Manufacturing

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With the automotive market performing slightly ahead of expectation for the year, IHS Markit analyst Mike Wall pinpoints trends that will keep projections positive for the rest of 2018. So far this year, Wall said news in the industry has been “interesting,” as some automakers phase out sedan nameplates to focus on trucks and crossovers, while others move “heaven and earth” to source components after a major supplier fire. In an interview with MiBiz, Wall shared his insights into the automotive industry.

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ADAC Automotive has launched one of the most ambitious capital projects in the manufacturer’s history. The Tier 1 supplier door of handles and exterior mirrors plans to invest roughly $23.5 million to build a new 56,000-square-foot corporate headquarters on Eagle Drive in Cascade Township, as well as expand its research and development facility by 24,000 square feet. With the move, ADAC plans to add 50 high-tech positions. MiBiz spoke with President and CEO Jim Teets about the investment, which comes during a period in which automotive sales are starting to flatten.

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Explosive growth in Michigan’s craft beer industry has created hundreds of new companies over the last decade. As a result of all those new entrants, competition in the industry has ratcheted up to an all-time high, testing the industry’s collegiality and owners’ appetite for risk. Even so, many executives still see opportunities to expand their companies. In this comprehensive special report, MiBiz explores how savvy companies are adapting their business models to thrive in an increasingly volatile market.

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GRAND RAPIDS — Facing the possibility of higher metal costs, the largest manufacturer in the office furniture industry has reached out to the federal government for relief. 

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Muskegon’s Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. is embarking on ambitious expansion plans as the company wrestles with how best to compete in the highly volatile industry.

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Stroll through the beer aisle at some West Michigan grocery supercenters and you might notice a bit of gold tucked between the red, white and blue cases of Budweiser and MillerCoors brands. 

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The meteoric rise of Michigan’s craft brewing industry has spawned the creation of hundreds of new companies in communities all over the state. 

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The craft brewing industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As breweries strive to stay relevant in the eyes of thirsty customers, they also need to find ways to keep their distributor and retail partners happy. Companies need to balance all those demands and more if they plan to grow beyond the taproom model, which still provides their most lucrative sales.

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GRAND RAPIDS — In its first five years, The Mitten Brewing Co. mostly brewed beer to serve in its Grand Rapids pub and a satellite taproom in Northport on the Leelanau Peninsula. 

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With the craft brewing industry continuing to grow — albeit slower than just a few years ago — many West Michiganbased equipment suppliers are honing their product niches to get ahead of any future market corrections.

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Manufacturers in the automotive supply chain are scooping up acquisitions in emerging technologies to break into new markets before their competition. By moving into alternative powertrains, connected car technologies, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, suppliers want to position themselves to get ahead of disruptions as the industry shifts to the “car of the future,” according to Jeff Zaleski, U.S. automotive deals leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, a global consulting firm.

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GRAND RAPIDS — Driven by customers’ needs to lightweight large components, Paragon Die and Engineering Co. is adding new equipment and expanding its facility in West Michigan.

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While most economists still believe in the strength of the overall economy, some West Michigan manufacturers say their business has begun to soften, indicating a slowdown could be starting to emerge.

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Emerging drone technology is helping reduce costs and save time for a range of West Michigan businesses, from farmers to construction companies and beyond. 

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With the automotive industry headed for a period of plateauing sales and a potential slowdown, manufacturers could find opportunities to diversify by supplying Michigan’s aerospace sector.

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WAYLAND — With the acquisition of a West Michigan aerospace manufacturer, Tribus Aerospace aims to become a regional consolidator in the highly fragmented industry across the Midwest.

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ROCKFORD — An employee-owned Minnesota company has acquired Integrated Packaging LLC, an automation manufacturer based in Rockford.

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Black Swamp Percussion LLC started out like many musical instrument manufacturers tend to, by “rolling out of hobby mode into a little bit of a business.”

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ROCKFORD — Getting West Michigan manufacturers to embrace cutting-edge technology can be “a tough nut to crack.”

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For West Michigan manufacturers who are struggling both to find workers and to keep up with order volumes, the recent federal tax reform offers some welcome news.

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Spurred on by tax reform, a need for innovation and the current talent shortage, manufacturers increasingly have embraced automation on their shop floors.

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Michigan’s role in improving manufacturing efficiency has come a long way since the invention of the assembly line.

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The shift to a more automated future in which manufacturers need fewer workers to churn out products has the potential to upend how industrialized countries operate.

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HOLLAND — When outdated machinery forced Genzink Steel Supply and Welding Co. to delay customer orders and send products to other companies, President Brock Mahler knew it was time to invest in new equipment.

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Joe Dyer wants manufacturers to know that automation isn’t an end goal but a means to drive greater productivity, profitability and efficiency in the workplace.

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By using a wireless lighting control system to receive data and information from its operations, office furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc. is improving its overall energy performance on its factory floors.

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CALEDONIA — A Hastings-based manufacturer of fire suppression equipment needed a new home that would allow its business to expand and meet the demands for its growing line of sprinklers.

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GRAND RAPIDS — Many West Michigan mold manufacturers are looking to get ahead of the oncoming wave of employee retirements by hiring more employees this year.

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As the manufacturing industry begins to get “its mojo back,” Miles Free thinks danger might lie ahead for the sector, especially if the federal government imposes tariffs on key raw materials.

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GRAND RAPIDS — With the new AMP Lab @WMU that’s set to open this fall, Western Michigan University wants to leverage public- and private-sector partnerships to help local manufacturers innovate and access talent.

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GRAND RAPIDS — With Cascade Die Casting Group Inc. purchasing up to a dozen new robots every year, the company has realized its investments can’t stop with just the equipment.

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NORTON SHORES — One growing Lakeshore area manufacturer didn’t have to look far when it came time to find a new place to consolidate its operations.

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DETROIT — The push to offer autonomous driving, innovate new mobility options and differentiate models with new technology has upended many parts of the automotive industry.

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DETROIT — As two of the top three best-selling vehicles get a makeover this year, the 2018 North American International Auto Show once again seemed devoted to the ultimate American lifestyle automobile: the pickup truck.

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BENTON HARBOR — Faced with declining sales and changing customer buying habits, Midwest Timer Service Inc. needed to make some changes to its business.

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DETROIT — By offering diesel powertrains in their light-duty pickup trucks, the Detroit Three automakers are betting they can eke out even more sales in what’s been a red-hot market.

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A growing number of automakers are adopting a new business model that could change how some customers get into the car market.

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SPARTA — As automakers increasingly load their vehicles with new technology and complex infotainment systems, dealerships are fielding more questions from confused and often frustrated customers.

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Office furniture manufacturers have been late adopters of automation, particularly inside their West Michigan-based factories.

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CHARLOTTE — Specialty chassis designer and vehicle manufacturer Spartan Motors Inc. has partnered with a recreational vehicle maker on a new motorhome aimed at users just coming into the market. 

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WYOMING — As more municipal fire truck fleets exceed their life expectancies, that’s good news for one West Michigan-based manufacturer of heavy duty truck chassis and fire apparatuses.

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WALKER — One West Michigan manufacturer has embraced a “Wild West” approach to running its shop floor.

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