Machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence) are revolutionizing large parts of the world we know - not least of all the manufacturing industry. AI is in fact on the verge of helping to create the fourth industrial revolution, often referred to as Industry 4.0, where AI is combined with additive manufacturing, advanced robots, and IoT (The Internet of Things).
Many manufacturing businesses are already reporting positive results from AI, with revenues predicted to increase by 22.6 percent. Below are a number of ways in which AI is busy revolutionizing manufacturing.
With the help of AI, machines can better spot manufacturing defects than humans. In factories, Artificial Intelligence cameras using computer vision are increasingly used as optical inspection equipment to find defects in manufactured products. In the past, many factories made use of basic image recognition technology to spot items with possible defects. These were then passed on to humans for more detailed inspection. Unfortunately, in some cases, as many as 40 percent of the products that were marked as ‘defective’ by optical inspection equipment had no defects. This caused a massive waste of effort, time, and money. By utilizing AI software the accuracy of spotting defects is hugely improved.
AI is nowadays also utilized in predictive maintenance. This involves predicting the probability of a specific piece of equipment failing in the near future. The conditions a company’s machines are reported in real-time, making it much easier to prevent a problem instead of fixing it after it has failed. This helps to save money and time by preventing faulty equipment from disrupting operations.
AI systems are also extremely useful in the optimization of the design process. Generative design uses input about methods, cost limitations, and material parameters into its software before different design alternatives are developed. By using machine learning mechanisms, the system is able to choose the optimal design. This only happens after the software has considered all possible ways to design a product, without using any human assumptions. The process is already being applied in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and architecture.
AI is also able to help with the management of a firm’s supply chain by predicting the future demand for different resources. Modern supply chains often comprise a multitude of diverse components. Breakdowns, delays, and mistakes can bring to a standstill the whole product assembly point. With the help of AI, however, manufacturers are able to better manage the interactions between different production units by automating requests for labor, parts, repairs, and tools.
In the near future, there is going to be increasing collaboration between humans and industrial robots. Humans will be involved in advanced AI management while new jobs will also be created in programming, maintenance, and design. Unskilled labor jobs, however, will increasingly be the domain of robots.
A new subgroup of robots called collaborative robots or cobots are being specifically built to work with humans. They are lightweight, small, and more flexible than industrial robots, cost less, and are easier to program.
Robots are also increasingly used for tasks that are considered dangerous for humans.
Another field in which AI is becoming very popular is to help predict market changes. This gives companies a massive competitive advantage. They can plan ahead instead of merely responding to something that already happened.
AI is used to estimate future demand by studying patterns in politics, the weather, socioeconomic factors, consumer behavior, and more. This allows firms to be ahead of their competition, releasing updates and new products at exactly the right time to meet market demand.
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