and adaptable to our changing world. One critical resource is CONNEX, an online supply chain and manufacturing database that allows suppliers and manufacturers to identify partnerships and domestic sourcing opportunities in Michigan and beyond. MMTC also consults with companies in need of new supply chain strategies and management, whether they are diversifying suppliers or looking for a different approach. Industry 4.0 is also helping companies bring some supply chain activities in-house to save money and improve efficiency. 

The future of manufacturing in Michigan is not just about embracing change—it's about leading it. Leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies, addressing workforce challenges with creativity and foresight, and strengthening domestic supply chains are vital steps that lead to a thriving tomorrow. At MMTC, we’re proud that the work we do today with small and medium-sized manufacturers will shape Michigan’s manufacturing landscape for generations to come. Together, we can build on our legacy and ensure that Michigan remains a beacon of manufacturing innovation, progress, and economic success.  

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Advanced Manufacturing, Data & Trends, Industry 4.0, Supply Chain, U.S. Manufacturing, Workforce