Some of us folks here at RDZ HQ could be accused of being technophobes – pointing no fingers of course…In truth we are probably not far from the majority of people going about their day to day business; embracing the benefits of home-based technology, the internet of things, new information platforms and such, whilst still believing that Artificial Intelligence is something confined to the large (probably US-based) multinationals who don’t really have to worry too much about the here and now. After all, with daily productivity targets and more mundane practical considerations – and, dare we say, uncertainties such as Brexit (sorry!) – is our manufacturing sector afforded the same luxury of experimenting with and developing AI within their facilities?
The answer to the question is yes, they are. There seems to be a unanimous embracing of the fact that AI will be very prominent in the future of manufacturing. We’ve passed the point where we are having debates about the possibility that robots will be taking over the jobs of us mere mortals and instead accepting that human job roles will naturally change. In looking more closely at the very present learnings from an AI-integrated industrial sector, it is easy to understand why. The most immediate benefit is the ability to make informed decisions at each and every stage in the production process, in real time. Sensors identify and, via the cloud, verify defective parts whilst still on the production line. Removal of the defect is swift, replacements ordered automatically, and downtime is minimised. Even although this is probably the simplest application of what is brain-numbingly powerful technology it still has the potential to save manufacturers millions and, at the same time, avoid the risk of poor-quality finished product – not to mention the PR nightmare which follows a product recall.
So, with time, cost and productivity benefits to be had, the adoption of AI amongst even the smaller scale manufacturers is no surprise. It will be very interesting to see in time how it changes the thinking within our industrial sector and alters the decision-making processes when it comes to investment. Most AI-enabled systems rely on data – lots and lots of it to learn and evolve. The collection, harnessing and management of huge volumes of data will therefore become a crucial factor in future development. Ownership will be key, as will cyber security so there may very soon be a time where more investment is made in data management than in physical machinery. An interesting concept which instantly makes us wonder what the floor of the international trade shows will look like in 10 years or so – real machinery to touch and feel or simply holograms??