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There's not as much talk in Michigan these days about how the Chinese hijacked the tool and die industry, stealing jobs that form the backbone of manufacturing and assembly plants worldwide.

West Michigan's automotive suppliers need to be prepared for a wave of sweeping changes rolling through the car business.

People that know about Landscape Forms Inc. often respect the company for its designs and innovation in the niche landscape furnishings industry.

When Johnson Controls Inc. opened its advanced battery plant in Holland in 2011, the company knew the plant would likely serve a small niche for electric and hybrid vehicles in the global automotive market.

Some second-tier office furniture companies may feel like they live in the shadow of the industry's largest companies, but Comstock Park-based Nucraft Furniture Co. seems to enjoy the shade just fine. 

A laser-like focus on controlling both cost and quality led to one local transportation industry supplier expanding into new capabilities and bringing previously outsourced production to its West Michigan operations.

GRAND RAPIDS — Companies today face a workforce dilemma.

Many businesses — and especially local manufacturers — still report they're struggling to find qualified talent, despite relatively high unemployment statewide creating a pool of available workers.

Steelcase envisions living on video

Written by | Friday, 06 July 2012 15:16 |

Before too long, video conferencing will become the dominant mode of communications in the workplace. That's according to Steelcase Inc., the Grand Rapids-based office furniture manufacturer that unveiled a series of concept products at this year's NeoCon trade show.

GRAND RAPIDS — Despite its fierce competitiveness, the office furniture industry finds many ways to work together, including around standards and regulations and sustainability. 

It's that cooperation that has the federal government taking notice.

HOLLAND — When customers place an order for office furniture, they expect it to be delivered completely and on-time.

In essence, that sentiment serves as the driving philosophy for Chairman Don Heeringa and the management team at Trendway Corp. As of press time for this story, the company had a streak of 149 days with on-time delivery of every single item on every shipment. That attention to meeting customer expectations functions as the company's differentiator, he said.

MICHIGAN — The announcement of a deal to move forward with the New International Trade Crossing not only opens new doors for Michigan manufacturers, but it also ensures that they are able to remain globally competitive. 

That's the message from a consortium of voices in the state leading up to and in the wake of the announcement in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit on June 15 that Michigan and Canada found a way to move forward with the construction of a second bridge over the Detroit River.

SOUTH HAVEN — A company that once eschewed becoming a manufacturer now finds itself in the middle of an expansion project to grow its in-house production capabilities and capacity. 

South Haven-based Riveer Environmental sells products that wind up in all corners of the world and help customers keep equipment clean. Wherever the U.S. military goes with its heavy equipment or aircraft, Riveer's products are likely to follow.

Peek behind the PE curtain

Written by | Sunday, 10 June 2012 18:29 |

At IRN Inc., we recently did a project for a private equity firm on the East Coast that was considering the acquisition of an automotive supplier in northern Indiana, a company similar to the many small and medium-sized manufacturers that grace West Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS — A phoenix-like recovery in the so-called Rust Belt manufacturing sector has created an unprecedented demand for industrial talent in West Michigan.

Higher education, which is trying to do more with less funding, is doing its best to help graduate well-trained engineers, but even in the depths of the recession, educators say they couldn't keep up.

KALAMAZOO — The commercialization of a new manufacturing innovation resulting from years of research at Western Michigan University has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for companies across the globe.

Dr. John Patten, director of the WMU Manufacturing Research Center, and Dr. Deepak Ravindra, a senior research associate, are the developers behind a new Micro-LAM (Laser Assisted Machining) process, which uses high pressure generated by diamond cutting tools with an intense and focused laser to cut hard, brittle objects such as glass, ceramics, semiconductors and other materials.

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