Overcoming AI and Machine Learning barriers in manufacturing
There has been a considerable amount of hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies in the last five or so years. So much so that AI has become somewhat of a buzzword – full of ideas and promise, but something that is quite tricky to execute in practice.
At present, this means that the challenge we run into with AI and ML is a healthy dose of skepticism. For example, we’ve seen several large companies adopt these capabilities, often announcing they intend to revolutionize operations and output with such technologies but then failing to deliver. In turn, the ongoing evolution and adoption of these technologies is consequently knocked back. With so many potential applications for AI and ML it can be daunting to identify opportunities for technology adoption that can demonstrate real and quantifiable return on investment.
Many industries have effectively reached a sticking point in their adoption of AI and ML technologies. Typically, this has been driven by unproven start-up companies delivering some type of open source technology and placing a flashy exterior around it, and then relying on a customer to act as a development partner for it.
However, this is the primary problem – customers are not looking for prototype and unproven software to run their industrial operations. Instead of offering a revolutionary digital experience, many companies are continuing to fuel their initial skepticism of AI and ML by providing poorly planned pilot projects that often land the company in a stalled position of pilot purgatory, continuous feature creep and a regular rollout of new beta versions of software. This practice of the never ending pilot project is driving a reluctance for customers to then engage further with innovative companies who are truly driving digital transformation in their sector with proven AI and ML technology.
Innovation with direction
A way to overcome these challenges is to demonstrate proof points to the customer. This means showing how AI and ML technologies are real and are exactly like we’d imagine them to be. Naturally, some companies have better adopted AI and ML than others, but since much of this technology is so new, many are still struggling to identify when and where to apply it.
For example, many are keen to use AI to track customer interests and needs. In fact, even greater value can be discovered when applying AI in the form of predictive asset analytics on pieces of industrial process control and manufacturing equipment. AI and ML can provide detailed, real-time insights on machinery operations, exposing new insights that humans cannot necessarily spot. Insights that can drive huge impact on businesses bottom line.
AI and ML is becoming incredibly popular in manufacturing industries, with advanced operations analysis often being driven by AI. Many are taking these technologies and applying it to their operating experiences to see where economic savings can be made. All organizations want to save money where they can and with AI making this possible. These same organizations are usually keen to invest in further digital technologies. Successfully implementing an AI or ML technology can significantly reduce OPEX and further fuel the digital transformation of an overall enterprise.
Understandably, we are seeing the value of AI and ML best demonstrated in the manufacturing sector in both process and batch automation. For example, using AI to figure out how to optimize the process to achieve higher production yields and improve production quality. For example, in the food and beverage sectors, AI is being used to monitor production line oven temperatures, flagging anomalies – including moisture, stack height and color – in a continually optimized process to reach the coveted golden batch.
The other side of this is to use predictive maintenance to monitor the behavior of equipment and improve operational safety and asset reliability. A combination of both AI and ML is fused together to create predictive and prescriptive maintenance. Where AI is used to spot anomalies in the behavior of assets and recommended solution is prescribed to remediate potential equipment failure. Predictive and Prescriptive maintenance assist with reducing pressure on O&M costs, improving safety, and reducing unplanned shutdowns.
Both AI, machine learning and predictive maintenance technologies are enabling new connections to be made within the production line, offering new insights and suggestions for future operations.
Now is the time for organizations to realize that this adoption and innovation is offering new clarity on the relationship between different elements of the production cycle – paving the way for new methods to create better products at both faster speeds and lower costs.