Navigating a sea of uncertainty – let AI be your guide

Posted on 25 Mar 2024 by The Manufacturer

Artificial intelligence will be a gamechanger for the UK’s manufacturing industry, but only if businesses embrace it. Hema Ramamoorthy, Data and AI Lead at Digital Catapult explains...

Manufacturing is a key sector that is vital for the UK’s economic growth, and one that is often admired for its legacy and ability to transform regions and local economies. In the ever-evolving landscape of technological disruptions, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a pivotal force reshaping the manufacturing industry.  

The sector continues to confront an array of challenges, influenced by macro economic trends and broader shifts in the business landscape. Health and safety risks, poor planning, forecasting, budgeting inefficiencies, skills shortages and sustainability concerns collectively pose obstacles to the industry’s success. 

AI can however, play a key role in helping manufacturing companies to mitigate these challenges. In the past decade, the sector has lagged in innovation and digitisation compared to other industries, and at Digital Catapult we understand the importance of preparing manufacturing businesses for the transformative impact of emerging technologies.  

As such, manufacturers should embrace AI solutions as a growing number of them navigate unexpected challenges, explore sustainable practices, optimise project planning and redefine supply chain dynamics. 

AI in manufacturing: enhancing safety and efficiency 

Safety in manufacturing is paramount, and AI solutions present a formidable tool to address this concern. By analysing real-time data from sensors and cameras on factory floors, AI can identify and mitigate potential hazards.  

Structural risks, which present a challenge to manufacturing companies that have facilities in rural locations, can also be alleviated through AI solutions that monitor gradual movements of a building’s foundations. This allows manufacturing businesses to assess the impact of environmental conditions, and predict areas susceptible to wear-and-tear. 

Predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms also provide valuable insights to manufacturing workers. These technologies can warn employees about safe working conditions, indicate potential hazards and offer safety guidelines tailored to specific manufacturing projects.  

The manufacturing industry, notorious for workplace injuries, stands to benefit significantly from the integration of AI solutions, making processes more reliable, secure and safer for all involved. 

Digital Catapult, through initiatives like the FutureScope High Growth AI Accelerator Programme, continues to empower start-ups to develop pioneering solutions grounded in demonstrable industrial applications.  

This extends beyond manufacturing, incorporating industrial solutions for transport, creative industries, construction and agriculture on programmes including BridgeAI, an Innovate UK national programme which seeks to stimulate the adoption of AI and ML in key sectors of the UK economy. Companies embracing these AI solutions are poised for success in the evolving landscape.

Hema Ramamoorthy, Data and AI Lead at Digital Catapult

Hema Ramamoorthy, Data and AI Lead at Digital Catapult

Revolutionising project planning: AI empowers project managers 

Project management is a cornerstone in any manufacturing project, serving as a vital link in the seamless execution of operations. Project managers bear the responsibility of establishing timelines, ensuring teams meet targets and estimating necessary resources, and AI solutions offer invaluable support to project managers through the analysis of historical data and current project conditions. This analytical prowess enables the generation of optimised manufacturing schedules that align with project objectives and stakeholder demands. 

In the manufacturing realm, efficiency, productivity and performance are critical factors that determine success. Safety and efficiency are vital considerations in the intricate landscape of manufacturing operations. Acknowledging this, Digital Catapult actively provides technological support, counsel and strategic guidance to AI start-ups within its accelerator programs.  

This commitment ensures that AI solutions not only showcase innovation but are also commercially viable and scalable. This perfectly aligns with the dynamic and evolving needs of the manufacturing industry, and companies that want to maintain their competitiveness should be actively looking to embrace pioneering AI solutions that can help them to improve the project management process.  

Sustainability in manufacturing: an imperative for the future 

Sustainability has become an increasingly significant concern within the manufacturing industry, extending beyond immediate environmental impacts. Waste generated by manufacturing processes plays a substantial role in the overall environmental footprint, and more manufacturing companies are expected to meet their sustainability objectives in light of increased demand from stakeholders.  

Unchecked sustainability concerns have the potential to create enduring issues with far-reaching consequences, and in the manufacturing context, AI emerges as a pivotal tool for optimising sustainability practices. By precisely calculating the required materials for a project, AI significantly reduces waste and minimises excess production.  

Furthermore, AI can recommend sustainable manufacturing practices and propose the use of environmentally friendly materials. This aligns seamlessly with the expectations of environmentally-conscious clients, establishing a foundation for environmentally responsible manufacturing processes. 

The integration of AI solutions becomes imperative, not only to meet industry demands but also to position companies favourably in the eyes of clients who prioritise sustainable practices, demonstrating why more companies should be embracing AI solutions in the face of growing environmental concerns and expectations.  

The constructive role of AI in manufacturing marks a fundamental evolution that promises to redefine the industry’s trajectory and its long-term success on the global stage.  

At Digital Catapult, through our pioneering initiatives, we propel manufacturing into a future where AI seamlessly integrates into every facet of the industry, sharpening the UK’s competitive edge in the manufacturing space.  

This includes delivering pioneering programmes including the Digital Supply Chain Hub, which leverages AI-solutions to increase the efficiency of supply chains, and the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator, which encouraged industrial adoption of AI solutions that sought to transform the manufacturing sector.  

Any company interested in learning more about how we are working with industry to encourage adoption of pioneering new solutions visit:

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