04 April 2022
The first round of Hello Mentor has been completed
- International talent
Artificial intelligence supports the worker and can thus solve many current challenges facing the manufacturing industry. Read the use cases and lessons learned that manufacturers can take advantage of.
For centuries, factory workers have relied on their experience, intuition, and some paper manuals to make adjustments when needed. This was the normal way of doing things for a long time, but human actions can be error-prone, with consequences. Dependence on experience makes an employee's departure a business risk. With AI, manufacturers can tackle labor shortages while improving the productivity of their factories. Without losing the benefits of human input.
Two companies with extensive experience in this AI-driven approach show that the "connected worker" is indeed capable of much more than its less connected predecessor.
At TwentyNext, everything revolves around data, says data science director Martijn van Grieken. "Whoever has data can recognize patterns and help companies streamline their business processes. That certainly applies to the manufacturing industry."
Recognizing patterns is one thing, but at least as important is the next step, says Van Grieken. "If you deploy that knowledge intelligently, you can ultimately change people's behavior so that a company can perform better. Of course, you have to do that transparently and positively or it will backfire. Do it in such a way that it helps the individual employees. This can be done, for example, by automating repetitive work. That’s an improvement for everyone: the employee gets rid of tedious work, fewer mistakes are made, and the company can increase production qualitatively and quantitatively."
"How can you increase results by working smarter instead of harder? The answer to that question ultimately helps you solve labor shortages, use energy more sustainably and counterbalance rising prices.
For the next steps in the manufacturing industry, according to Van Grieken, the same basic question applies each time: "How can you increase results by working smarter instead of harder? By answering that question, you can ultimately solve labor shortages, use energy more sustainably, and counterbalance rising prices. In this way, AI in manufacturing has everything to do with solving our major societal challenges."
That is also the mission of Laurens de Koning, vice president of sales at 4Industry. Right from the start of the company, now four years ago, he has focused on digitizing the operational processes of the manufacturing industry. "All those companies are working on 'continuous improvement,' but mostly that is still a paper-based process. If you can digitize that, a lot of advantages arise immediately. Most importantly, you get to a real solution faster, which is also easier to share with all stakeholders."
In Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence is indispensable. "But the human factor remains paramount," says De Koning. "Only with 'connected workers' will you achieve real results. The worker on the floor has to be hooked up to the data collected by the sensors in the factory. After all, this person has to convert the data into actions."
That's exactly where 4Industry comes into play. "Our platform ensures that actions arising from the AI are picked up and executed," he says. To make that happen, De Koning and his colleagues ensure that all communication previously shared on paper is now digital and collected in a platform. "We digitize paper, share knowledge and improve processes." That not only helps your own company become more efficient, but also, for example, sister companies elsewhere in the world. For the large manufacturing industry, this is an advantage that cannot be underestimated. "A mistake or improvement identified in one factory can easily be shared with another."
"AI in manufacturing has everything to do with solving our major societal challenges."
Digitization is especially important because of the pressure on the labor market and the high average age of manufacturing workers. "This jeopardizes the continuity of companies. If you don't digitize, how do you share knowledge? Older employees are retiring, but their successors are not used to a paper reality. The new generation is used to the app life. They order their food, drinks or a friend right from the couch. And then they enter the factory and have to work with paper? Chances are that such a person will leave after a few months, with a double loss for the company: a talent is lost and the investment in that person has been all for nothing."
Digitalization can't wait, and that obviously requires a culture change among people who were not used to it. "Using our platform is simple in itself, it's just software built on one of the best Low Code enterprise platforms out there. Moreover, you can explain the benefits very well. But you should nevertheless not underestimate what such a change triggers in people. So you have to involve them from the beginning."