Harness the power of AI to monitor and analyse your processes, reduce waste, optimise workflows, and respond in real-time to changes in your situation.
In today’s world, manufacturing industries can greatly benefit from highly advanced software solutions, helping them to progress to Industry 4.0; reducing costs and waste, managing their assets and human resources, turning any factory into a smart factory, and optimising every aspect of their work.
The terms ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ or ‘Industry 4.0’ have become popular in describing the rapid changes to industrial processes that are possible due to increasing interconnectivity and smart automation.
In this article, I will give a brief overview of how your operations could benefit from these new technologies, which are constantly being further refined and expanded.
What do we mean by ‘artificial intelligence’?
In the context of this article, I’m referring to software that’s capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.
With the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ (IIoT), smart machines and tools can collect data to be processed in real-time, then it can be analysed by smart machine learning programs that allow the artificial intelligence (AI) to make predictions and recommendations based on what it has learned before.
The more data that’s fed into the machine, the more accurate and effective its predictions and recommendations become.
What’s important is that this type of machine learning can be applied to any aspect of the industrial process – from improving storage and transportation, through optimising schedules based on staff and equipment availability, to designing the best layouts for cutting raw materials that make the most of the available material and reduce waste.
Furthermore, when combined with quality systems and auditing processes, the artificial intelligence can check that any predictions or recommendations that it makes are commensurate with the quality regulations that you must follow, and can ensure that you are more ready for audits through increased traceability and identification of the root causes of any issues.
How does artificial intelligence work?
Artificial intelligence works by collecting data from sensors in real-time and analysing it using a variety of pre-determined and self-taught algorithms.
With this information, predictions and decisions can be made and acted upon independently of human interaction.
In the context of industry, the artificial intelligence software requires the tools and machinery to contain sensors that are capable of being interfaced with the software, so that the data can be read and analysed.
As traditional manufacturing processes are improved and automated, and machinery is modernised to utilise smarter technology, the Industrial Internet of Things grows and provides more and more opportunities for gathering data.
The data has been available to gather from these machines for some years. The concept of ‘Industry 4.0’, though, revolves around that data being utilised in an automatic, real-time manner, to make predictions and recommendations and decisions.
How will artificial intelligence benefit industry?
Artificial intelligence is capable of revolutionising manufacturing by analysing big data collected from factory floors and applying advanced analytics methods to offer factory staff smart predictions, recommendations and process optimisation.
Consider the following:
- You could accurately determine where bottlenecks arise in your process and which areas are ripe for optimisation.
- You could automatically re-schedule planned work to accommodate late work orders in the most efficient manner possible.
- You could optimise the handling and storage of time-sensitive materials and automatically manage shelf-life and stock rotation.
- You could predict exactly when maintenance would be required on your machinery and plan ahead for the necessary downtime.
- You could track and trace all tools and materials to allow full traceability from raw material to end-product, providing assurance to your customers and preventing mishandling within your processes.
- You could reduce waste by optimising cutting patterns to maximise the efficient use of materials. You could also, therefore, reduce the amount of raw materials required, saving money and reducing transportation requirements.
- You could identify the root cause of quality problems quickly and be guided in the actions required to resolve them.
- You could maintain complete real-time oversight of critical assets to be aware of your operational status at all times.
AI software can be applied to processes and businesses of any size, and can be implemented in a modular fashion to provide some or all of the suggested benefits above.
When will this kind of software be available?
So you’ve read this far and decided that AI software might be useful for your business. This kind of software must be years away from being stable and effective, though, right?
There are tools already on the market and with considerable proof behind their concept to justify serious consideration.
Companies like Plataine have developed applications that use data from sensors in machinery, the people in the factory and other software already present to create detailed digital pictures of the entire manufacturing process and create alerts and smart recommendations to optimise production processes.
Plataine’s solutions are currently used by leading manufacturers worldwide, from OEMs to Tier 2s – including Airbus, GE, Enercon, Muskogee Technology, IAI, Triumph, General Atomics, Alestis, Ethan Allen, and Hengshi.
As mentioned earlier, Plataine’s software is modular and scalable, meaning you could employ as many or as few of the modules as you want, and expand your use as your business grows and you see the value of the benefits first-hand.
The CEO of Plataine, Avner Ben-Bassat, recently spoke on the IoT For All podcast to discuss Industrial IoT and AI, giving a more in-depth discussion of the technologies and their impact on manufacturing. Watch the video recording of the podcast here:
This sounds expensive
Solutions such as Plataine’s optimisation tools can be so beneficial to your company in improving your production processes, reducing waste and optimising workflows, that it is claimed that the system will offset its own cost within 12 months for most businesses.
The systems can be implemented remotely and integrated with existing systems, either being installed on-premises in conjunction with your existing IT infrastructure or hosted remotely on the cloud. The easy-to-use, intuitive interfaces can be accessed anywhere on any browser-capable device.
In short, with the benefits that AI solutions can provide, you may reach a point where you are effectively losing money by not employing such systems in your processes and infrastructure.
If you’re already using software to manage aspects of your business – whether that’s for stock control, personnel management, asset tracking, material processing or sales – then think of these artificial intelligence tools as being something to draw all of those data sources together to make informed decisions based on all of the aspects of your business, more quickly and more efficiently than you could without it.
I strongly believe that this sort of machine learning software will become more commonplace over the coming years, and the more closely integrated the different elements of a business become, the more informed and effective they will be.