AI and Manufacturing: The Future Is Now
All manufacturers should be aware of this statistic: Artificial intelligence (AI) in the manufacturing industry is expected to reach $11.7 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 54.6% from $2.6 billion in 2021. Among manufacturing leaders, 34% report investing in AI to bolster their bottom lines. These eye-opening statistics indicate that even small manufacturers can benefit from implementing AI in their businesses.
Undoubtedly, the pace of this change was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused manufacturers across the board to reassess their supply and distribution chains and their warehousing strategies. In those areas, AI can proactively identify problems and provide predictive forecasting.
The promise of integrating AI on the manufacturing floor cannot be overstated. AI can be used to predict which machines will need maintenance and when. This is a big shift from scheduled maintenance, although it can integrate with preexisting schedules. AI relies on machine-specific data such as workload and shift schedules to determine maintenance schedules. Using this data, AI can predict how much longer a piece of machinery will continue performing before it needs to be repaired. Consequently, it can reduce downtime, especially unplanned downtime caused by an unexpected breakdown, and allow hard-to-get parts to be ordered in a timely manner.
Cybersecurity is another area in which AI can help manufacturers make positive changes. There are many facets of cybersecurity, from setting and implementing zero-tolerance policies to choosing operational technology. AI can help by automatically sifting through the company's data to detect and identify internal and external threats and intrusions.
Physical and premises security
Often, manufacturers are forced to weigh the cost of live security against the need to protect company assets. AI allows companies to utilize video surveillance systems for this purpose. These systems are sensitive enough to distinguish among people, animals and objects, and to identify suspicious behavior patterns. The systems can trigger alerts based on specific parameters. Some systems can communicate with trespassers and call for help in real time.
Forecasting is never easy, but perhaps the biggest lesson manufacturers learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that they had to get better at it. There are still shortages in many areas that are causing prices to rise. While many experts suggest these high prices will ease, manufacturers are faced with forecasting their future needs and their associated costs.
This means forecasting on the basis of best-better-worst scenarios looking forward, rather than on past performance. Predictive AI technologies can assist with this, helping manufacturers reduce costs by better predicting inventory and warehousing needs.
As AI continues to evolve and grow more sophisticated, companies need to be flexible in their approach to adopting it. This means being open and agile enough to adopt new technologies. It also means reskilling and upskilling employees so they can use it to maximum effect. On the software side, it means doing the necessary research so the software the company purchases has the requisite interfaces and growth potential.