Technology Record - Issue 32: Spring 2024

106 VIEWPOINT Embracing digitisation Digital transformation in manufacturing boosts efficiency and innovation, and creates the opportunity for dynamic, AI-enhanced operations Embracing digital transformation in the manufacturing sector not only enhances operational efficiency but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. The integration of the factory as a digital asset can create a data-powered environment in which employees are continuously learning, uncovering new insights and optimising operations to be more productive, safe and secure. In recent years, digitisation has also assisted in creating more dynamic supply chains and cost optimisation opportunities. Rockwell Automation’s State of Smart Manufacturing Report found that manufacturers in 2023 had increased their use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) tools by 50 per cent compared to 2022. Additionally, more than two-thirds of manufacturers believe these technologies can help to address workforce challenges. With intelligent platforms, manufacturers can unify infrastructure and data to create holistic views of their operations. Digital tools can also integrate IT and operational technology (OT) systems to better monitor and control physical assets. This enables the use of technologies such as generative AI and ML to produce insights for more efficiency and improved production quality. Of course, digital transformation is no easy task. It takes time to plan and deploy solutions, as well as train staff on how to use the technology. So, when it comes to the optimisation of existing assets, businesses are prioritising digitising resources critical to those working on the shop floor rather than revamping the entire plant at once. People and machines can work together and learn from each other as technology advances. With operational insights from connected systems and analytical assistance from AI, employees can make better decisions. Using AI and digital twins, employees can digitally explore how their ideas and suggested improvements work without disrupting reallife production lines. Plus, generative AI can be leveraged to augment training by giving employees access to a combined knowledge of support documentation and operating procedures for specialised tasks. To compete with more resiliency, agility and sustainability, manufacturing enterprises need more insightful data to steer their operations. By being software-defined, manufacturers can modernise factory equipment to work collaboratively with people, while helping companies solve complex business goals in ever-changing environments. Cyril Perducat is senior vice president and chief technology officer at Rockwell Automation CYRIL PERDUCAT: ROCKWELL AUTOMATION