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Industry’s vaccine against future COVID-XX challenges

Jay Lee Vice Chairman and Board Member Foxconn Technology Group
By Jay Lee Vice Chairman and Board Member, Foxconn Technology Group

FIELD INTELLIGENCE: Smart Processes, Solutions & Strategies

The COVID-19 crisis caught all of us off guard and interrupted global systems in a way not experienced in recent memory. With more than 15 million employees, the American manufacturing sector has been no exception.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the more than 22 million American workers unemployed in April 2020, more than 1.5 million (almost 9 percent) belonged to the manufacturing industry. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reports that nearly 80 percent of manufacturers anticipate a financial impact due to the outbreak, and more than 50 percent expect to implement some sort of change in operations.

Despite our many advancements in analytics and automation, our current models of production remain heavily reliant on direct human intervention. In other words, when operators are stuck at home, production suffers, targets are not met, and financial losses are soon to follow.

The sobering fallout of the COVID-19 crisis begs the question: As scientists race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, what can the manufacturing sector do to inoculate itself against COVID-XX or another similarly devastating global interruption?

The key to keeping manufacturing output at or near full capacity during interruptions like COVID-19 is “worry-free” smart manufacturing that employs Industrial AI.

Industrial AI can help in achieving the 3W’s in smart manufacturing: Work reduction, Waste reduction and Worry reduction. In today’s manufacturing systems, “worry” is an invisible concern that can arise due to things like bad product quality, customer dissatisfaction or business decline.

In order to handle these challenges in the age of big data, IoT, and cloud computing, advanced AI tools must be used through a systematic approach. Work and waste reduction can also be achieved by using adaptive AI models to anticipate future patterns based on observation of the visible problems in manufacturing systems.

The critical circumstances of COVID-19 have brought to light the need to update and realign traditional manufacturing systems to take advantage of the powerful technologies now available. Future manufacturing should be repeatable, recoverable and reusable.

Apple’s built-in “time machine” backup function allows for the seamless transition of user data to a new machine when personal disaster strikes in the form of spilled coffee or a lost backpack. Why not create open Industrial AI platforms to deliver the same worry-free experience for manufacturers?

Using “worry-free” smart manufacturing powered by Industrial AI, we can fully unleash the power of digitization in the industrial world. Industrial AI will employ predict and prevent capabilities to discover the invisible issues in our manufacturing facilities with transparency—and ultimately eliminate unexpected black swan incidents from occurring. In addition, Industrial AI will employ time machine-based digital twin technologies to convert domain experiences into data, and data into decision-making.

As a World Economic Forum Global Lighthouse Network factory, Foxconn’s “lights-out factory” has embraced the three technological megatrends of connectivity, intelligence and flexible automation, which are driving the transformation toward “worry-free” smart manufacturing. Now, Foxconn iAI is assembling a team to develop lighthouse capabilities in Wisconsin. We eagerly anticipate collaborating with our partners in working toward a “worry-free” and better prepared future for American manufacturing.

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