The impact of AI on the manufacturing industry


Date: 2 November 2021

Engineer checks and controls an AI robotic lifting arm

The continual evolution of technology has been making our lives easier for centuries, and it is still happening today. In the manufacturing industry, flexible processes are essential if companies are to adapt quickly and take advantage of new technologies and respond to changing customer preferences and demands from the market.

It's no secret that these advancements (including cloud computing, the collection and analysis of digital data and more) affect how products are manufactured. In this dynamic and often hard-to-navigate environment, artificial intelligence is becoming an increasingly essential tool for improving efficiency, productivity, and visibility.

But will AI ultimately have a negative impact on the manufacturing industry? And what are the potential benefits of AI? Let's take a closer look at everything we know about AI in manufacturing industry settings. 

Advantages of AI in manufacturing

Enhanced safety in the workplace

"Cobots" are collaborative robots designed to work safely with humans. It's a concept that has gained prominence in recent years. Cobots are small, lightweight, and considerably less expensive than traditional industrial robots, making them an entry-level option for companies considering entering the AI movement.

Cobots create a safer working environment by performing more dangerous and physically demanding tasks, freeing up workers to fulfil more complex roles and avoid injury. By using machine learning algorithms, factory robots may even be able to communicate with humans and carry out the tasks given to them more efficiently in the future.

Predicting market demand

Using accurate forecasts and predictions to increase production efficiency is one great way to improve workflow in a business. An AI system that performs this type of analysis can be incredibly useful, since many supply and demand scenarios can be tested. 

With machine learning algorithms, accurate market patterns can be found hidden in your data to provide crucial insights in real-time. This data can help manufacturers make better-informed decisions about what products to prioritise and when based on anticipated demand. This can help ensure sufficient supplies of popular products are maintained, reduce the storage costs of unsold or unpopular products

The optimisation of production

Automation of manual or repetitive tasks through AI can increase production efficiency on the production floor. Automation is already being used in robotics to perform functions such as assembly, lifting and packing. By using industrial robots in this way, the human work force can focus on more demanding tasks rather than completing routine, manual ones.

Overall greater performance

Despite the huge amount of data produced by modern manufacturing equipment, we are often unable to decipher and interpret it quickly enough that it can be useful to daily operations.

A continuous delivery of insights, patterns and warnings is possible through AI, so workers can focus on the manufacturing aspects that need to be fine-tuned. For example, a warning that a part needs servicing can allow managers to switch production to another line before a breakdown occurs thereby avoiding an impact on output. Manufacturers who use these methods are able to minimise energy consumption, downtime and faulty goods as a result and maximise performance.

One particular study showed that AI has the ability to lower lost sales by 65%, which isn't something that you can overlook.

Will artificial intelligence replace human workers? 

Human workers will not necessarily be replaced by machine learning or automation, as many have speculated.

By removing repetitive, manual tasks and the possibility of human error, AI will not replace human intelligence; rather, it will complement it by supporting and enhancing what humans can do. The result would mean that workers are freed up to perform more challenging tasks.

Final thoughts

With all the above in mind, it's clear to see that artificial intelligence has a place in the manufacturing industry and there are a whole host of settings where it can be beneficial.

The manufacturing sector has certainly changed a lot over the years, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, when you consider some of the advantages above, it's clear to see why AI has earned its place in manufacturing settings and will continue to be worthwhile moving forward.

If you want a better understanding of the benefits of AI in manufacturing, this blog is a great place to start:

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