Manufacturing is a robust industry that requires high levels of accuracy, continuous improvements in the production quality, and the best possible maintenance processes. Artificial intelligence has been steadily supported these processes, giving manufacturers the opportunity to increase productivity as well as profits. The benefits of applying artificial intelligence solutions to the manufacturing industry are numerous, and here we will show several cases to see how far AI has come.
1. Predicting maintenance issues
Maintenance is one of the most critical parts of the manufacturing industry. Instead of guessing and causing potential issues in the production process, predicting when machines need maintenance will prevent unplanned downtime. Sensor technologies and advanced analytics incorporated into the machinery enable fast and reliable information about potential machine issues. In the UK alone research shows that 3% of all working days are lost annually due to defective machines that cost manufacturers over 180 billion pounds. Many different variables affect downtime and by implementing artificial intelligence solutions such as machine learning, many production facilities have seen cost-effective results.
2. Increasing the overall production quality
Complex production processes and shorter time periods to market launch have certainly pressurized companies since it’s getting more difficult to maintain high levels of quality and, at the same time, respect strict regulations and standards. Additionally, consumers and customers have little or no patience for faulty products and push manufacturers to level-up their quality so that their brand image doesn’t get negatively affected. In this case, artificial intelligence uses algorithms to notify teams of potential faults such as a change in materials, abnormalities in machine behavior or other deviations that need analysis and immediate action. Some professional, online tools such as business intelligence send out analysis in real-time and notify the user as soon as an anomaly occurs. That way, the production quality minimizes risks of delivering faulty products and manufacturers can save costs (and their brand image).
3. Improving products with computer vision
While there are human inspectors that investigate product flaws, artificial intelligence goes a level deeper and improves the possibilities of the human eye. That means that cameras equipped with sensitivity levels that the human eye could never process alone give inspectors the possibility to immediately spot if the product needs corrections. A company in the US developed such a machine-vision software that uses computer vision in order to spot microparticles and surface defects while enabling the computer not only to see but to process and learn from the data it collects. This helps to improve inspection processes and ensure operators are augmented with extremely useful AI features that, ultimately, improve the final product.
4. Adapting to market changes – faster
The core element of Industry 4.0 is certainly artificial intelligence. Not just in operational levels of production processes but also in optimizing manufacturing supply chains, looking for patterns or analyzing consumer behavior. That way, the management of a company can anticipate market changes, develop strategies, or simply monitor specific metrics and automate analytics through sets of dashboards for production, quality or cost management processes.Moreover, AI algorithms can formulate estimations and based on that information, manufacturers have the opportunity to optimize staffing, the supply of raw materials, and inventory control, among many other processes critical for the industry. Although AI is in its infancy, we can already see how much has changed and improved manufacturing companies and the overall sector.
What will the future bring?
Artificial intelligence will certainly lead the way in the manufacturing industry and continue to grow with its many applications. The potential is enormous and we can see that manufacturers already use AI to extend the capabilities of humans while businesses will become more productive and efficient. “Modern machine learning allows us to unravel patterns that would be difficult or impossible for people to identify,” stated the co-founder and chief data scientist of Fero Labs in an article for Intel. Those who don’t adopt AI and strategies based on data will certainly be left behind.