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Innovative manufacturing studied in Illinois, lessons for all

September 30, 2021
By: Ashwin Shenoy

Implementing innovative policies is necessary for driving the manufacturing industry forward in Illinois, according to a recent report from the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC). Nearly 600,000 Illinoisans are employed directly in manufacturing, and the manufacturing industry accounts for 12 percent of Illinois’s annual GDP. The findings of the state report, however, are adaptable and can be utilized across the United States in regions that seek to encourage innovation in manufacturing and promote job growth in an increasingly competitive globalized economy.

IMEC partnered with the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, the Technology and Manufacturing Association, the Valley Industrial Association, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research for a study highlighting the status of advanced technology adoption for small and mid-sized manufacturers in Illinois. The resulting report covers the challenges that manufacturers in Illinois face and how they have been implementing advanced technology to overcome them. The report also covers the benefits and opportunities that come with adopting advanced manufacturing technologies.

The report highlights 10 key findings — along with 10 potential policy opportunities that accompany each finding that can innovate manufacturing. One of the findings is that smaller manufacturers are not at par with larger manufacturers in terms of adopting advanced manufacturing technologies. These smaller manufacturers can benefit from the adoption of these technologies and increase their competitiveness with the appropriate access to capital. The report recommends that state governments implement policies such as grants, loans, vouchers, and tax incentives for small manufacturers in order to promote investments into implementing advanced manufacturing technologies and training programs into their operations.

Additionally, automation and the general use of digital technologies has evolved the manufacturing industry in recent years by improving both operational and business performance. Small and medium sized manufacturers, however, report the lowest levels of manual automation and lag behind their larger sized counterparts. The report suggests that state governments can support innovation initiatives in R&D in order to help these smaller sized manufacturers reach parity in efficiency with larger manufacturers by implementing automation. These types of advanced manufacturing technologies could provide new avenues for growth and can enable the generation of high returns on investment.

The report from IMEC and its partners can be accessed here. Additionally, IMEC and its partners will be hosting a webinar on Monday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EDT, where they will review the findings and policy recommendations of the report and hold a panel discussion. More information on this webinar, along with information on how to register, can be accessed here.