Industry 4.0 & Artificial Intelligence

A new series of 4 articles by Mike James, leading global expert in industry 4.0 Current Industry 4.0 developments clearly point to the adoption of Artificial Intelligence whilst current AI developments are rarely focussed upon Smart Manufacturing applications. To understand what is going on a simple click on Wikipedia reveals the five levels of AI represented by Intelligent Agents. I think most readers would agree that current systems are at the lowest level of AI and we have a long way to go to climb through to level 5, fully contextualised decision making.

People have the wonderful ability to make decisions by taking account of a massive range of variables, variables can be instinctive, learned and factual. A simple example; before going out we might check the weather forecast before deciding to take an umbrella with us. Just thinking through the variables like how heavy the rain might be, how hard the wind might blow does not take into account how long we might be outside or crucially, do we trust the forecast and do we care if we get wet?

Let’s take these concepts down to the shop floor and the myriad of data available. The very fact that most processes are close to unique, or perhaps there are 50 similar processes worldwide (at the plant cell level) means an investment in AI is hard to justify. Then look at where the big guys are spending their money. Google AI just won a GO games series against the world champion by replaying and learning from old games. Yet not on of Google’s stated aims for AI relates to industrial applications, why? Is it just too hard?

Yet, here and there we do see signs of AI being tested in shop floor environments. Gartner recently published a report about “Cool Vendors” and one of them is Bennit.AI. Their software follows the same principle as Google AI, it learns best practices by following the decisions made by operators. Running in the background, unobtrusively, means that they can correlate the operator actions to product quality and productivity. Not only cool in this way I also think it’s a way forward to capture valuable knowledge easily and effectively in times when we lose shop floor expertise when skilled operators retire or leave.

The Manufacturing Operations Management Institute (MOMi) runs a number of events for Manufacturers to provide a platform to discuss actions. More information and registration for Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0 workshops can be found atwww.mom-institute.org