Remember the boy with endless learning capacities in the 2001 film “AI Artificial Intelligence”? He’s quickly coming to life. Today, AI is no longer fictional; it’s reality.
In its current form, AI can sort through massive amounts of data more quickly and efficiently than humans, allowing for more timely, insightful and decisive choices in real time. These functions of AI and “deep learning” are becoming increasingly beneficial to more and more industries, such as healthcare, transportation and finance, but only one industry can arguably claim to be the first to fully harness AI: manufacturing.
With AI, manufacturers can now monitor the progress inside of our plants in real-time and access the mission-critical data for improved operations, enhanced asset utilization and optimized quality. AI can optimize vital tasks, such as production planning and scheduling, as well as examine machine operation conditions, predict failures, and proactively remediate problems that might occur.
By using AI systems, we can begin to manage increasingly complex supply-and-demand issues and optimize factory utilization. This means for large-scale manufacturers, AI will be able to sense and adjust to their environment and communicate in an industrial network that is formed and based on the analysis of Big Data, increasing performance and productivity throughout the entire factory.
For small- and medium-scale manufacturers, AI can reduce expense by enabling machines to perform a wider range of jobs adaptive to the production needs.
This of course does not mean the end of humans in factories. In front of the rise of smart machines, the skills of humans will evolve to meet the demands that machines cannot fulfill, such as the abilities to deeply understand the increasing need for product personalization, business development, and creativity.
At the same time, an optimized working condition in a smart factory can give the best consideration for employees’ well-being, which encourages more efficient workers and attracts the best talent.
With the assistance of AI, companies can better understand their workers’ needs, and thus improve employee engagement and workers’ performance. As AI ushers in an era of enhanced human-to-machine interfaces with more net gains in overall productivity, quality and prosperity, we become the ultimate beneficiaries of AI.
When we connect that all with robotics and 3D printing, using sensors and data mining, we gain the ability to make complex decisions faster than humans can on their own, resulting in a more adaptive and responsive factory—a manufacturing facility with the agility to manage higher product-mix complexity with lower inventory and a simpler supply chain, allowing the reduction of material inputs, and the combination of multiple complex assembly steps into simplified cognitive and connected assemblies.
This kind of “brilliant factory” is no longer only available for deep-pocketed companies, such as General Electric or Amazon. The same technology will be available to every company, with real manufacturing operations or virtual ones. And with the financial barriers to brilliance in manufacturing removed, all companies of all sizes will be presented with exponential opportunities as a result of the democratization of this technology.
For example, Techniplas, which designs and puts together automotive products and services, is deploying what it calls the “Techniplas business system.” Having developed and extensively piloted in one of its facilities in Switzerland, it has a great deal of tried and proven deep learning, AI and scalable IoT elements that will soon be deployed companywide.
By keeping abreast of artificial intelligence growth, manufacturers across all business verticals will be able to strategically and successfully hybridize the factory floor with the combination of human workers and their robotic co-workers, while massively increasing their production capabilities and significantly reducing expenses.