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Why Artificial Intelligence is a Game Changer in Manufacturing


The manufacturing sector, which earlier was slow to adopt new technology, has now begun to accept Artificial Intelligence enabled technologies or AI as a game-changer on the shop floor.

Some of the technology usage, such as, collaborative Robots or Cohots, work along with humans possess high levels of flexibility and adapt easily.   The remarkable transformation of the Quality Inspection and Quality Assurance activities with new age tools in the manufacturing processes is evident. With decreasing power of the brain to hold concentration for longer periods of time, QC inspectors tend to commit errors in the process, which is mundane and repetitive.

Organizations that are using AI-based technologies for enhancing quality control and detecting faults in products or components are seeing better results in terms of the quality, speed and production output.  AI-based tools are also used to track raw materials and parts besides automating warehouse inventory.

AI-enabled machines can identify and capture faults with higher levels of accuracy and speed than humans.

In addition to detecting errors, AI-based technologies and tools enable preventive and predictive maintenance tasks by reporting manufacturing issues in real time. Manufacturing teams are now alerted of faults that could emerge in future, by revealing them in advance. By leveraging insights that may affect the quality of products, quality inspectors are able to take corrective actions.

Furthermore, unplanned downtime can be reduced significantly with risks and vulnerabilities eliminated.  Granular aspects of defects cannot be identified by conventional tools, and AI-based analytics undoubtedly increases the testing efficiency and delivers improvement in risk management with the prioritization of critical aspects.  With AI, Cohots can be reprogrammed and supported in increasing production speed.  AI can be used in machine vision to spot defects in products and handle quality control.

The other advantages of using an AI-platform include, assurance of higher quality products, increase in throughput, cost-optimization and higher revenues with increase in the level of customer satisfaction.

The pandemic-induced lockdown and scarcity of manpower in 2020 saw accelerated adoption of the AI-based technology and tools to re-establish manufacturing processes. The new system leverages data and deep learning to enhance quality inspection on the shop floor and keeps production lines up and running with much higher efficiency.  With the manufacturing sector’s new QC requirements, and its ask for 100% inspection, there is an increasing appetite for digitization and automation where the traditional machine vision approach is no longer found efficient.

The China +1 policy is driving Indian manufacturers to scale-up several levels to meet the growing demand from markets across the globe. Manufacturers now have the option of using AI-based processes to address the shortage of manpower on the shop floor, thereby fueling demand for new age technology and tools.

The gains in manufacturing are achieved with minimal manual intervention across the entire process.

With numerous benefits achieved by leveraging AI-re-invented manufacturing, workers can now be positioned better with training to perform higher order tasks. They can be re-assigned to perform tasks that bring higher value, increase overall employee engagement and deliver the much required work satisfaction. The jobs can vary from configuring, overseeing and managing AI-driven QC processes.

The World Economic Forum Report says by 2025, 85 million jobs will be disrupted globally across large enterprises and SMEs.

However, the report also predicts, with shifts in employment, 97 million new roles will be created in the areas of AI, ML, Deep Learning, Cloud Computing, Big Data and Analytics and Robotics among others.  There is an urgent need for manpower with such specialized skills, as repetitive and mundane tasks will be taken over by AI and automation.

Other skillsets such as, identifying and solving a problem, analytical reasoning, creative and critical thinking abilities also have to be acquired to deliver value in the age of automation.

Organizations, including manufacturing businesses have to ensure their employees undergo appropriate training and get up-skilled to remain employed, perform well in altered roles and become future-ready.  Businesses that work at upgrading their employee skillsets have a competitive edge over others.

Korn Ferry, a consulting firm predicts there will be a talent deficit of 85.2 million workers by 2030. It is all the more critical for Organizations to ensure re-skilling and up-skilling of labor force to oversee and manage these new technologies that deliver accuracy, reliability and higher quality yields, besides increase in productivity.

(The author Sekar Udayamurthy is Co-founder and CEO of Jidoka Technologies, Chennai-based company that works in the field of automated cognitive inspection, delivering cutting-edge engineering solutions. The views expressed in this article are solely his own)

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