What does AI mean to you as a manufacturer?

Artificial Intelligence as a sector has seen huge investment over the last few years and some would argue the UK are leading the way when it comes to AI.

Interestingly recent reports have highlighted that 60% of manufacturers in Europe have rolled out at least one AI application over the last 12 months. That includes the UK.

Is that reflective of what’s really happened though? Software and digitally enabling technologies are perhaps not the full AI installation that is possible with what’s available today.

What is AI?

IBM (https://www.ibm.com/uk-en/cloud/learn/what-is-artificial-intelligence) a great insight into artificial intelligence highlighting ‘any technology that exhibits anything remotely resembling human intelligence. AI systems can include anything from an expert system—a problem-solving application that makes decisions based on complex rules or if/then logic—to something like the equivalent of the fictional Pixar character Wall-E’.

So robotics, diagnostics, detecting… where data is collected from machines, sensors and people and LEARNINGS are applied to that data.

Workplace safety has been an area where AI has been well adopted. Using the data collected within the organisation to perform root cause analysis enabling you to prevent slips, trips and falls happening due to a set of hazards or circumstances.

Does it feel daunting?

Many manufacturers have a skill gap which makes artificial intelligence feel too daunting to even consider let alone implement has been reported by Make UK. It’s not just the skills; the time required to make the consideration of whether this is a wise investment for your OEM has just not been there over the last 18 months as this time has been survival in the best way possible. Financial considerations are also top of the list for not even wondering about any AI installations; it’s still perceived as a massive investment. Some of this goes back to that first point; skills with technology are limited in many businesses although many of organisations have undergone unprecedentedly quick digital transformations in recent times.

What did the pandemic do to your AI adoption?

Have some areas needed rethinking so that you can adhere to social distancing? Have robotics helped achieve what was needed in times of low or no access to people on the ground?

That AI adoption figure above is over a time when survival mode has perhaps highlighted areas of weakness or processes that are draining profit margins.

Making investment in technology once it has proven to work and change things for the better is something many organisations have reported as good outcome of the pandemic.

How does this relate to engineering?

It’s an area that Craig keeps a close eye on, both because he has an appetite for technology and the improvements it can bring to a business AND due to the need to understand how to design when AI is a considered solution or requirement within a manufacturing process. Collecting data is something many organisations do for their processes but truly using it for improvements and better understanding is something many OEMs have not fully embraced. And whilst that can be done with systems and software that many of us are familiar with the advances in this area are rapid now.