Robot Revolution: Manufacturers embrace automation to hedge against future downturns


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. 

That’s translated into brisk business for automation equipment manufacturers and technology consultants, who say they’ve been flooded with orders as clients seek out ways to lean their operations and add flexibility to their shop floors. 

“I’ve been in the automation side of the business since 1999 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this busy,” said Mark Ermatinger, vice president of sales at Zeeland-based Industrial Control Service Inc. “I’ve worked harder in the last three weeks than I have in the last five years.”  

Industrial Control serves as a consultant for manufacturers looking to automate their processes. 

While manufacturers have turned to automation technology for multiple reasons ranging from quality issues to navigating a shortage of skilled labor, they also see the technology as a way to remain lean and profitable in the face of the next economic downturn, Ermatinger said. 

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