Industry 4.0: Are You Falling Behind or Leading the Way?



change-time.jpgMuch like how the concept of natural selection says we must adapt to our environment in order to survive, businesses also must evolve and adapt to new methods and ways of operating if they hope to survive into the future. Otherwise, getting stuck in the past and fearing change could lead to the demise of the organization.

In my career, I’ve worked at two long-standing manufacturing companies founded in the 18th and 19th centuries. When they were first established, these companies manufactured products like wooden screws and metal pieces for use in hoop skirts. While these were once widely popular and in-demand, over time each company had to rethink and advance their service offerings in order to stay relevant and successful in the market.

This is the same reality many in the industry are facing now that we’ve reached the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. With new technologies and practices taking the industry by storm, some forward-thinking manufacturers are leading the way to the future, while others are sticking to the old way of thinking and quickly falling behind. They must recognize technology is not something to fear, but something to embrace if they hope to stay competitive going forward.

MAGNET, Ohio’s MEP center, recently conducted the 2020 Northeast Ohio Manufacturing Survey. This survey collected insightful data about how exactly companies in the region are – or are not – prioritizing innovation and moving forward. Although the survey was completed only by manufacturers in Ohio, this survey provides a glimpse into current manufacturing practices among similar organizations* across the nation.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 44% of respondents have very little automation in their facilities, or none at all
  • 41% planned to invest only 0-2% of sales in new product research development in the next year
  • 12.5% reported a decline in revenue as a result of products falling behind in the market
  • Only 3% listed “implementing new technology on the shop floor” as a top three priority for the next year
  • In the past 12 months, 55% launched a new product and 22% launched a new service
  • 5% of respondents were not actively innovating in any form

*Data was collected from nearly 700 manufacturers, all with less than 250 employees

As evidenced by this data, there is a clear disconnect between what companies need to do to support and sustain operations, and what they are actually doing in their facilities.

At The Center, we use the below graphic to represent some of the future current overlapping technologies available that enable manufacturers to advance and improve practices through relevant, affordable applications.


For example, manufacturers can install sensors to equipment to better understand utilization. Or, the use of cobots (collaborative robots) can support operations that are dull, dirty or dangerous in nature. And with big data, companies can more readily analyze performance with both lagging and leading indicators. All of this must be done in a cyber-secure environment, no matter how small the company, as anyone can be a target of hacks.

Before investments are made, The Center can help companies identify where innovation opportunities exist and calculate ROI through our Technology Opportunity Assessment. By focusing on areas that most need improving and establishing a strategy before investing, the potential positive returns dramatically increase.

The old ways of operating are no longer enough to stay competitive and successful in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Companies must work with technology, rather than against it, to target specific problems and enable their companies to improve and grow, rather than lie stagnant – or worse – fall behind indefinitely.

Learn more about how The Center can support your company’s innovation initiatives here or contact me at

Singos_G.jpgGeorge Singos, Business Leader Advisor

George Singos is the Business Leader Advisor for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in various capacities. For the past 20+ years, he has focused on sales and marketing management both domestically and internationally. Prior to joining The Center, George spent the previous 10 years working in International Business Development. His primary focus was growing International Sales in Europe and East Asia while supporting North American, South American and ASEAN operations.  

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: Continuous Improvement, Industry 4.0