AI has been lifted from the pages of science fiction novels and is now heralded by many businesses as a money-making opportunity. One area where this is certainly the case is in the manufacturing industry. The aim of manufacturing is to be able to improve the efficiency of processes in order to reduce costs, enhance productivity and increase profits. Smart manufacturing has been one of the fastest emerging ways in which to improve processes on and off the factory floor, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of the movement towards a smarter future.
There a several examples of how AI can be integrated into a manufacturing business, but first it might be useful to know exactly what AI is in this context. AI is a branch of computer science that allows machines to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence. It can be presented in a variety of ways, from robotic arms that can perform physical tasks to algorithms that take the guesswork out of decision-making.
We can see AI everywhere; from the smart devices you speak to at home to the chatbots you engage with on your favourite website. In the manufacturing sector this can be applied at scale and deliver a number of benefits, some of which we’ll discuss in more detail below:
Making the most of data
Data is vital for businesses in the manufacturing sector, and many are using edge computing to extract data directly from the factory floor. AI is able to leverage this data intelligently to improve the manufacturing process in various ways. For example, AI will be able to determine when stock from a certain part of the production line will run out, improving supply chain efficiency. Another benefit could be that AI is able to gauge the wear and tear on components in machines on the factory floor. By highlighting this and prompting replacements, AI can both improve safety and productivity.
Getting smarter with machine learning
AI is also applied to machine learning, which means it can also learn and adapt according to its experiences. This means that not only can efficiencies be gathered in the short term, but also AI can adapt and improve into the future. This helps to reduce expensive hardware costs and keep the business’ finger on the pulse as new and improved techniques come to the fore.
One of the main misconceptions workers have with AI is that it will mean large scale redundancies in the manufacturing sector as machines replace people. In fact, the introduction of AI can benefit the workforce. AI can handle repetitive tasks that previously needed to be performed by staff, leaving them to complete more cognitively challenging and interesting tasks.
Over the last few years, AI has moved from being a radical theoretical concept to a practical applied solution. Manufacturers can realise huge gains from implementing it into their production line, but it’s important to consider the impact across the entire organisation. Getting buy-in from every level will ensure seamless adoption and ultimately bigger rewards.
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