Manufacturing has faced many challenges in recent years. The ongoing effects of the pandemic and, more recently, the war in Ukraine have exposed supply chain vulnerabilities, forcing companies to adapt fast. Those who don’t face the unwelcome prospect of being unable to get their goods on store shelves or being left with a costly overstock in their warehouses.
In spite of the challenges, the manufacturing industry continued to grow in 2022. In addition, a survey conducted by the Manufacturing Alliance finds that the majority of manufacturing CEOs believe supply chain challenges that have been troubling them for a couple of years are improving. Growth is possible.
Only those manufacturers that continue to adapt will thrive, and AI plays a major role in revolutionizing operations. It’s all about finding it. Technology is the key to everything in a rapidly changing world, from increasing efficiency and boosting productivity to enhancing sustainability and accelerating growth.
AI can significantly enhance visibility and efficiency by keeping track of the circulation of information, services and goods in the entire manufacturing process. This leads to more reliable forecasting as it is based on data from numerous productive resources, including robotic packing machines. Additionally, with machine learning used to optimize supply and demand, the consistency observed can help manufacturers manage the instability common in today’s operating environment.
Technology can be a mighty aid in facilitating companies become more streamlined and less susceptible to uncertainty. Artificial intelligence, for one, offers manufacturers an integrated perspective of the supply chain and eliminates obstructions in operations with real-time analytics. Augmented and virtual reality can also be used to mimic processes and undergo trials, enabling enterprises to spot (and get ready for) potential threats, weaknesses, and mistakes before they affect output lines.
BMW has developed its virtual factory in collaboration with NVIDIA to train robots to work more efficiently before goods go into full production. A fifth of manufacturers are also experimenting with or actively developing metaverse platforms for their products and services.
As one of the largest expenses for manufacturers, shipping and warehousing are no exception. With the advent of IoT devices and sensors, firms are now able to collect and analyze a vast amount of vehicle performance data and provide complete product tracking from factory to dealer and retailer. Using these insights, they can boost agility, streamline costs, and optimize their logistics operations.
Taking care of the environment and saving money
The potential benefits of AI go beyond just operational concerns, directly impacting two important areas of manufacturing.
The first is profitability. According to recent Accenture research, only 12 percent of firms have advanced their AI maturity sufficiently to achieve superior growth and business transformation. Companies that do could double their revenues by 2024 by 24 percent, boosting their bottom line significantly and benefiting their employees, shareholders, and customers.
ESG is an area in which AI offers a major advantage. The International Energy Agency states that industry consumption of energy and emissions account for a large share of global carbon emissions. Consequently, companies have a duty to act responsibly and provide clear data concerning their outcomes. AI algorithms can generate reasonable advice regarding how to keep energy utilization and raw material usage balanced. There are also other AI-driven methods for monitoring emissions across the entire scope of a corporation’s value chain. Both of these answers guarantee organizations take steps to reduce their environmental impact while adhering to stringent regulations.
One automation company used artificial intelligence to discover that 40 percent of energy consumed by one of its machines occurred when it was not producing anything, according to Blake Moret, CEO of Rockwell Automation. With this single insight, the company was able to drastically reduce its costs and emissions by turning off the equipment when it wasn’t in use.
The focus on yields, factory efficiency, and optimal warehousing levels can make it easy to overlook the importance of customer experience. Nevertheless, CX too is ripe for AI innovation.
In order to succeed as a manufacturer, you need strong relationships with your suppliers, distributors, and customers. However, customer loyalty remains a major challenge for most firms. In Zendesk’s research, 61 percent of customers walk away after a single negative experience, and 72 percent of manufacturing leaders agree that customer service is a critical business priority.
The good news is that viable solutions exist. Manufacturers can ramp up their operations and revamp their CX with AI-driven automation and self-service tools. An omnichannel support platform that unifies brands, contact centers, and support channels into one comprehensive solution helps modernize the customer experience—cultivating loyalty, advocacy, and ultimately fueling growth. To illustrate this point: Siemens, the largest European manufacturer in industry, energy, healthcare and infrastructure partnered with Zendesk to consolidate and analyze all of its customer data.
The manufacturing industry should not expect smooth sailing in the years ahead, due to the ongoing economic and geopolitical uncertainty, as well as the transition to a hybrid future of work. Since many of these factors are beyond manufacturers’ control, it is even more critical that they take proactive measures to shape their own future.
Using data and technology, they can accomplish this. By deploying AI-based tools and solutions, firms are able to improve nearly every aspect of their operations without incurring huge overheads, whether it is optimizing operations, sharpening decision-making, enhancing sustainability performance, or improving customer experiences.
Smart infrastructure is the solution to complex supply chains today. And that requires artificial intelligence.