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Transformations in manufacturing: How to stay competitive amid rapidly-changing technology

Steven Lopez, Business Development Specialist with The Center West

As technology and industry trends continue to rapidly evolve, it’s critical for manufacturers to understand the nuances of these transformations to stay competitive. Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West and Crain’s Content Studio recently sat down with Steven Lopez, Business Development Specialist with The Center West, to gain a deeper understanding of how business and digital transformations can help you take your manufacturing business to the next level. Lopez assists manufacturers with lean process improvement evaluations/implementations as well as a variety of leadership development programs, particularly for line supervisors. Steven is West Michigan’s lead industry 4.0 assessor where he identifies technologies that help improve operational performance.

Watch here to listen to the entire conversation:


Q. How do you see changes in technology and business development being important to companies in the current climate?

Lopez: Change is inevitable, so being adaptable is key. Striving for continuous improvement leads to growth and positions companies as industry leaders.

Q. Can you define these transformations?

Lopez: In the manufacturing industry, this entails significant alterations in how a factory operates to improve efficiency, speed, and affordability. The primary objective is to create a better factory system that can evolve to future needs. Some digital transformations with advanced technology can include IIOT, AI, or robotics.

Q. When it comes to business and digital transformations, what are the focuses & drivers of these?

Lopez: It can be various factors, like competition, customer demands, tech advancements, cost reductions, compliance changes, talent acquisition and retention, or business growth. The focus is to significantly change how a company operates to increase competitiveness, efficiency and become more customer-centric by leveraging this technology.

Q. What benefits should business owners expect from investing in these types of transformations?

Lopez: Two machine shops had the goal of improving operational efficiency, product quality and competitiveness. They saw reduced product costs, higher customer satisfaction, enhanced employee engagement, improved product quality, and reduced waste. By implementing these changes, the companies saw many benefits internally while becoming more customer centric. Adopting industry 4.0 and advanced digital technologies can bring significant benefits.

Q. When should a company start looking into these transformations?

Lopez: We should be thinking of tools we need to achieve our goals, and these transformations can be tools. They should start thinking of these transformations when they have a need to improve operational efficiency, or when faced with changes in technology, the market, or regulations.

Q. How should a company go about starting these transformations?

Lopez: One way is to contemplate your objectives – if you want to boost employee engagement and optimize supply chain management, a
business transformation may be suitable. A digital transformation, however, is more appropriate for enhancing decision-making capabilities. Companies must also consider expenses and resources needed. The decision hinges on the distinct needs of each company.

Q. What should “agility” mean to manufacturers?

Lopez: Our market is changing quickly, so being agile means you can take an order when it is presented. With digital technologies, you can skip all the capacity and resource planning and can know what your capabilities are in real time.

Q. Where can companies go for assistance in starting this process?

Lopez: As an Industry 4.0 Assessor for MMTC West, I can help these businesses stay competitive by identifying opportunities. I partner with teams of experts to develop solutions tailored to the unique needs of organizations. I offer free Industry 4.0 Assessments to determine how we can help these companies thrive.

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