May 23, 2022

Looking Ahead- The Future of Illinois Manufacturing

On Thursday, May 19th, the Greater Peoria Manufacturing Network (GPMN), the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC), and the Illinois Defense Network(IDN)-Peoria Region hosted a group of manufacturers and various stakeholders in a forum to discuss the future of manufacturing in Illinois.

GPMN is a Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC) program to elevate the Greater Peoria manufacturing ecosystem by providing resources and assistance to member manufacturing companies.  Additionally, GPEDC and IMEC, as partners of the Illinois Defense Network, bring together stakeholders from industry, community, government, and academia to strengthen Illinois defense resilience.  The forum is just one example of GPMN and IDN-Peoria Region collaborating with IMEC to provide value-add to manufacturers in the Greater Peoria area.

Pandemic and global impacts have severely impacted the manufacturing industry. The challenges are numerous, from workforce shortage to supply chain disruptions and regulations. However, it is not all bleak since the pandemic has also initiated a shift that may present some untapped opportunities in manufacturing.

The forum, hosted on the premises of GPMN member Peoria Production Solutions, was facilitated by David Boulay, the President of IMEC. David’s goal was to help the manufacturers in the room better understand the industrial landscape of today and plan for the future of Illinois manufacturing using real-time data from the recently released Strategic Foresight Report.

David Boulay Leading Facilitations

David opened the forum with a group discussion to identify opportunities and challenges facing manufacturers today and in the future. Some of the opportunities the participants identified were reshoring, automation, and technological advancements. A top challenge manufacturers cited was workforce, including availability. retention, and upskilling.  Workforce coupled with supply chain disruptions has led to reduced productivity.

After the discussion, David gave an excellent presentation using data from the report and shifted to how we can pivot for the future. In considering opportunities like automation, there is the pushback of “machines replacing humans,” plus the cost involved has made its adoption relatively slow. However, David said it is not a matter of Workforce or Automation but rather “Workforce AND Automation.” We will need people to supervise and monitor the machines even with automation. This means adopting automation and upskilling the workforce to align with the new paradigm.

As David wrapped up the forum, one of the key takeaways for the future of Illinois Manufacturing was for manufacturers to embrace the key beneficial trends by leading the next industrial revolution. He suggested that manufacturers embrace workplace transformation and start imagining the future workplace while becoming at the forefront of technology and workforce innovation with the rapid utilization of new thinking and investment.

We hope to bring more of these conversations to the region. We believe this is an ongoing conversation as we all work together to increase productivity and overcome the challenges in the manufacturing industry.

You can download the presentation and the reports below!