Automation Alley teams up to boost PPE production

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published July 7, 2020

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METRO DETROIT — “COVID-19 was a wakeup call for the global manufacturing industry,” said Tom Kelly, executive director for Automation Alley, at a June 30 press conference at the facility.

“While Michigan companies rose to the challenge to provide critical personal protection equipment, we must ensure the continued resiliency of manufacturing in our state and in our counties,” Kelly said.

On June 30, Kelly announced that Oakland and Macomb counties will donate $10 million and $2 million, respectively, to a program to support manufacturers in providing personal protection equipment for first responders, health care professionals and residents.

“Oakland County, in partnership with Macomb County and Automation Alley, created the Personal Protective Equipment Resilience Grant Program to address the urgent need to move Oakland County and Macomb County-based companies quickly into the digital manufacturing age of ‘Industry 4.0’ to help improve our region’s manufacturing agility for PPE,” states a press release from Oakland County.

“Industry 4.0 technologies, for the purposes of this grant program, refer to: internet of things (IoT), big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, the cloud, cybersecurity, additive manufacturing, advanced materials, and modeling, simulation, visualization, and immersion,” the release states.

Automation Alley, according to the release, facilitates “public-private partnerships by connecting industry, education and government to fuel Michigan’s economy and accelerate innovation.”

Some examples of Industry 4.0 uses during the pandemic include:

• Additive manufacturing to produce ventilator parts and molds and PPE.

• Big data used to assess COVID-19 spread, behavior and trends.

• Cyber security technologies critical for secure contact tracing.

Kelly thanked Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel for their leadership “in recognizing the need for rapid ramp up” of 4.0 technologies.

“Automation Alley has become the go-to source for advanced manufacturing in the digital era,” Kelly said. “Manufacturers accepted into the program will receive strategic guidance on how to transition from legacy operations to digital manufacturing.”

“We’re pleased to be in partnership with Macomb County,” Coulter said at the press conference. “It’s an awesome opportunity to show that together we can shore up the manufacturing sector in both our counties and do it in a way that makes our region stronger.”

He thanked the Oakland County commissioners, who he said unanimously approved spending this money to help small manufacturers.

Hackel said Macomb County has a rich history of working with Automation Alley.

“We (both counties) may be competitive to some degree; we are.” Hackel said. “But the reality is we need to join together because we need to be more competitive as a region.”

Oakland and Macomb county-based manufacturers interested in applying for the Personal Protective Equipment Resilience Grant Program can find more information and a link to the application at