How AI is Transforming Manufacturing, Assembly, and Production

The Rise of AI in Manufacturing

The Rise of AI in Manufacturing

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. It is creating new opportunities for manufacturers with increased efficiencies, reduced costs, improved quality, and minimized downtime. With AI becoming more accessible and affordable for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs), it’s essential to understand the benefits and best practices of implementing AI in manufacturing processes. The increasing digitalization and rise of AI have led companies to a new chapter of automation and data collection, yet at this phase in the journey, many companies are still grappling with how to utilize AI to improve their processes and operations effectively.

To start, it is helpful to explore the impact of AI on manufacturing, assembly, and production with insights from industry experts and real-world success stories.

AI Insights and Added Value in Manufacturing

AI can help manufacturers improve the performance of individuals and machines by optimizing operations across the entire factory floor. Companies like Siemens, Microsoft, and Intel are leveraging AI to enhance their manufacturing processes, leading to significant cost savings, increased efficiency, and improved product quality.

AI can:

  • Detect quality defects through machine vision and other camera and sensor-based parameters
  • Automatically control high-speed processes for maximum output and reduced line-down time
  • Automate machine calibration and maintenance for faster, more precise operations
  • Provide automated recommendations and decision-support for operators during complex, fast-paced processes or over long shifts
  • Optimize autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for material movements and warehouse utilization for improved safety and efficiency
  • Collect, analyze and share data across facilities for continuous improvement efforts and route cause analysis for in-felid complaints

By providing visibility and insight into areas where manufacturers may have limited data, AI can help reduce uncertainty and improve predictions, and mitigate production risks, recalls, and cost escapes.

AI Collaboration with the Workforce

AI is not about replacing human workers; it’s about supporting them and enhancing their skills. By adding AI and machine learning, humans can focus on higher-value skills, and leverage insights developed by AI through terabytes of data, which would otherwise be overlooked. By collaborating with AI, operators can monitor production, increase quality control, and focus on areas that are too complex with too much variation for AI to quickly adapt to. This collaboration optimizes the value people bring to the factory floor by extending their visibility and control.

The Next Shift Towards AI and Complexity

AI can also enhance existing industrial robotics by handling any variances the robot has not been programmed to address, allowing for greater complexity without sacrificing the benefits of automation and pre-existing processes.

Digital twins, for example, is a practice which uses AI to simulate an entire factory floor, to provide an ai generated ideal solution for handling greater complexity. By simulating both day-to-day operations and potential disruptions, manufacturers can assess the resiliency of their production lines and develop strategies to minimize the impact of unplanned events.

AI’s Impact on the Supply Chain

AI can extend its benefits beyond the factory floor to the supply chain, enabling manufacturers to analyze components coming in and how they move through the factory. By identifying bottlenecks in component fulfillment and making predictions about supply, AI can help manufacturers improve their delivery times and differentiate themselves in the market.

Photo by Mech Mind on Unsplash

Real-World AI Success Stories in Manufacturing

Several manufacturers have successfully implemented AI solutions to improve their operations, yielding tangible results and valuable lessons learned.

Precision Global

Precision Global, a manufacturer of aerosol valves and actuators, utilized AI to improve equipment uptime and increase product quality. By implementing AI-driven predictive maintenance, the company was able to reduce downtime and increase overall efficiency.

Metromont

Metromont, a producer of precast concrete solutions, implemented AI to optimize its production process and reduce scrap. By using AI to predict the behaviour of product specifications, the company was able to minimize waste and maximize product quality.

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce, a manufacturer of aerospace engines, used AI to enhance its predictive maintenance capabilities, improving equipment uptime and reducing costs associated with unplanned downtime.

Elkem Silicones

Elkem Silicones, a producer of silicone-based materials, utilized AI to optimize its manufacturing processes, resulting in significant cost savings and improved product quality.

Best Practices and Potential Pitfalls in AI Implementation

Implementing AI in manufacturing requires careful planning, investment in data collection, and a commitment to ongoing improvement. By following best practices and avoiding potential pitfalls, manufacturers can successfully integrate AI into their operations and quickly see a return on investment.

Designate a Center of Excellence

Start with a pilot project and designate a single site as the center of excellence for AI implementation. Deploy AI on one production line, work through any issues, and then scale out to additional lines and sites as needed.

Know Your Unit Economics

Understand the costs associated with AI implementation, including data storage and computing resources. Be prepared to scale across different cloud providers or storage solutions as needed to control costs.

Be Wary of Lock-In

Avoid becoming locked into a single technology provider by ensuring that your AI solution can be easily migrated or adapted to work with other platforms. Find solutions that follow standardization and are lock-in free.

Getting Started with AI in Manufacturing

For manufacturers looking to explore the potential of AI, reaching out to your local government funding is a great first step. Several programs are designed for manufacturers embracing AI and digitization with resources to help small and medium-sized manufacturers adopt advanced technologies like AI, ensuring a smooth and successful deployment.

Whether you’re just beginning to explore AI or are ready to implement a solution, connect with experts, funding opportunities, and trusted service providers to help you navigate the process and achieve your goals.

By understanding the benefits of AI, following best practices, and leveraging available resources, manufacturers can successfully integrate AI into their operations and begin their journey with this powerful technology.

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