By: Jinender Jain, Head of Sales, UK&I, Tech Mahindra
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt by businesses across sectors, and the manufacturing industry is no exception. While British manufacturing is recovering well after the 2020 COVID contraction and is expected to grow by 7.8% in 2021, the industry still faces significant challenges – such as supply chain disruption, coping with dramatic changes in demand, and skill shortages.
To mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic, many manufacturing businesses accelerated digital transformation initiatives and increased their adoption of emerging technologies. One of the most impactful deployments across the sector has been Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Alone, AI’s ability to intelligently automate operations has empowered manufacturers to maximise their operational efficiency and rapidly analyse data in previously impossible volumes. In combination with other emerging technologies, such as blockchain technology and augmented reality (AR), the added value can be even more significant, enhancing equipment autonomy, resource optimisation, and product design.
Based on my extensive experience in supporting manufacturers globally to deploy AI tools, these are some of the most high-impact use cases:
AI and Blockchain for Proactive Asset Management
AI and blockchain technologies have independently improved efficiency within supply chains. When used in combination, though, manufacturers can generate the perfect environment for proactive management of their assets. By creating a permanent and essentially immutable digital record, blockchain solutions can seamlessly aggregate data on all of an organisation’s parts and products. The distributed ledger structure of these solutions supports the generation of end-to-end insights for manufacturers, and this is highly applicable in the procurement function.
To unlock blockchain’s full potential, it can be deployed alongside AI solutions that can analyse the wealth of data created in real-time. This provides manufacturers with insight that can not only help streamline the whole enterprise asset management process but also enables proactive asset management that reduces downtime and therefore improves operating and profit margins.
Despite maintaining its status as a top buzzword, blockchain’s momentum outside cryptocurrency has been slow to build, with an adoption rate of just 12% across manufacturers globally. Deployments are likely to accelerate rapidly, however, when manufacturers have access to more evidence of blockchain’s various use cases within the sector.
The Role of AI in SustAInability
The integrated deployment of AI and another emerging technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), within manufacturing also has significant benefits. Most important in the current corporate landscape is that the increased visibility down supply chains can give businesses confidence that they are complying with relevant environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives.
Sustainable business practices have become increasingly important over the last two decades, with manufacturers under growing consumer, investor, and regulator pressure to reduce carbon emissions and commit to reaching carbon neutrality at a defined point in the future. As such, ESG metrics have rapidly become critical decision-making criteria for businesses. Supply chains are a key area of focus for ESG initiatives within the manufacturing industry.
Deploying AI and IoT solutions in parallel can put transparent processes in place that deliver a more sustainable future for the manufacturing industry. For example, incorporating sensors into supply chain allows manufacturers to track the movement of material from source to their factory floor, and determine how much of it went to waste. AI’s ability to analyse the data collected and deliver actionable insights can help increase efficiency and reduce the amount of waste generated, supporting compliance with sector-specific ESG standards. Importantly, this improved traceability also enables manufacturers to determine whether their materials have been responsibly sourced.
The Brave New World of Augmented Reality
Implementing AR tools that are supported by machine learning solutions on the factory floor can generate far more detailed equipment and product reporting than has been possible until now. This is valuable as it helps to identify faulty products and areas of operation that need improvement before they create a problem or slow down or put a temporary stop to production.
A further benefit associated with utilising AR is improved product development. Augmented reality tools can create detailed visualisations of concepts that help designers identify potential issues prior to investing in a prototype or full-scale production.
An Integrated Future
Emerging technologies like AI, IoT, and blockchain can each add significant value to manufacturing businesses by enabling greater efficiency and visibility across the company and its supply chain. The real power of these technologies is unlocked when they are deployed as part of a wider, integrated digital transformation initiative.
Many manufacturers have invested heavily in digitisation in recent years. Now is the time to build on those foundations and set their businesses up for long-term success.
About the author
Jinender Jain is the Head of Sales of Tech Mahindra UK & Ireland. He is an accomplished sales leader and expert in digital transformation and solutions, with an outstanding record in securing major multinational accounts, ideating services and achieving exponential high margin revenue growth.
Previously, Jinender ran the Life Sciences & Healthcare vertical for HCL Europe. During his tenure there, a significant shift from Core to Digital was achieved and many marquee logos were added. The hunting and farming team he managed, broke new grounds, and made LSH one of the best performing verticals.
Jinender also ran the Industrial Manufacturing business for HCL in the US from 2014-16 and had been Global Client Partner for GE. He has published papers on CAR-T therapy and Supply Chain. Jinender is passionate about running and has participated in the London marathon several times. He is a member of Mensa and loves reading and playing chess.