Business Automation and Software Blog

Is 2021 the Year to Add AI in Manufacturing?

Posted by Robert Baran on Wed, Feb 03, 2021 @ 11:00 AM

AI in manufacturing

Like many areas of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) gained more attention and interest with the rapid and drastic changes to work environments that 2020 experienced. Still, mid-sized manufacturers may relegate AI usage to the bigger players in the marketplace. In reality, AI is for many different types and sizes of businesses, and with manufacturers of all sizes needing to adapt to new realities, AI could be a major player for them:

  1. AI has the potential to transform performance and quality across the spectrum of manufacturing operations. As more manufacturers adopt Industry 4.0 technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT), AI will be needed to help analyze data for value-added tasks such as predictive maintenance or performance optimization.
  2. Analyst groups like IDC and Gartner forecast that spending on AI will grow significantly in the next three years. They predict that AI spending in 2023 will be more than two and a half times the spending level of 2019 (IDC Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Spending Guide).

AI needs some serious consideration. Using AI in a manufacturing business comes with measurable benefits, such as the ability to automate a process to augment human ability, optimize the efficiency of a process, and enhance the ability of people to accomplish tasks, or enable them to do something they typically could not.

7 Ways to Use AI in Manufacturing

Let’s look at the emerging role of AI in manufacturing. Manufacturers have a number of use cases to consider when kick-starting an AI journey.

  1. Predictive maintenance: Combining AI in manufacturing with data from IoT sensors and other sources enables better prediction and avoidance of machine failure. Capital equipment productivity can be increased up to 20 percent, while maintenance costs may be reduced by up to 10 percent.
  2. Yield enhancement: AI-supported manufacturing can experience decreased scrap rates and testing costs by linking many variables across machinery groups and sub-processes.
  3. Quality testing: AI-based image recognition can significantly increase the detection of defects as compared to human inspection. Because AI systems can learn continuously, performance continues to improve over time.
  4. Supply chain management: Using AI can improve forecasting accuracy at an increased SKU granularity with a reduction in errors between 20 and 50 percent, and inventory reductions of 20 to 50 percent. This is achieved by analyzing and learning from various data sources, such as warehousing and inventory data in an ERP system, as well as from external sources like social media information.
  5. R & D: AI in manufacturing can improve product design by iteratively testing and learning. This can optimize designs and suggest solutions that may appear unconventional to the human mind.
  6. Shop floor operations: Combining real-time monitoring through sensors with AI can optimize shop floor operations, providing insights into machine-level loads and production schedule performance. AI can analyze large amounts of data coming from sensors far more effectively than humans and make recommendations in near real-time to assist human decision making.
  7. Health and safety: AI can be used to get a better understanding of risk factors on the shop floor and can help make operations safer.

How to Start and Scale AI

Due to its newness in the market, AI projects will often be implemented as small-scale prototypes in live environments. This gives users the time to navigate it and learn about any issues.

The first step is to get the AI prototype processing data in real-time from the shop floor or warehouse. Automating the collection of real-time data from live production operations will require integration to a manufacturing operation management or manufacturing execution system; this can be assisted by data from IoT sources.

Scaling beyond the prototype phase is not a challenge to be under-estimated. Performance needs to be continuously monitored for quality, reliability, and value generated. However, once the AI solution is proven and ready, the application can be deployed and made available across multiple sites. As you scale up and apply AI, it learns across divisions and geographies, extracting additional value.

Be sure to also adopt procedures for auditing and testing to ensure AI risks are understood and addressed throughout the organization.

AI and ERP: A Perfect Match

When it comes to AI applications in manufacturing, approximately half of businesses are buying as opposed to building their own (Deloitte: The State of AI in the Enterprise). Since you are going to need data from an enterprise system as both input and output for an AI system, it makes sense to consider what your ERP system can offer.

A third-party AI solution handles a large amount of data, which can add to security issues. Integrating AI into your ERP helps minimize putting data at risk. By having the AI system integrated with your ERP, you also reduce your time to deliver a full solution.

Your ERP should also enable anyone to engage with AI, with no need a to be data scientist. Without understanding the data you’re being shown, you won’t find value in AI. You need to make sure existing automated report writers can read the AI reports. Ensure your ERP solution has a report-writing tool that will allow you to bring AI information to the user interface.

Time for AI? Talk to PositiveVision

If you are still wondering whether to go the AI route or not for your manufacturing business, remember that if you do not change the way you operate, the tools you use, and the degree of automation you choose, your industry and competitors will, and your customers will move on.

Curious what else is next for Manufacturing? Watch this on-demand webinar to learn more about the critical lessons manufacturing finance leaders learned and how those informed priorities for 2021. Watch now.

Ready to explore adding AI to your ERP? Or perhaps it’s time to upgrade your ERP so that it can handle adding AI. Regardless of where you are on your AI and ERP journey, you can rely on the experts at PositiveVision Inc. to get you started. With decades of experience implementing best-in-class ERP solutions for manufacturers, PositiveVision is the proven partner you need. Get started here.

Topics: AI in manufacturing