How are AI and analytics disrupting the manufacturing sector?

Companies that harness the power of artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning will continue to lead the manufacturing industry in 2020, predicts Daniel Newman, founding partner and principal analyst at Futurum Research

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 23 March 2020
How are AI and analytics disrupting the manufacturing sector?

What are the characteristics of companies that are disrupting the manufacturing sector?
Disruptive manufacturers have two key attributes: the ability to quickly adopt emerging technologies and the ability to cultivate a culture where employees are open to innovation, easy to train and capable of quickly and proactively adapting to new market trends, processes and operating models. These characteristics enable manufacturers to rapidly implement new technologies and reap the benefits long before their competitors. 

Which technologies are helping these manufacturers to succeed? 
Every manufacturer wants to minimise machine downtime and optimise plant floor operations. Disruptors know that the key to achieving this is to capture and analyse data. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, internet of things, deep learning and machine learning make it easy to collect data about machine performance so manufacturers can carry out predictive maintenance and optimise processes. Front-office teams also use these technologies to understand and quickly react to the demands of their customers and buyers.

What challenges do non-disruptive manufacturing companies face and how can they overcome these?
Many non-disruptors are older companies with very rigid cultures and employees who are reluctant to adopt new technologies due to uncertainty about how they will impact job roles. To secure employee buy-in, executives should share their vision of how humans and machines will work in unison across their company. They should also highlight how new technology will improve their employees’ ability to complete tasks.

Most manufacturers struggle to keep pace with technology evolution. New solutions are being introduced constantly and deciding which to invest in and how to deploy them can take a while. This puts manufacturers at risk of lagging behind when the next big technology emerges.  

Can you share your vision for the future of manufacturing?
2020 will be a year of continuation rather than revolution. Manufacturing companies will take full control of their data by organising it into usable systems that can be accessed via both the cloud and on-premises servers. Meanwhile, technology like 5G will continue to grow as manufacturers look for dependable connectivity on factory floors, and augmented reality will be used to improve human-machine interactions.

Human-machine partnerships will proliferate, embedding automation deeper into the manufacturing space and driving near 100% uptime. Companies will have to accept that they can only drive speed and agility with tools like AI, machine learning and robotics and redirect human employees to nuanced and empathic tasks that require the deeper contextual knowledge. 

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

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