Manufacturers are seizing the AI opportunity – are you?

The industry is again at the forefront of grappling with the opportunity and challenges of transformational new technologies.

At the start of last year, Microsoft released The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Society.

The book was designed to pique conversation on how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle some of the major challenges of our time, and generate discussion about how to create an environment for the ethical and responsible use of AI.

The book was a success, helping to kickstart meaningful discussions with governments, businesses and civil society across the world on one of the fundamental issues of our times.

Building on this success, this week, we release the second in The Future Computed series, The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing.

The book builds on the existing AI debate, focusing on the impact of AI on the manufacturing sector. It examines the opportunities and challenges for manufacturers as they transform their businesses through AI technologies.

CROP - Technician at work Production Line - Image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The reason for a focus on manufacturing is our belief that it plays a foundational role in economies across the world. In the UK, it supports 2.7 million jobs, drives around 70% of business R&D and accounts for 45% of goods exported.

Indeed, the UK’s long history as a leading global economy was built on innovations in the manufacturing sector.

Powered by the technologies of the First Industrial Revolution, the UK became known as the “workshop of the world” and still ranks among the 10 largest manufacturing economies in the world.

Today, manufacturers are again at the forefront of adopting transformative new technologies, using the data-driven technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to optimise processes, increase productivity, develop new products and services and create safer working environments.

Greg Shaw, author of The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing - Front CoverWritten by Greg Shaw, co-author of Hit Refresh with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing tells the story of a sector that is using AI to create the factories and supply chains of the future.

The book features interviews with customers from around the world and shares insights into how companies are realising the opportunity of AI.

Readers will meet Patrick Bass, CEO of ThyssenKrupp North America, where a real-time cloud-based predictive maintenance solution is maximising uptime for 12 million elevators moving 1 billion people every day.

And Manuel Torres, a self-taught engineer who has used AI to transform his paper company into a leading supplier of composite material for airplane manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus.

While the opportunity of AI is clear, what also emerges from the interviews that Greg conducted with customers, policymakers and labour representatives are the broader societal questions AI raises.

Questions such as:

  • How do companies build the right organisational culture to realise the benefits of data-driven decision making?
  • How do you retrain workers to take on new roles and be part of a supply chain capable of realising the full potential of AI?
  • How can companies store the data generated from connected supply chains and digital factories safely, securely, and in ways that respect privacy?
  • How do we make sure AI is used ethically and responsibly?

Drawing on the insights from the conversations behind the book, The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing offers Microsoft’s perspective on how we might move forward on these important issues.

It is clear that if we are to find sustainable and effective solutions to these challenges manufacturers must step up and play their role in developing new frameworks for this new technology that can help companies and society realise the potential of this new technology in a way that is responsible.

The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing does not claim to have all the answers, but we hope it provides a platform to advance these important discussions in our industry in the UK and help manufacturers better understand the steps they need to take in their AI journey.

It is an exciting time for manufacturing and I look forward to working with you all to help realise the opportunity ahead.

Download a free copy of The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing and discover additional details about the people and companies profiled in the book at The Future Computed.


Rajh Das, Sector Director, Manufacturing and Resources, Microsoft UK