The manufacturing industry is under a crucial transformation as businesses of all sectors are faced with the idea of adopting what is referred to as Industry 4.0 technology and strategy.
Industry 4.0 is the idea of transitioning out of traditional manufacturing methods and utilizing cutting-edge smart technology. Artificial intelligence is one of the nine core tenants of Industry 4.0 — and a crucial one at that.
Whether AI is used to allow a robot or cobot to think or to scan for quality checks, implementing various forms of it can prove to be a major benefit for manufacturers.
“Companies that are incorporating AI properly are seeing tremendous ROI on it,” said Ken Seneff, co-founder and operator of Jackson-based Lean Rocket Labs, a manufacturing technology business incubator and Industry 4.0 startup accelerator.
Seneff is on the front lines of Industry 4.0 innovations from around the world as Lean Rocket Labs works with entrepreneurs who are creating innovations around physical products and manufacturing processes.
As an example, Seneff and his team have been working with a startup originally from Brazil that has moved to Michigan.
The startup’s platform uses AI to replace visual inspections of paint, surfaces and finishes in manufacturing applications. In the automotive world, instead of a human walking around a vehicle with a clipboard looking for surface issues, a camera mounted to a robot can do the same thing more accurately and efficiently.
“When you’re relying on the human eye, there are only certain things the eye can see, but it’s not going to be consistent and you’re not going to catch everything,” Seneff said. “And, if you don’t catch an issue, soon enough you might have a problem in the manufacturing process that costs you lots of money.”
The same platform can also run a simulation of stamping and pre-stamping processes to check for the probability of the process creating defects.
Seneff said ROI is crucial when it comes to identifying a real innovation in AI.
“It’s about producing better products and producing better ROI, because at the end of the day, if it’s not producing better ROI or making me more money or more efficiency, then what’s the point?
“Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of what I call ‘fake innovation’ out there. That’s stuff that’s cool but doesn’t actually provide any value.”