A well-oiled machine: 5 ways AI is empowering manufacturers to operate smarter, faster and more safely
Frank Juengst, Client Growth Director, Monstarlab
Manufacturing is a fast-paced industry, where every stoppage or accident can cost businesses massively – the estimated cost of unplanned downtime for manufacturers is $50B a year. This is where technology is key – helping businesses to gain a competitive advantage by driving efficiency, quality, enhancing safety and sustainability.
AI has evolved past being a gimmick and now plays a starring role in helping manufacturers to boost business results and maximise ROI.
We delve into five crucial aspects of AI you should consider as part of your manufacturing strategy.
1 – Predictive Maintenance
Downtime can spell disaster for any facility and this is one area where AI can support businesses. Manufacturers can ensure their operation is running at peak performance by employing AI such as computer vision which can monitor machinery.
When the system identifies wear from use, or damage, it can notify you that maintenance is required – enabling repairs to be scheduled for times that don’t interrupt the manufacturing process and allowing for parts to be ordered before there is an immediate need for them, avoiding emergency delivery costs.
2 – Worker Safety
The use of AI in manufacturing isn’t exclusively for driving technological progress and efficiency. It can also be used to safeguard the health of employees and anyone in a facility.
By understanding where people are at any one time in a facility, systems can be used to understand crucial guardrails; such as whether PPE is being effectively used by all people on-site, or if an accident has occurred in near proximity to machinery so it can be turned off immediately.
This helps protect staff, and in the possible scenario of an accident, help them as quickly as possible.
3 – Tracking Production with Digital Twins
Reducing flaws, optimizing quality, and driving optimal performance are all key in production, but some important product information can’t be discovered until it’s actually been made. That’s where digital twins come in. These are simulations of a physical product that can help manufacturers to better predict how the final product will turn out. This process can help flag any issues with materials earlier on and help institute better consistency.
AI can also empower manufacturers to gain a better picture of their production process in real time. By analyzing data, it can provide crucial insights into problems such as bottlenecks, obstructions, and other problems that may be impacting performance, efficiency, and quality.
4 – Inventory and Logistics Optimisation
Using smart integrated technologies, management can more easily and effectively monitor inventory levels, enabling real-time alerts of low stock levels. This clearer, more accurate picture drives down waste and enables highly tuned, optimised inventory.
AI can also be used to monitor and track the movement of inventory, such as on forklifts, to discover where materials, machinery, and products are at any one time. This opens up the door to further automation; powering a better flow of goods – which drives improved levels of efficiency in an environment where running like clockwork is a must.
5 – Energy Management
Reducing energy consumption where possible has a dual benefit in both driving down costs and also making manufacturing a more sustainable practice.
Technology can aid this through the use of various devices, cameras, and sensors that can act as smart monitoring devices to measure facility usage – giving you a better understanding of occupancy. These can also be used to detect when particular machinery is not in use, or a certain area of a building, and intelligently conserve energy by turning these off until needed.
Mapping Solutions to Problems
Clearly, AI has a number of valuable applications for the manufacturing industry. To achieve real results that deliver ROI however, it’s important to take the time to understand the issues and challenges you face in order to map the right solutions against them. It’s never a case of just adopting a new piece of tech; it must be fully integrated into your way of working across the business, ensuring the right processes and internal capabilities are in place to track and realize the true value. But if you can do that then manufacturing operations can be transformed into the epitome of a well-oiled machine, achieving quality, time, and cost efficiencies in the here and now and helping to future-proof your business.