Conexus Preparing Businesses for 'Industry 4.0'

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Mark Howell is the president and CEO of Conexus Indiana. (photo courtesy of Conexus) Mark Howell is the president and CEO of Conexus Indiana. (photo courtesy of Conexus)

It's being called the next Industrial Revolution and Indiana's advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative is working to help Hoosier companies adapt. Conexus Indiana Chief Executive Officer Mark Howell says Industry 4.0 centers around technology adoption, migration and innovation and affects all industries fundamentally changing the way people live and work. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Howell said for Indiana to maintain its leadership position in manufacturing and logistics, companies have to be leaders in technology adoption. 

"I would say that manufacturing companies are the technology companies of the future with the adoption of these technologies and the evolution of these technologies completely changing the way things are made and the way things are moved," said Howell. "There's kind of three big areas that will control the demand and need for this technology migration. One is agility; another is quality; and the third is efficiency. So for manufacturing companies to be successful in today's world, they have to be incredibly agile. They have to have ever increasing expectations in terms of levels of quality and then they have to have consistent improvement in efficiency to be competitive."

Howell says one of the keys to addressing Industry 4.0 is changing the perception of manufacturing and demonstrating that these companies are truly technology-based companies. Another major key, according to Howell, is preparing not only existing workers but the incoming workforce for the technological future of manufacturing and logistics.

"Specifically, as it relates to our our work and Industry 4.0, Conexus feels the responsibility to be proactive in these technologies to ensure that that competitiveness exists. So within our network community of companies, we've established 4.0 working groups of industry experts. We've launched a statewide speaker series where we have thought leaders in this space out speaking to companies, students, and young professionals. Just several weeks ago, we held an industry event of almost 500 leaders from across the state and the entire focus of that event was the factory of the future."

This fall, Conexus will host a case competition for college students that will be heavily technology-focused. The organization is also working to create an innovation resource that will allow Hoosier companies the support they need for the adoption of advanced technologies.

Howell says the pace of this technological change is increasing exponentially, which increases the need for awareness among companies. "So getting out there, being aware of those technologies, understanding these technologies and being proactive in adopting these technologies; the risk you run of disintermediation by being a late adopter is incredibly high."

Howell cites Batesville Tool & Die, which recently announced it is forming a Corporate Automation Team because, he says, they are aware of the need to be early adopters of new automation technologies.

Howell says for Indiana to maintain its leadership position in manufacturing and logistics, companies have to be a leader in technology adoption.
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