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How AI is helping manufacturers to evolve

As digitalisation continues to influence and enhance the day-to-day operation of factories, there’s no questioning the importance that AI is going to have on manufacturing. It’s also clear that artificial intelligence is going to be a driving factor of growth and success, especially within the automotive industry.

The results of a Forbes Insights survey showed that 44% of respondents from the automotive and manufacturing industries believe that AI is going to be highly important to their functions over the next 5 years. Alongside this, 49% believed that the technology will be “absolutely critical to success.”

While AI was once thought of as nothing more than a science-fiction fantasy, it has swiftly arrived at the forefront of manufacturing thanks to a growing reliance on big data, cloud computing and machine learning systems. The wide scope of AI also means that it can help improve all aspects of manufacturing by enabling the self-optimisation of machinery, reducing product defects and shortening unplanned downtime.

AI is being used by global companies including GE, Siemens and Intel, who are already profiting from all the benefits it brings to manufacturing lines. A good example of how artificial intelligence is making manufacturing lines more efficient is through the use of intelligent machine controllers. These PLC systems with integrated AI functionality can spot any defects on the production line using a network of connected sensors, feed this data to the cloud for verification then immediately instruct the machine to remove the faulty part.

In just a matter of seconds, these AI systems can locate, remove and order replacements. This level of real-time problem-solving has the potential to save businesses from costly recalls, repairs and even lost business.

Another example of AI helping manufacturers work more proactively is by replacing reactive maintenance with predictive maintenance. This means that with integrated artificial intelligence, machines can report their conditions almost instantly, eliminating elements of maintenance guesswork altogether.

Predictive maintenance doesn’t just guarantee optimal manufacturing performance, it also saves the business time and resources, as well as protecting the bottom line. Through advanced analytics embedded in manufacturing equipment, maintenance teams can prioritise their responses based on alerts given by the machines themselves.

Artificial intelligence is already being used in factories across the world as manufacturers move ever closer to full digitalisation and the technology is already being used for some astounding work. The latest gas turbines from Siemens contain over 500 sensors to monitor temperature, pressure, stress and a whole host of other variables. Every single bit of this data is then fed to a neural network-based AI who is continuously learning to adapt the turbine to create optimal conditions for specific weather condition.

However, for businesses to fully embrace artificial intelligence they need to lay the foundations first. We already know that big data and machine learning will be required to get the most out of AI, so companies need to ensure they’ve got the relevant plant architecture and a fully integrated network of connected sensors, automation systems and machines to prepare for this exciting digital technology.

In the pursuit of waste reduction and efficiency increases, the manufacturing industry has been embracing the latest innovations for years. As a result, the sector could soon see AI and the Internet of Things become standard as manufacturing plants continue to transform into smart factories. However, these advanced techniques are just another step on the path to digitalisation.


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