New Paradigm-Intelligent Manufacturing

Santosh Kotnis, EVP & CEO (Managed Infrastructure and Digital Transformation Solutions), Futurism Technologies

Since the 20th century, manufacturing has evolved into a process that is more sophisticated. Back in the days, a large number of workers manufactured products which paved their way along the assembly lines or largely called shop floors. It was only in the ‘60s that industrial robots were introduced in the manufacturing industry for routine tasks where no or less skills were required, like welding.

There have been several technological advancements in the manufacturing processes since then. Earlier, bots used to take a lot of time for performing a single task. However, the industry is already witnessing its next automation advancements like Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This advancement helps make production decisions fast and in real-time.

AI and Manufacturing

Artificial intelligence plays a vital role in the manufacturing industry. Self-driven vehicles are being increasingly used to facilitate fresh prospects in different material flow processes. The intelligence offered by these self-driven vehicles helps realize precise material handling.

Nonetheless, several process innovations, and foundational technologies are needed to incorporate artificial intelligence in the manufacturing. To form an intelligent creation engine, it requires linking of data from design teams, supply chains, quality control, and production lines.

How it works?

It is expected that robots having more intelligence than strength will form the pillars of the 4th industrial revolution. These intelligent robots are driven by the advanced innovations in the artificial intelligence, which makes them ideal for manufacturing processes carried out in highly automated environments. This has helped factories in becoming more organized, and perform and operate efficiently. How does artificial intelligence work? To explain this, let us take an example.

Suppose, there is a shortage of fuel nozzles. In such case, the software automatically raises a request to produce new fuel nozzles. Once the request is raised, the production process begins. The process involves a number of intelligent robots. These robots analyze and monitor the part at every stage with the help of sensors. This data is then fed to the AI and analytics software on the cloud. If the robots find a defect in the part at any stage, new part is ordered for the process.

If it is required to design a new part altogether, then this request is sent to the design team or teams involved. Designing, prototyping and testing the newly produced part takes a few hours, thus saving a lot of valuable time.

Manufacturing and Internet of Things (IoT)

As said before, technological advancements are the key to huge transformations in the manufacturing. However, today these advancements are not into physical automation, but intelligence.

Several manufacturers are able to manage their production process more efficiently, thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It will also allow analysis of a large amount of mission-critical information to be automated, thus helping realize real-time decision making.

Artificial intelligence has helped robots to work on a vast variety of tasks semi-autonomously. Starting in a work cell, the robots that have built-in “smarts” draw from a cloud-based “lessons” database and information to:

· Identify the different parts and equipment contained in a work cell, take necessary actions and provide “auto-complete” suggestions. For example, identify a piece of equipment or a tool correctly and then use it appropriately.

·  Make use of the pattern matching for suggesting error handling best practices.

· Use a database of curative suggestions, which is capable of helping the task designers. It would help the designers in finding an effective way to make amendments to a task or a work cell, when the fault is detected.

It is anticipated that similar to smart phones and several other IoT devices, which receive software updates, the robots will also achieve more functionalities and features. This will help them increase their abilities and optimize the production work cell level. However, this is just the beginning of development. In a few years, after seeing a few more advancements, robots will be capable of sharing insights and information. Thus, the overall performance, both factory-wide, as well as worldwide, would be improved with a capability to:

· Learn from self and others

· Correct self and others

· Collect the insights from the data gathered on the factory floor. This data is collected, analyzed, and shared from robots present in other locations.

The aforementioned points make it very clear that artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing are going to rule the future. The manufacturing revolution is expected to be led by Big Data and the new technologies that drive the intelligent production management systems.