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AI has made significant strides in transforming the manufacturing industry by enhancing efficiency, quality and productivity across various processes, according to Marie Kinsella, CEO of the International Exhibition & Conference (IEC) Group, organisers of the Modern Manufacturing Expo (MME).

Often combined with automation and robotics, AI is widely believed to represent the future of the industry and forms an integral part of answering: What’s next for manufacturers? – a question posed by the upcoming Smart Manufacturing Conference, a feature event of the MME. 

“The purpose of the MME is to showcase the latest in smart technologies and processes to help local manufacturers gain a competitive edge,” explains Kinsella.

Maria Kinsella, CEO of the IEC Group and organiser of the Modern Manufacturing Expo.
Marie Kinsella, CEO of the IEC Group and organiser of the Modern Manufacturing Expo.

“The more intimate setting of the Smart Manufacturing Conference is designed to give manufacturers practical insights and strategies to help put these learnings into practice in their own plants, and equip them with the tools needed to keep up with the dynamic and constantly evolving environment that the industry is currently experiencing.” 

The theme of the 2023 Smart Manufacturing Conference is ‘Connected, Automated and Digital Transformation’, with AI playing a key role in each of these three pillars, and will take place on Day 1 of the MME, on Wednesday 20 September at the Sydney Showground in Sydney Olympic Park. 

Attendees of the conference will receive a certificate of attendance, all-day catering and access to the Expo, in addition to the opportunity to gain key insights from some of Australia’s best-known and respected manufacturing minds. 

“The topic of AI is sure to come up in multiple sessions as the day progresses, given that it forms an integral part of most smart manufacturing strategies, but we are particularly excited about Mergen Pillay, director of Factoryworx presentation on The Future of Manufacturing According to AI,” Kinsella said.

“It will explore the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for Australian manufacturers, followed by a live AI Q&A session.” 

AI has benefits for manufacturing processes

The integration of AI technologies has had a profound impact on manufacturing processes and overall efficiency in the industry. Benefits of AI integration include:

  • Improved quality control: AI-based image recognition and machine vision systems can identify defects and anomalies in products with high accuracy, leading to higher product quality and reduced waste.
  • Reduced energy consumption: AI-driven energy management systems analyse energy usage patterns and recommend strategies to reduce consumption, not only lowering costs, but also helping meet sustainability goals.
  • Mass customisation: customised production is enabled by AI’s ability to automate design adjustments and production processes. This allows manufacturers to offer personalised products to consumers at scale and at a lower cost.
  • Enhanced human-robot collaboration: cobots powered by AI work alongside human operators, assisting in tasks that require precision, strength or repetitiveness. This improves worker safety and overall productivity.
  • Continuous improvement: AI systems learn from data over time and adapt to changing conditions, leading to continuous process improvement and the identification of new optimisation opportunities.
  • Shorter time-to-market: through the use of AI, manufacturers are able to streamline the various aspects of production – from design to quality control – reducing the time it takes to bring a product to market. 

“AI-powered systems also help manufacturers adapt to demand variability. They can quickly adjust production levels to match changing demand patterns, ensuring an efficient response to fluctuations,” added Kinsella.

Reducing downtime and creating a more optimised supply chain

AI-powered predictive maintenance systems can detect equipment issues before they cause breakdowns.

This is aided by these systems’ use of real-time data analysis, where data from sensors and equipment can give insight into production performance, pre-emptively anticipating breakdowns, and allowing manufacturers to make immediate adjustments. 

“Using AI to aid with predictive maintenance reduces unplanned downtime, lowers maintenance costs, and ensures that machines are used optimally,” said Kinsella.

Supply chain optimisation is another major concern for local manufacturers, and here the use of AI can have a major impact on increasing efficiencies.

AI helps with better demand forecasting, inventory management, and logistics optimisation, resulting in reduced stockouts and lower inventory carrying costs.

This is enabled through AI’s advanced algorithms which analyse manufacturing processes to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks. 

By optimising workflows and resource allocation, manufacturers can increase production throughout and reduce operational costs. 

Overcoming AI’s limitations

While AI technologies offer significant benefits to manufacturing operations, there are several challenges that manufacturers need to address when adopting these technologies into their operations.

These include data quality and availability, data privacy, complexity and costs, among others. 

“Some advice I recently came across was that manufacturers should ensure they don’t become over-reliant on AI,” Kinsella said.

“Relying solely on AI systems without human oversight can lead to issues if the AI models make incorrect decisions or if the system encounters unforeseen situations. These challenges, and how to overcome them will be in full focus at the Smart Manufacturing Conference.

“Manufacturers are encouraged to attend and discover how to take full advantage of these technologies so that they can operate with higher precision, and better utilise their resources to increase competitiveness and customer satisfaction.” 

To review the Smart Manufacturing Conference program, click here.

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