The future role of AI in manufacturing

AI (artificial intelligence) is just one among many of the advances at the forefront of the new wave of disruptive technologies spearheading our new industrial revolution (industry4.0). AI is set to change not just our manufacturing facilities but also our entire lives, from the algorithms that dictate our Facebook and Twitter feeds, to our voice activated home devices, to music streaming services to self-driving vehicles. AI is everywhere.

If AI is becoming more and more embedded into our everyday lives, so why then would our manufacturing facilities be any different?

The benefits of AI within manufacturing are staggering and could see significant changes across an entire spectrum of manufacturing, from quality control, to warehousing and distribution, to product purchasing and supply chain.

We have already seen a huge step change in the use of AI in warehousing operations over the past 15 years, and it is now commonplace for every large warehousing operation to have at least some AI working alongside its human counterpart. This generally takes place as automated robotic pick and place machines, or robotic pallet movers, as is now standard across many warehousing operations up and down the country (Amazon and Ocado particularly, use AI to great effect.)

  (Amazon automated warehouse)

(Ocado robotic pick and place AI controlled machines)

This type of warehousing AI, has brought with it many challenges, as any change so often does. But, there is no doubt that the introduction of AI in the warehouse has significantly improved efficiency, with parts being located significantly quicker for example and has enabled operations like “Amazon Prime” to completely disrupt and dominate the marketplace seemingly overnight.

Now that warehousing operations have seen a huge increase in its efficiency thanks to AI, what is next for AI in manufacturing?

We should consider how AI can be used to provide predictive analytics on such things as OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), predicting breakdowns before they happen, optimising production based on equipment speeds and feeds, integrate with planning systems to more accurate predict run times and production volumes.

The manufacturing sector is on the cusp of major disruption thanks in part to Industry4.0 and the multitude of benefits it can bring. With the constant need to drive improvements, reduce costs and improve efficiency it is no wonder that AI should be at the very top of every manufacturers wish list when it comes to technology.

As the world already begins to fill up with AI controlled ‘smart’ devices, manufacturing as a whole is yet to experience the true benefits that AI could bring.

Given the tremendous advantages AI has given warehousing operations, not to mention the part it now plays in our everyday lives, manufacturing is set for major disruption with the help of AI, and it will be those who can embrace its technological advantage and understand the correct ways to apply AI, who will see fundamental shifts in the way they manufacture now and in the future.