to solve complex problems. For example, managing a process with almost countless variables, such as control of temperatures, pressures and liquid flows, is prone to error. In almost all factories, there are too many variables for any human brain to analyse successfully. By implementing AI, operational decisions can be supported in real-time, improving safety, security, efficiency and productivity. The quality of the data that trains the AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing Industry as we know it. Martin Walder, VP of Industry at Schneider Electric, talks us through its many advantages


e are surrounded by smart technology. Open a paper or go

online, and you’ll likely be confronted with the latest debate into the benefits of new technologies, as well as innovative examples of how they are being used. The manufacturing sector is no different,

with technological advances having a profound effect on production. The manufacturers who opt to modernise will benefit from better output, higher quality products and less wastage on the factory floor – ultimately enabling them to cut costs and become more competitive. Industry 4.0 and associated technology,

such as IoT, AI and robotics, have become part of the manufacturing vernacular, without many understanding their potential. Digital transformation offers great unmatched potential for manufacturers. Not only does it improve communication between devices, systems and personnel both inside and outside of the company, but it also cuts energy consumption, increases efficiency, and

delivers short-term ROI. Artificial Intelligence is one technology

that will revolutionise the field. A recent report by Accenture showed corporate profits are said to increase by an average of 38% by 2035, thanks to the advanced deployment of Artificial Intelligence into financial, IT, and manufacturing. In the UK, we’re at the earliest stages of

AI implementation. However, many organisations are evaluating potential risk and reward scenarios, and the technology is becoming more widespread. Investing early will pay dividends, but there are some crucial lessons to follow. AI has the potential to exponentially

increase the productivity of our industrial assets. It represents a new way for humans and machines to work together in industrial applications. However, in these scenarios, many variables need to be accounted for in order to achieve a successful and competitive outcome. On the factory floor, AI technology

enables us to learn and predict tendencies OBSERVING THE BENEFITS OF THE BIGGER PICTURE

With the advent of Industry 4.0, much of the control systems architecture and essential components as we know them are changing, as data can be collected direct from devices, which can then be analysed online. However, most of the data generated never even leaves the control loop on the machine, so can be lost. LR SMARTOBSERVER, an ‘out-of-the-box’ application software product recently introduced by ifm

electronic, has been developed to take advantage of the opportunities these changes present. The software enables users to condition data acquisition primarily to see what is actually happening on their manufacturing plant right down to individual sensor level and then store that data for analysis later. At the heart of Smartobserver is the LR agent CP which is the key to collecting data and is essentially a

configurable, bio-directional communicating interface software. It collects and handles the information from the machines in the manufacturing process and transmits it to other systems (such as ERP systems or MES). In addition, LR Agent CP can send the required information back to the machines in the process. Smartobserver provides operators with details of the bigger picture, and the result is more energy-

efficient production, improved quality assurance and preventative maintenance, reduced manufacturing costs, increased uptime and the possibility for remote maintenance and notification. ifm electronic


Currently, there are only 71 robots in the UK per every 10,000 manufacturing

employees, compared to over 300 in Germany (source: Centre for Policy Studies). Martin Walder believes this is set to change, as manufacturers realise the benefits that robots working alongside humans can bring

Digital transformation offers great potential for manufacturers

throughout the process industries

algorithms needs to be combined with the human expertise, which is always needed for interpretation and guidance. For example, in the Food & Beverage industry, AI can improve quality inspection, providing humans with vision analysis and sound analysis which goes beyond the ability of a human alone. AI is becoming an important part of Industry 4.0. It brings with it the great potential for innovation to increase the productivity of industrial assets, better manage the evolution of the workforce, and greater energy efficiency. Let’s take discrete and process

manufacturing as an example. Here, asset maintenance is one of the industrial processes that is emerging as an early AI application. As a result, we’re seeing more manufacturers understand that predictive maintenance can be blended with more traditional preventative maintenance. A great example of how AI is

revolutionising Industry 4.0 and improving efficiencies on the factory floor is Variable Speed Drives (VSDs). VSDs are connected to motors on the factory floor. They attain data and insights into abnormal behaviours and thus flag these issues so that they can be repaired, or where necessary, replaced. The benefit here is that a piece of equipment on the factory floor is only replaced when absolutely necessary, saving the manufacturer money and reducing operational downtime. Machine learning also comes into play here. It can be executed at the edge to help in the early identification of many potential faults, including power generation turbine blade damage or plant motor coupling approaching failure. Going forward, it’s clear then that the

Industry needs to consider the advantages of automation through the use of robotics, machine-learning and artificial intelligence. The UK needs to increase its uptake, and realise the benefits of robots working alongside humans. The journey to Industry 4.0 has only just begun for many of us. But, if one thing’s for sure, it’s that implementing technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT are crucial to enhancing productivity and increasing efficiencies.

Schneider Electric


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