Making intelligent decisions about AI

Monday January 28, 2019
Written by Kristina Urquhart
January 28, 2019 – Does the term “artificial intelligence” (AI) scare you, or does it get you excited about the future?

A lot of manufacturers may find themselves in the former camp, alongside decision-makers in a number of other industries. In a recent study of more than 300 company executives conducted by Forbes Insights, Canada ranked last out of 10 countries for successful deployment of AI (India and Germany were ranked first and second). Of those Canadians who had adopted AI in their firm, only 31 per cent of them reported the deployment as a “success.” Canadian firms were also most likely to experience pushback from employees about their job security being threatened by AI.

“In a lot of countries, the organizations are jumping to deploy without being thoughtful about how we’re going to deal with ethics,” Jodie Wallis, head of AI in Canada for Accenture (one of the companies that commissioned the study), told The Canadian Press recently. “Canadian organizations tend to do the opposite: ‘Let’s think about all the ethics, and then we’ll deploy.’”

There’s something to be said for that – Canadian companies aren’t the type to just rush into new technology because it’s trendy. That’s good news! But AI is not a flavour of the month – big industry players have been deploying it for years and talking about it even longer. Indeed, just as everyone started figuring out what Industry 4.0 is and how the connected factory can benefit their operation, thought leaders started talking about Industry 5.0 – where humans and machines work alongside each other, aided by technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality. The concept is still on the horizon, to be sure, but the fact that industry is already discussing the next big thing means that small and medium-sized manufacturers still mired in Industry 3.0 processes and products had better think about catching up before being forced into obsolescence.

According to the experts who submitted their top five trends to our annual industrial automation outlook, the time to embrace AI in your plant is now. More advanced data capture and analysis means AI software can predict behaviours and outcomes that increase efficiency at your plant. You can pinpoint lags in your production process that you didn’t even know existed.

One of the most comprehensive ways to do this is through a digital twin framework, which allows operators to view every asset in their plant as a visual representation alongside information about its manufacturing and operational history. These virtual assets are also archiving data as it happens via sensors, which can then be used as the input source for AI software that runs predictive analytics.

Each one of our experts cited the digital twin and/or artificial intelligence as some of the key technologies for plants in 2019, so there’s not a better time to learn what they can do for your operation. We have our own New Year’s resolutions here at MA, like bringing you more content about this new intelligent frontier, starting with a webinar series this spring that will also address other Industry 4.0 topics such as the cloud and cybersecurity.

We wish you all the best for a successful year in automation!

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION. Read the digital edition here.

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