How can artificial intelligence be used to improve your industrial manufacturing processes?
This in and of itself is a complex question, and the best answer really lies in the level of “digital maturity” of you, the reader, and of your organization in general. Many operators are taking a wait and see approach, waiting for competitors who use new digital technologies to “work out the bugs.” This would be indicative of low digital maturity.
So, let’s begin by identifying what digitalization is, how it relates to digital transformation, and how it facilitates the use of AI. Then we’ll discuss how you might use AI to improve your manufacturing process. If you feel confident in your understanding of this term, then feel free to skip reading the next section and go directly to the AI section to save some time.
Digitalization – what does it mean?
Digitalization is the process of converting information into a digital format that can be easily stored, processed, and accessed using computers and other digital technologies. Having your organization’s data in a digital format makes it easier to store, share, manage, manipulate and analyze it using computers and other digital devices and allows you to take advantage of the many benefits of digital technology, such as improved efficiency, greater accuracy, and more accessible information.
So, what does this mean for our customers? A continuous improvement in production efficiency has always been considered one of the key prerequisites to ensure the competitiveness of globally operating companies, and therefore customers are either starting or have started the road of digital transformation.
Digital transformation is a broader concept than digitalization and involves the use of digital technologies to fundamentally change the way that businesses and organizations operate. In the context of manufacturing, digital transformation can help to improve processes in several ways, including the following.
Key technologies that are commonly used in digitalizing manufacturing processes include:
Now that you know what digitalization is and how it fits within the broader topic of digital transformation, let’s discuss how you can use it in your organization.
AI – how can it be used to improve your industrial manufacturing processes?
Digitalization, and the technologies and tools that work with it, can change the way you conduct business and make certain decisions because the actionable information AI provides facilitates decision making and improves intended outcomes. AI already has proven useful to manufacturers in several areas, including various types of processes and analytics. Consider the following areas.
To see practical examples with real world experience, consider these three areas, process optimization, autonomous robots and predictive modeling, where Solenis applies sophisticated digital solutions, including AI, to help our customers improve their manufacturing processes. However, even AI has limits. In fact, this blog proves that point.
Much of this blog was generated by an open-source AI chat engine called Chat GPT. It was trained by a massive data set that is a couple of years old. And one example of AI that was missed in their list of nine uses was the ability of AI to predict in real time a measurement that is normally only done by humans, for example, a sample taken from a continuous manufacturing process to conduct a quality test. This is in fact what we do at Solenis for our pulp and paper customers using our OPTIX™ advanced analytics platform. We use AI developed with our partner, ProcessMiner, to predict, for example, the strength of paper as it is being produced in near real time so that the mill operators don’t have to wait hours for test results—only, perhaps, to find out that quality went down during the run—when the issue could have been addressed (process optimization) in a timely manner had they known of it in real time.
It is this real time prediction of quality parameters that allows us to deliver on autonomous robots. Autonomous control of robots or equipment can make real-time adjustments to maintain quality standards continuously. In our case, we typically adjust the dosage of various paper chemistries which we supply in order to course correct the manufacturing process so that the customer does not end up with a batch of off specification product at the end of the run. We are adjusting the speed of chemical dosing pumps, autonomously. This leads to many other benefits, also, as noted previously.
So, while it is still very early for the use of AI in industrial applications, there are quite a few operators actively using digital solutions like OPTIX. And it is the early adopters who will ultimately grow their competitive advantages in manufacturing over those who choose to wait and see.
To learn more about our portfolio of digital technologies, visit our Digital Solutions landing page or contact your Solenis sales representative.