Gov. Kim Reynolds, along with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Innovation Council, have unveiled the state’s Manufacturing 4.0 plan, which officials described as a road map to help Iowa manufacturers remain globally competitive through a fourth industrial revolution that emphasizes automation and smart technology.

“The state’s Manufacturing 4.0 plan recognizes that Iowa’s manufacturing sector supplies global markets with everything from food products to aerospace electronics,” Reynolds said in a news release. “To maintain our leadership role, Iowa businesses are already thinking outside the box to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the 21st century economy. This roadmap will outline new strategies to support their efforts and ensure Iowa’s future prosperity is widespread, reaching all people in all parts of Iowa.”

Iowa’s manufacturing sector employs about 226,000 people at more than 4,100 companies; the industry’s output annually contributes $30 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, accounting for 17% of Iowa’s GDP. Manufacturers employ 17% of Iowa’s private workforce and pay out 21% of total employee compensation in the state.

The Manufacturing 4.0 plan includes five strategic priorities, including adapting Iowa’s economic development incentives to encourage the manufacturing industry’s investment in emerging technologies. An executive summary and the full report can be found on the IEDA website.

The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, includes the internet of things, additive manufacturing, advanced robotics, augmented reality, cybersecurity and more. These digital technologies may not replace jobs, but they will transform how work is performed, including how products are designed, fabricated, consumed and serviced.

The IEDA formed an industry-led Manufacturing 4.0 initiative in 2020 with the goal of creating a strategic plan to take on the Industry 4.0 challenges of adopting technology, increasing productivity, competing for talent and ongoing globalization.

“Manufacturers are embracing industrial automation, and yet this transition represents a significant challenge, especially for small- to medium-sized manufacturers who must make expensive purchases, integrate technology into their operations and retrain workers,” said Hank Norem, president and CEO of Ramco Innovations in West Des Moines and co-chair of the IIC’s Advanced Manufacturing Work Group. “The strategies outlined in the Manufacturing 4.0 plan will support manufacturers through this critical transition.”

The IIC is an advisory group made up of state business leaders who work with representatives from Iowa’s community colleges, universities and government to advise IEDA on programs to support commercialization and entrepreneurship. The IIC’s Advanced Manufacturing Work Group led the Manufacturing 4.0 initiative with support from consulting group TEConomy Partners, manufacturing leaders across the state and the IEDA.

“Iowa has honored its legacy in manufacturing by recognizing the need for state and industry leaders to work together to ensure our state remains competitive in this critical industry,” said Kevin Gaul, director of operations for Pella Corp. and co-chair of the IIC’s Advanced Manufacturing Work Group. “Public-private partnerships like the Manufacturing 4.0 initiative fuel innovation and ensure success for generations to come.”