Whitley County Indiana

Manufacturing Community Responds to COVID-19 - Specifically for SMEs

Whitley County, primely located less than three hours from Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis, depends heavily on the continued success and growth of manufacturing, which required a fast response to COVID-19.

The Whitley Count y Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is a single point of contact for businesses in one of Nor theast Indiana’s manufacturing counties and has Dale Buuck leading as the Whitley EDC president.

Whitley County hosts an abundance of automotive and medical device manufac turing in par t of the United Sates with the highest per capita concentration of jobs and wages associated with manufacturing. The onset of the novel COVID-19 pandemic impacted current production operations while simultaneously hastened the global reliance on remote working and technology-based ways of sustaining traditional manufacturing. Without support of newer manufacturing technologies, many companies are at risk.

Mitigating the Risk

The Whitley EDC added assistance and methodology in helping by incorporating a true neighborly approach. Like so many other economic development agencies who were helpful during the pandemic using loans, grants, PPE, reopening guidelines and more, but the Whitley EDC was able to rally the community to help. The Whitley EDC believes in collaboration and the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. Especially when larger corporate companies are willing to help the mid-size and small manufacturers. An open communication atmosphere allowed large manufacturing companies to talk about lessons learned and document their pivot strategies. While some was specific to their processes, much of the strategies can be modified for any manufacturing entity. The use of anecdotal and empirical data is creating a “play book” for all Whitley County companies to use and reference when major interruptions take place in business models, pandemic related or not.

Beyond COVID: Industry 4.0

The COVID-19 and resulting economic crises of 2020 have highlighted the need for agile leadership and critical decision making in the face of uncertainty and adversity. Companies that used the COVID-19 forced changes as an opportunity to grow and improve have found themselves in a better competitive position than companies that merely tried to weather the storm.

The global economy of manufacturing is transitioning to a new digital standard of production deemed Industry 4.0, based on automation, hyper-connection of devices, and real-time data-driven decisions. Whitley EDC will continue to help their companies identify opportunities for Industry 4.0 technology adoptions and newly required work skills. In response to the evolution of the Industry 4.0, company leadership will be guided to develop a culture of innovation and provide necessary hands-on training for employees.

There is no established approach to implement Industr y 4 . 0 , which allows small to midsize manufacturers the flexibility to do what is best for their processes and begin the transition. In fact, the 2019 Indiana Manufacturing Surveyi found that organizational-related activities including manufacturing structures and processes jumped from 5% to 20% in 2019.

The Whitley EDC neighborly collaborative approach focuses on learning by doing, working directly with companies and providing skill training to the workforce to enable transformation beyond COVID-19 and throughout Industry 4.0. Whitley County is ready to welcome you to our robust manufacturing and strategic business climate. Contact the Whitley EDC team and Dale Buuck via telephone at 260.244.5506 or email at dbuuck@whitleyedc.com.

About Whitley County EDC
The Whitley County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is the lead economic development agency in Whitley County, Indiana. The Whitley EDC works closely with local, regional, state and global partners to support our industry clients’ growth and success. Our mission is to lead a comprehensive economic development program that retains and expands employment opportunities for residents and attracts business investment to Whitley County. The Whitley County EDC was established in 1992 and represents Whitley County, Columbia City and the towns of Churubusco, Larwill and South Whitley. For more information about the EDC visit whitleyedc.com.

Value Added to Whitley County Economy

Transform Whitley County Manufacturing companies into agile Industry 4.0 organizations

■ Provide a “playbook” for companies to realistically identify opportunities for Industry 4.0 technology adoption. Assist companies identify and develop an implementation plan for a technology that improves an aspect of their manufacturing.

■ Apply systematic learning to the development of an “agile” business management and planning process through adaption to current challenges and future opportunities.

■ Train and develop the company’s leadership skills to foster and develop an agile company management culture. Help identify required employee work skills to implement Industry 4.0 technologies.

Create capabilities for the Whitley County Economic Development Organization to grow existing manufacturing business and attract new businesses

■ Develop a structured adaption of the information acquired for the development of future offerings specifically directed to growing and strengthening the competitive position of existing companies.

■ Create the environment used to attract new business to Whitley County, businesses specifically driven by Industry 4.0 technologies.

Create an environment within the educational institutions of the region to foster rapid accommodations to the work skills required for both the agile company and Industry 4.0 technologies.

■ Purdue Fort Wayne and Ivy Tech Fort Wayne will engage faculty and students in innovative applied research to build stronger connections between area manufacturing and education. The students involved in projects will be primed to graduate into industry positions within the region.

■ Provide an information source for use by K-12 educational institutions for their students to gain skills required for Industry 4.0 technologies.

Create a capability to transfer the lessons learned.

■ The Industry 4.0 taskforce will assemble the data collected and lessons learned from project processes to develop a comprehensive report that identifies best practices as well as future opportunities for Whitley County and the region.

■ Work skills required for both the agile companies and Industry 4.0 technologies will be quantified for Whitley County manufacturing companies.

Dale Buuck
Whitley County Economic Development Corporation

220 W. Van Buren Street, Suite 102 Columbia City, IN 46725

P: 260.244.5506

C: 260.515.3592

Email: @whitleyedc