Industry 4.0: Unleashing the power of AI in manufacturing

Published: July 15, 2019 3:49:04 AM

As the long-term benefits associated with AI adoption are realised, we’re starting to see broader factory of the future initiatives, or if you prefer to call it, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Connected Factory, or Smart Factory.

Industry 4.0, power of AI, AI in manufacturing, artificial intelligence,  Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, Connected Factory, Smart Factory, Boston Consulting Group, BCG, IT departmentThe new initiatives and production lines being created are focusing on efficiency, flexibility and speed.

By Jeff Nygaard

Largely driven by Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing initiatives, AI is creating self-adaptive and automatically reconfigurable production capabilities for manufacturers in India. Smarter robots, more connected and precise processes and more responsive supply chains are transforming the industry. As the long-term benefits associated with AI adoption are realised, we’re starting to see broader factory of the future initiatives, or if you prefer to call it, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Connected Factory, or Smart Factory. The new initiatives and production lines being created are focusing on efficiency, flexibility and speed. The good news is that organisations in India believe that AI will have a growing impact on their future relevance, with 90% having already implemented AI, and nearly all of them planning to implement more AI solutions in the next 12 months according to Seagate’s study, Data Pulse: Maximising the Potential of AI. It is no wonder that a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study ranked India third (after the USA and China) in terms of AI implementation.

Despite this positive outlook, many still face hurdles when it comes to understanding and applying AI within their business. The Data Pulse survey found 75% of organisations in India are unsure of where to start with AI. Other responses suggest this is largely due to lack of strategy and direction; commitment from the leadership team; talent; and IT infrastructure and budget.

The Three Ps
There are many steps in the journey towards AI-enabled manufacturing, but what we’ve learned from our own AI journey is that it’s important to address three key areas first—process, people and planning.

Optimise processes: There are thousands of processes in manufacturing, but not all can or should be optimised with AI. Identify the opportunities for greatest value and proceed accordingly. Applications like Natural Language Processing lend themselves well to processes in customer service and quality.

Address the skills shortage: Reskilling your employees to be effective in the changing manufacturing environment is a top priority. Equally important is sourcing new talent armed with the necessary skills to drive your AI initiatives forward.

Long-term planning is crucial: To reach automation alone often takes at least 5-10 years. The process involves product redesigns to make products more automation friendly and to allow data gathering. As this progresses, increasingly sophisticated data feeds enable integrated demand and supply chain planning.

Honing investments in IT infrastructure
Your IT infrastructure also needs to be customised to support the use of AI and, in particular, the edge devices that enable real-time data gathering, analysis and use. Seagate’s Data Pulse study indicated that 98% of organisations in India reported a need for more investment in IT infrastructure to handle increased data volumes from the implementation of AI. Work closely with your IT department to secure the most appropriate platforms and ensure they’re located where they need to be.

Securing your AI future
If you take the time and effort to explore how your organisation will benefit from adopting an AI-enhanced future, you’ll put yourself in a position to build a clear strategy and direction. And importantly you are able to establish an economically prudent approach to embracing the future opportunities that AI offers. Indeed without this knowledge and accompanying strategic leadership to champion the necessary change and investments, the speed of successful AI adoption will be put at risk.

The writer is EVP and head of operations, products, and technology,  Seagate Technology

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