Sponsored By

How artificial intelligence will force a rethink of the manufacturing process

Artificial intelligence will serve as a huge accelerator for many innovations, some of which are just around the corner, that will show up in multiple industries, according to Kayed Almasarweh, Executive Architect and Client Technical Advisor for IBM (Armonk, NY).

Clare Goldsberry

May 23, 2018

6 Min Read
How artificial intelligence will force a rethink of the manufacturing process

Smart manufacturing used to be the “wave of the future.” Now, it is the future, and the future is here! Find out what that could mean for your business by attending a presentation by Kayed Almasarweh, Executive Architect and Client Technical Advisor for IBM Corp. (Armonk, NY), on June 13 from 10:30 to 11 AM at PLASTEC East. In this Q&A, Almasarweh previews some of the topics he will address during his session, "How Will AI Change Manufacturing Over the Next 5 Years?"

Co-located with five other trade shows devoted to medical design and manufacturing, automation, packaging and more, PLASTEC East is part of the East Coast’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event. It comes to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, NY, on June 12 to 14.

PlasticsToday: What can artificial intelligence (AI) do that human intelligence (HI) cannot? 

Kayed Almasarweh: The real value of AI is not necessarily in it being smarter than HI, since, after all, we humans are the ones trying to replicate and infuse our intelligence and knowledge into machines to get them to think on their own and take intelligent actions on our behalf. There are differences in a few areas:

  • AI enables doing things much faster and at scale;

  • AI adapts and can inject newer knowledge and training much faster;

  • AI can be quickly replicated, meaning that we can copy the brain of a machine and paste it in thousands of other machines and get them to do work almost instantly;

  • and finally, those machines can work around the clock without requiring eight hours of sleep or the love and care that humans need and can’t do without.

I am sure that I missed couple, but as you can see these key differentiators will serve as a huge accelerator for many innovations, some of which are just around the corner, that will show up in multiple industries.

PlasticsToday: What are the limits, if any, of AI? What are the limits, if any, of HI?

Almasarweh: Excellent question. If we agree that there is no limit to the information that exists out there and the data that is being collected about things around us, then it is safe to say that, in theory, the intelligence of both man and machine can be limitless. However, AI runs on a computer and storage infrastructures and that can be limited by physics. Over time, limits will continue to be pushed farther and farther and hurdles will be removed.

Another side to this question is what limits we, as a society, will impose on the growth or utilization of AI in our daily lives. Industry leaders have different opinions on that. Some advocate certain regulations and others believe there should not be any, so we need to wait and see.

At IBM, and as our Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty indicated on multiple occasions, we believe that AI and cognitive computing systems will augment human intelligence and make us more effective and democratize knowledge, which will be a huge improvement to the way we give and receive services today and in the future across all industries.

The Smart Manufacturing Education Hub at PLASTEC East, part of the largest advanced design and manufacturing trade show and conference on the East Coast, explores themes such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things and 3D printing. The event comes to the Javits in New York, NY, from June 12 to 14, 2018. Register now!

PlasticsToday: Are there limits to what manufacturers can do with a human workforce? 

Almasarweh: As you know, manufacturing as a system involves people, processes, resources and a unique approach to get all of them together to bring about products to meet requirements defined by technical specifications, safety and environmental regulations, usability, and a lot of other constraints. So, the process flow needs to be precisely orchestrated within the right boundaries so the final product meets market standards and delivers value.

Both AI and HI are needed, and they augment each other to achieve interconnected objectives. AI will benefit initially from the human experience and knowledge ingested to build it. As it grows and becomes richer and more capable—via machine and deep learning—it will benefit from continued validation by HI and human expertise to enhance its value to the manufacturing process. Augmentation of the two—AI and HI—will be the optimal combination to get the most value and move up to the next phase of higher efficiency.

PlasticsToday: How is AI currently used to benefit manufacturing operations? How do you see it evolving over the next five years? 

Almasarweh: First let me mention that AI is really not that new. We had some implementations of it in unique use cases in the past. You might remember the IBM Deep Blue supercomputer, which became the first machine to beat a world chess champion in tournament play? And the IBM Watson cognitive system introduced in 2010 that beat the top two Jeopardy champions? Those were special purpose built systems. Now we are moving toward more of a general purpose or mainstream AI that can be utilized in many industries, and manufacturing is a prime candidate for that.

This has been enabled by a long list of advances in technology across the board. Worth mentioning are open source, cloud computing, the Internet of things, machine learning, deep learning, Big Data analytics, and high-performance chips and devices that have become more affordable. Implementation in manufacturing continues to grow and companies are beginning to use AI and machine learning to tackle some well-known challenges such as maintenance, quality, production optimization, improvement of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and predictability of events in plants globally while augmenting HI with AI to figure out the next best action and track execution to improve overall key performance indicators.

PlasticsToday: Will AI give us all the benefits we expect—reduced labor costs, shorter unexpected downtime and increased production? How will the role of human-AI interaction change over the next five years?

Almasarweh: As I mentioned, the platforms that enable innovation in AI are becoming widely available through IBM Watson technologies, Google AI, Microsoft AI and the thousands of developers and startup companies already investing in AI. They will move this faster than any other technology innovation in human history. Industry leaders are talking about a race between the major economic powers to achieve the most in AI. The United Arab Emirates has just established a ministry for AI to drive its use in the greater economy. So, there is little doubt as to its potential to generate tremendous value. In manufacturing, taking out costs and improving a plant’s OEE, which means a need for optimized manufacturing asset uptime, are all important. I think that HI augmented by AI systems, which continue to be trained with every new event and interaction, will help tremendously in achieving these goals. I also think that there will be more and more use cases where AI will deliver immediate value and that will vary from one industry to the other.

Some promising applications are using AI to build custom configurations of products based on consumer demand with minimal human intervention. In some cases, robots can interact with humans in a collaborative way as events happen during the manufacturing process, potentially anticipating market demand then managing supply chains across multiple geographies, weather and social events.

We live in an interesting time, and surely manufacturing is a prime area to benefit from all the advances in AI in the coming years.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like