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MICHauto at the 2022 SPESA Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference: The Motor City Is Where Industry and Innovation Collide

The Sewn Product Equipment and Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA) professional group held their annual Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference in Detroit on Sept. 13 to discuss new ideas, solutions, and technology available for the sewn products industry.

Detroit has been on an ongoing fashion and garment manufacturing influx for the past five years, thanks to its existing infrastructure to support growth and overall support for Made in America initiatives. The city and region are bringing heavy competition to other major markets like New York City and Los Angeles.

Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto and vice president of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives​​ at the Detroit Regional Chamber, and Drew Coleman, senior director of MICHauto, joined two SPESA panels to give perspectives from the automotive and mobility standpoints since the industries share similar needs and issues.

The conference panels kicked off at One Woodward’s Beacon with a discussion on the city’s role in reshoring, nearshoring, and improving domestic and global supply chains. Coleman joined this discussion with Deb Ferraro, vice president of global product development and technical design at Carhartt, and Matthew Wallace, chief executive officer of DXM Inc.

Starting the conversation, Coleman was asked how industry reinvesting seems to work continuously in Detroit compared to other locations in the country. While admitting it’s still a challenging issue, he credited the region’s prime location for immense international trade and its high-quality talent “who just gets things done.”

“With us, we have Detroit and Windsor as one of the busiest international trade sectors in the world,” Coleman said. “When you have that, along with design, builders, and manufacturing all in one place creates synergy…merging [a logistical] strategy with location advantages and talent together creates ‘creative opportunities’ here in this region.”

Later in the conversation, when asked about the struggles with supply chain shifts and how the automotive and mobility industry will continue to evolve in infrastructure, Coleman leaned in on utilizing the entire ecosystem.

“When you’re looking at chips, it’s not just policy, it’s also building and investing,” he said. “It’s the whole ecosystem of the supply chain. It’s going back to risk analysis [and] analyzing the entire system. But this is a long-term strategic approach. There has to be positioning with policy, with [talent], and with industry to show value proposition to all parties.”

In closing, when asked about the Ford Central Station’s collaborative ecosystem, Coleman expressed the criticalness of partnerships, saying it’s about “bringing all the right people to the table and showing what they can do.” One party or partner shouldn’t entirely be the “sole solution to the problem.”

Later in the afternoon, Stevens joined the conference’s culmination panel at the Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC) in Midtown Detroit with the following stakeholders who have been responsible for Detroit’s continued growth across fashion, automotive, and innovation:

  • Jen Guarino, Chief Executive Officer, ISAIC
  • Brenna Lane, Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Denim
  • Colleen Hau, Vice President of Product and Programs, Newlab
  • Allen Largin, Creative and Innovation Director, Rock Ventures

Stevens served as an additional insight into how the fashion manufacturing industry has immense innovation opportunities in Michigan, like how the automotive and mobility industry has had since the invention of the modern vehicle.

When asked if the apparel industry could piggyback off the automotive and mobility industry’s success, Stevens compared the possibility to the successful pivots of Arsenal of Democracy in the 1940s and the inrush needs of ventilators just a few years ago.

“I think the proof of the past and present gives you optimism for the future,” Stevens said. “The mobilization of ingenuity, innovation, engineering, and grit [is] not something we just talk about, it’s something we’ve shown that we can do. And I think you can apply that to a lot of different industries and products as we move forward.”

In closing, when asked about some of his favorite parts of this year’s Auto Show, Stevens shared a mutual excitement for the vehicles’ interior designs, particularly the newest Ford Raptor being a “work of art.”

“I am fascinated with what’s going on with the interiors of the vehicles,” he said. “To see how they use patterns in the laminates [and] what they’re doing in the textiles in the leather, I think that’s some of the neatest things to be looking at.”