Manufacturing

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While many pieces still need to be assembled, Michigan’s growing forest products industry remains on track to transform into a robust and sustainable market. 

SPRING LAKE — The residential housing boom in downtown Grand Rapids has led one West Michigan manufacturer of commercial casework and other custom furniture to shift its focus. 

West Michigan automotive suppliers have a lot on their plates as they prepare their businesses to be competitive in the coming years. 

The automotive industry rapidly approaches a convergence point. 

To move beyond a looming sales plateau, automakers will need to appeal to the generation they’ve long-feared prefers car-sharing services and cycling to owning automobiles. 

Lower fuel prices may have shifted consumers’ buying habits toward trucks and SUVs, but most automotive suppliers believe electric vehicle technology is here to stay. 

GRAND RAPIDS — A statewide coalition of community colleges, including Grand Rapids Community College, is vying for federal grant dollars that would provide free tuition for students in key advanced manufacturing programs. 

When we talk about the automotive supply chain, the focus is often on component manufacturers, the companies that produce the parts that are assembled into vehicles at the automakers’ plants. 

BYRON CENTER — As scrutiny over law enforcement agencies mounts in the wake of recent high-profile deadly force incidents, an increasing number of police departments have adopted body camera technology.

KENTWOOD — As medical device manufacturers work to maintain compliance with ever-tightening federal regulations, one West Michigan consulting firm aims to make at least one part of the process easier. 

GRAND RAPIDS — After purposely avoiding deals in the automotive industry, private equity firm Blackford Capital has shifted its strategy with the acquisition of a Southeast Michigan supplier.  

ZEELAND — A small but growing number of West Michigan manufacturers hope America’s space ambitions will take off and allow them to continue to develop a niche market.

The mood of the country as reflected in the major political parties suggests a sharp turn against global free trade. 

SPARTA — Buoyed by a $20 million investment, Tesa Tape Inc. aims to transform one if its West Michigan facilities into the North American hub for adhesive tape production and development. 

British voters wanted to send a message with the Brexit vote, and it was certainly heard loud and clear by manufacturers in West Michigan. 

RICHLAND — As manufacturers turn to automation and robotics to speed production and increase efficiencies, one soon-to-be graduate of Western Michigan University aims to bring that technology to machine shops. 

Apart from uncertainty caused by global turmoil and the current political landscape, the office furniture industry seems primed for at least two more years of positive, albeit modest, growth.

MUSKEGON — A pair of West Michigan entrepreneurs want to create a market for onsite electrical power generation by undercutting large utilities with cheaper electricity costs. 

Automotive analysts are looking at recent sales results and warning that the industry cycle may have peaked. 

CHICAGO — After several years of vacillating between open office concepts and private spaces, the so-called “pendulum shift” in office furniture seems to have settled into a new normal. 

As the footprint of workstations continues to shrink, office furniture manufacturers are focusing on integrating new technology into their products to drive value. 

Grand Rapids-based law firm Miller Johnson Snell & Cummiskey PLC recently joined the growing ranks of companies ditching aging, inefficient offices for modern space better suited for collaboration.

Employers who are increasingly paying attention to the overall well-being of employees are generating opportunity for West Michigan office furniture makers to create the type of workspaces that contribute to workers’ health.

According to the most recent state jobs data, wages for manufacturing production workers in May sunk to their lowest levels in the last 12 years as the average hours worked dipped to the lowest point since 2009. Meanwhile, the number of people working in manufacturing hit its highest level in almost a decade.

After driving the West Michigan economy for several years, the manufacturing sector has reached a holding pattern of flat growth that has economists on the lookout for the next downturn in the business cycle. 

LANSING — One mid-Michigan entrepreneur wants to fill a need in the rapidly growing market for unmanned aerial vehicles by catering his products to educators and students.

Tool and die shops are practitioners of highly skilled craftsmanship, doing the rigorous and precise work needed to build tooling for high-volume production of automotive components. 

Herman Miller Inc.’s highly praised $154 million acquisition in 2014 of high-end furniture retailer Design Within Reach Inc. may not legally have occurred.

West Michigan office furniture manufacturers could soon be incorporating scrap wood into the production of their products through a new partnership with Michigan Technological University.

DUTTON — Instead of relying on a traditional salesforce to sell its products, GR-X Manufacturing LLC aims to grow its business primarily through marketing on the internet. 

While browsing the automotive news site Just-Auto.com recently, we noticed an interview with Frank O’Brien, the executive vice president of Asia for Magna International Inc. This sparked a moment of nostalgia, since O’Brien was a contact point during the time we did consulting work at Donnelly Corp. in Holland some 25 years ago — well before it became part of Magna.

After a banner year for deal flow, the merger and acquisition market seems to have tempered slightly in 2016.

HOLLAND — After losing nearly a quarter of its annual sales because of the struggling oil and gas industry, Hemco Gage Corp. plans to expand its reach by targeting medical device and aerospace manufacturers across the country.

Automakers have witnessed a resurgence in interest for trucks and SUVs as gasoline prices continue to hover around $2 per gallon in many areas of the country. 

ALBION — Over the last decade and a half, Team 1 Plastics Inc. avoided expanding its facility until absolutely necessary, choosing instead to maximize every square inch of its shop floor. 

Experts in the automotive industry have a simple message for companies figuring out how to navigate a changing vehicle market: Embrace the eventual shift to autonomous cars or you will cease to exist. 

HOLLAND — After manufacturing a specialized line of food processing equipment for 30 years, Lakewood Fab Tech LLC wants to embrace new opportunities by refocusing its business on designing custom machines for the industrial market. 

At a recent news conference, all of the major automakers pledged to make automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard on every light vehicle within six years. 

Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing Inc. completed a $1.1 million round of fundraising from investors last month.

Despite some uncertainty about the health of the global economy, West Michigan product development and engineering firms remain bullish on the manufacturing sector, at least for the short term. 

HOLLAND — A West Michigan equipment manufacturer wants to leverage its engineering pedigree to navigate a consolidating industry.

As the medical device industry continues to expand globally, the sector has entered a period of mass consolidation. 

ZEELAND — Manufacturers have had to get creative in balancing the dual workforce needs of attracting new talent — particularly young people — and retaining their existing workers. 

Backed by a string of profitable years, many West Michigan manufacturers are investing in labor-saving technology and providing themselves a hedge against future softening in the market. 

Automakers’ challenge in meeting regulatory requirements for Corporate Average Fuel Economy has two aspects: the technology side and the market side of the issue. 

WALKER — As industrial production levels continue to rise and West Michigan manufacturers reach full capacity, companies need to decide whether to invest in adding capacity or turn to other organizations in the supply chain. 

Manufacturing industry groups are tracking a number of key policy issues this year that could have a variety of implications on their West Michigan members. 

As the automotive supply chain prepares for a rapid increase in new model launches, manufacturers must also contend with several other trends in the industry ranging from production scheduling to the ripple effects of last year’s mega deals.