How AI is helping manufacturers win the efficiency race

Posted on 9 Feb 2023 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

Supply chains today are increasingly complex. The recent pandemic exposed the glaring vulnerabilities of supply chains across industries that were unable to absorb and respond to the shocks and demands of the crisis adequately, resulting in shortage of goods on the store shelves or overstock of inventories in warehouses.

There is also a growing need and awareness for adopting sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in supply chain management, and this rings true especially for the manufacturing industry.

That said, the wind is blowing in the sails of the manufacturing industry. The manufacturing industry grew in 2022, while CEOs in the sector (69%) believe supply chain issues are improving. For those prepared to position themselves with the right tools such as AI, there is growth to be had by seeking out data insights, automating processes, and improving performance.

Implementing intelligent planning

Demand planning is a great case in point. Here, AI can help improve visibility and efficiency by monitoring the flow of information, services, and goods from procurement to manufacturing, and delivery to the end consumer. This makes forecasting far more reliable as it is based on data from hundreds of production assets, including automatic processing equipment. Add to this the intelligence derived from the use of machine learning to optimise supply and demand, and the increased consistency can help manufacturers counter the unpredictability of an ever more uncertain operating environment. 

Before any machinery spins into action, AI can also fine tune and tweak the robots who will be doing the heavy lifting to make sure processes are as effective as can be. Companies are using AI to help train robots in pre-production environments. BMW, through its partnership with NVIDIA has done this well, thanks to a virtual factory concept it introduced.

These examples will no longer be considered novel, as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will be seen more regularly in factory planning. We’re seeing it used to emulate processes and simulate tests to let firms identify potential risks, vulnerabilities, and errors that could disrupt production lines in advance. 

Where planet meets profit

Profitability and ESG are top of the agenda for many industry decision makers and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. So the arrival of AI applications throughout manufacturing should address both of these concerns in a convincing way. 

Starting with profitability, the evidence for AI investment is compelling. Companies who increase their AI maturity stand to potentially double their revenue from 12 per cent to 24 per cent by 2024. However, only 12% of firms have hit the required level of maturity so far. 

From an ESG perspective, AI algorithms can deliver accurate recommendations for balancing energy consumption and raw material usage while other AI-based tools can track emissions throughout an organisation’s value chain.

In one example shared by Blake Moret, the CEO of Rockwell Automation, an automotive company used AI to discover that 40% of energy consumption by one of its machines occurred when it was not producing anything. This single insight enabled the company to power down the equipment when it was not in use and dramatically cut both costs and emissions. 

Building better relationships

With all the focus on yields, factory efficiency, and optimal warehousing levels, it can be easy to forget the importance of customer experience in manufacturing. Yet as with everything discussed so far, CX too is ripe for AI innovation.

Every successful manufacturer needs strong relationships with its suppliers, distributors, and customers. However, for most firms, customer loyalty remains a considerable challenge. Zendesk research shows that 61% of customers will walk away after a single bad experience, and 72% of manufacturing leaders agree that customer service is a critical business priority.

The good news is that the solutions are out there. Manufacturers can easily scale their operations and transform their CX with AI-powered automation and self-service tools. An omnichannel support platform that integrates all brands, global contact centres, and support channels into one service solution can help transform the customer experience, driving loyalty, advocacy, and, ultimately, growth.

The ability for manufacturers to gain control against a backdrop of changing times is rooted in data and technology. Whether it is optimising operations, sharpening decision-making, enhancing sustainability performance, or improving customer experiences, deploying AI-based tools and solutions offers firms the chance to improve nearly every aspect of their operations without incurring huge overheads.

Find out more about the latest CX Trends in our new CX Trends 2023 report.

About the author

Eric Jorgensen, Vice President, EMEA Enterprise at Zendesk

Eric Jorgensen is Vice President of Enterprise for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Zendesk. In this role, he is responsible for driving the company’s growth in the region, working with larger customers and more complex projects as Zendesk continues to accelerate growth in the Enterprise segment.

Jorgensen was most recently at New Relic as Senior Director Enterprise Sales. Prior to that Eric was Director Telecoms Segment at Dell Technologies working with the largest CSP in EMEA, where he led the largest commercial relationship in EMEA. Eric has also held a range of sales and leadership roles at IBM and other smaller early stage software companies

Jorgensen is based in London and married with three children. A lover of all things outdoors, he competes in long distance triathlons (Ironman UK and Copenhagen) as well as climbing mountains at any opportunity with his family and their dog. Eric also regularly fundraises via various events for a local children’s respite charity