Artificial intelligence (AI) has changed the course of innovation. And at the forefront of technological advancements is Google. Since the beginning of 2021, Google has left no stone unturned. Be it the unveiling of mind-blowing tech at the recently concluded Google I/O keynote or the announcement of Firmina –the world’s most extended subsea cable that can be powered from one end from a single power source; Google has been at the top of its tech game.
However, the development and implementation of AI are relatively new in the manufacturing industry, and its impact has not been as widespread.
According to a poll by Gartner, Inc., which consisted of 200 business and IT professionals, 24 percent of the organisations had increased their AI investments, and 42 percent had maintained them since the COVID-19 outbreak. Out of 79 percent of respondents who reported their organisations were in the early stages of implementing AI projects, only 21 percent implemented AI in total production.
However, a New Google Cloud report suggests that the pandemic has led to a significant increase in the use of AI and other digital enablers among manufacturers. As a result of the pandemic, 76 percent of the respondents in the poll ( conducted on 1,000 manufacturing executives across seven countries) have turned to data and analytics, cloud and AI.
Key findings of the research:
- Sixty-six percent of manufacturers who use AI reported that their dependency on AI is increasing.
- Automotive/OEMs (76 percent), automotive suppliers (68 percent), and heavy machinery (68 percent) are the top three subsectors deploying AI in daily operations.
- The three top reasons for companies to use AI in daily operations are: to help facilitate business continuity (38 percent), to help employees become more efficient (38 percent), and to help employees as a whole (34 percent).
- 36 percent of manufacturers use AI for supply chain management, 36 percent for risk management; and 34 percent for inventory management.
The analysis by Google Cloud has indicated that the decline of profits due to COVID-19 had severe impacts on manufacturing worldwide, resulting in overhauling their operating models and supply chain strategies and making them more prepared to handle potential future pandemics. While most manufacturers are already struggling due to the ongoing pandemic, embracing digital enablers and disruptive technology will allow them to survive. Surprisingly, data and analytics, digital productivity tools, and public cloud platforms are used by more than two in five manufacturers, regardless of their location.
According to Bryan Goodman, Director of Artificial Intelligence and Cloud at Ford Global Data & Insight and Analytics, Ford’s new partnership with Google will improve their ability to democratise AI in all areas of their business, from the shop floor to vehicles to dealerships.
The power of AI
Through the research, it is clear that machine learning and AI can undeniably support manufacturing employees’ efforts, whether through prescriptive analytics such as real-time guidance, identifying safety hazards, or detecting potential defects on the assembly line.
The research identified two primary areas for AI application: quality control and supply chain optimisation. In quality control, 39 percent of manufacturers surveyed use AI in their daily operations for quality inspection and 35 percent for production line quality checks. With AI vision, production line workers can spend less time inspecting repetitive products and more time on more complex tasks, such as root cause analysis. Many manufacturers implement changes to their supply chains and operating models to better meet consumer demand for more customised products in the face of the pandemic. According to Accenture, 94 percent of Fortune 1000 companies are experiencing COVID-19 supply chain breakdowns.
Google further states that the only missing connection for AI acceleration in manufacturing is the right technological platform and tools to manage an AI pipeline of production quality. In manufacturers, cloud adoption is high. Most manufacturers have a cloud approach no matter which region or sector they are operating. Heavy machinery, automotive/EMOs, industrial and assembly, automotive suppliers and chemicals are among the top five manufacturing subcomponents that rely on cloud. And this is where Google feels that cloud can help the industry make a difference by helping in AI acceleration and enhancing the manufacturing industry.
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Ritika Sagar is currently pursuing PDG in Journalism from St. Xavier's, Mumbai. She is a journalist in the making who spends her time playing video games and analyzing the developments in the tech world.