CEO, Make UK
Artificial intelligence has many uses in manufacturing. However, many businesses are not using the technology. As the global leader in artificial intelligence, the UK must find a way to use AI to its full potential.
For years, the film industry has portrayed Artificial Intelligence as a futuristic, often dystopian technology that we should be fearful of.
Cinematic greats from the Terminator, the Matrix, and even the Avengers portray AI in a way that, although entertaining, bears little relation to reality.
Artificial intelligence is being lead by the UK
While the UK’s AI scene has yet to use the technology to create an alternative reality, we are a global leader in artificial intelligence.
Moreover, investment in the UK’s AI sector reached £998m in 2018, almost the sum of the rest of Europe’s investments combined.
The vast amount of knowledge is good for UK manufacturers, as they incorporate AI and machine learning to improve business performance and productivity.
Application of AI in manufacturing
AI in manufacturing includes programmes that can predict failures in equipment before issues arise, as well as programming that can allow collaborative robots to detect and evade collisions, and recognize particular parts on an assembly line.
It is important that companies do not get so distracted by the UK’s departure from the EU that they miss out on key methods of improving productivity.
The 2018 Artificial Intelligence Sector Deal made clear the Government’s intention to ensure that the UK realises AI’s full potential. As well as setting out a plan to improve the supply of AI skills in the UK and ensure that the UK remains a world class hotbed of R&D and tech entrepreneurship, the sector deal discusses how manufacturing could progress the sector and harness AI to improve the manufacturing of goods.
AI is not being used to its full potential
Although the majority of manufacturers are aware of the benefits that AI can bring to their business, less than a quarter of manufacturers are currently using it.
There could be several reasons for this, including lack of awareness of the market and not having the capacity to engage with the technology.
To combat some of these challenges, manufacturers who have successfully incorporated AI and have seen positive effects should share best practice, whether in online forums, events or publications.
Staying ahead of the game
With the AI Sector Deal attempting to make headway in improving the AI skillset, it is also important that manufacturers ensure that they are up to date with progressions in the market and that individuals take relevant courses when possible.
Though the majority of companies still have time to do horizon scanning for technology, this figure has dropped since 2016.
It is possible that with companies having to keep up with what Brexit means for their business over the past three years, they have been redirecting their priorities elsewhere.
As such, it is important that companies do not get so distracted by the UK’s departure from the EU that they miss out on key methods of improving productivity.
Of course, it is unlikely that AI will be relevant to every business. As with any technology, it should only be implemented when it makes business sense for the company.
However, for those companies that it is relevant to, it is important that they take full advantage of the UK’s expertise and live up to the expectation that the industry is most likely to fully harness and capitalise upon it.
Image credit: Greg Harding Photography :Automated Robotic Store at -80°C, taken by Greg Harding at Brooks Life Sciences in Manchester. Winner in the Professional Future Technology category of the EEF Photography Competition 2018. Also The People’s Choice Winner.
 Make UK Manufacturing Outlook Survey 2018 Q2  Make UK Business Trends Survey 2019 Q1