There is no doubting the fact that manufacturing will become increasingly reliant on AI technology in the coming years. To some extent, there is already a significant amount of reliance on AI within the industry, especially in the US and China. But just how does the UK stack up in terms of AI investment in the last year?
In this blog, we will answer that question, whilst also giving you some insight into exactly what AI is and some of the major applications it is used in within a manufacturing environment.
What Is AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to any task that is performed by a machine or a program, that if a human had carried out that exact same activity, we would suggest that the human had to apply intelligence to accomplish the task. This is a pretty broad definition, so another way of looking at AI is that it will usually display some of the following human behaviours:
- Knowledge representation
- Social intelligence
What Can AI Be Used For?
AI is used extensively throughout a whole host of industries, but it’s also used in many products and applications that the average person will use in day-to-day life. A great example of AI technology that is used by a huge percentage of the population every day would be virtual assistants such as the Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri.
In manufacturing terms, AI is used extensively throughout the industry, with the technology used to:
- Conduct Quality Checks – Quality checks of all products is an essential part of the manufacturing process. Having AI technologies conduct product checks is a fantastic way to lighten the workload of employees, whilst also guaranteeing the precise accuracy of each and every product manufactured.
- Carry Out Predictive Maintenance – Equipment and machines breaking down can cause real issues for manufacturers, as they will have to put measures in place to operate at normal capacity during the equipment’s downtime. It’s therefore essential to prevent downtime where possible, and with AI technologies, there is a real opportunity to do so. Predictive maintenance has quickly become one of AI’s most important roles in the manufacturing process, as the technology can give insights to engineers when a machine or equipment is likely to breakdown or require maintenance. This can help reduce machine downtime from days or weeks to just hours.
- Make Use of Data – Whilst this is a pretty broad statement, there’s no doubt that AI can help gather vast amounts of data and process it in a way which provides valuable insights into how things can be improved within a manufacturing firm. Data gathered could help supply chain and risk management, whilst also providing an overview of predictions on sales volume and product quality maintenance.
- Digital Twins – AI technology in digital twins gives engineers a clear oversight of the general wear and tear of a machine and how it interacts with other devices. There has been a real surge in the number of digital twins used within the manufacturing industry, as it has helped companies more accurately predict when a machine is likely to break down or when they require some maintenance.
Where Is The UK In The AI Investment League at Present?
There has been a real surge in public and private investment in AI technologies from companies around the world, with the likes of USA and China soaring ahead in recent years.
The top 5, in terms of private investment in AI technology in 2019, is as follows:
- USA – $65 million
- China – $14 million
- UK – $5 million
- Israel – $3 million
- Canada – $2 million
Whilst the latest figures are encouraging from the UK’s point of view, it’s essential for the growth of the UK’s manufacturing industry to continue investing in the latest AI technologies, so they do not fall behind other countries.
Other countries from around the world look set to challenge the UK in terms of private investment in AI in the coming years. The likes of Israel, Ireland, Finland and Singapore, all of which are AI-driven economies of the future, all of which are putting significant funds towards advancements in the technology.
Experts believe that the UK’s footing as one of the world’s largest investors in AI technologies could be genuinely under threat, and without more intensive investment in the coming years, development could be stifled.
Here at European Springs & Pressings, we are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest technologies that are capable of solidifying our position as one of the UK’s leading spring manufacturers. We firmly believe that AI will be critical to the growth of the UK’s performance on the world stage, so it’s essential that our government support manufacturers in implementing AI technologies into businesses as soon as possible.