Technology · July 20, 2020

The Fourth Industrial Revolution's Roots in AI

Of all of the elements of the fourth industrial revolution that are reshaping manufacturing and commercial businesses, few are as widespread as artificial intelligence, or AI.

Blending data, algorithms, machine learning and scalability from the microscopic to the massive level, AI is the brains behind today's increasingly sophisticated industrial processes. Its data analytics, speech recognition and translation capabilities can enhance any management team's effectiveness. AI is what makes Industry 4.0 truly a revolution.

Smart 21st-century operations

For many, AI conjures visions of long lines of robots running unattended assembly lines. For others, it may stir memories of the rogue computer H.A.L. 9000 in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey." But the reality is a little more subtle—and much more powerful.

Automated processes were key to the third industrial revolution, and they still play a significant role in the shift to Industry 4.0. But what elevates the newest technologies beyond simply handling repetitive tasks is the intelligence inside the devices.

Instead of an automated production system that merely replaces chunks of your workforce, picture a great employee who actively learns how things work, what works well and what can work better. This model is already at play in select corners of the business world, and it has the potential to help your organization, too.

On your assembly line, AI-driven devices could record, store and improve upon processes that boost quality and reduce errors. For your managers, AI can bolster confidence in maintenance-related monitoring and alerts. Within your finance department, intelligent analytics could provide sharper distinctions between cost and revenue variations. In sales and marketing, AI can effectively hone prospecting and customer relationship efforts.

Primed for future challenges

There's a good chance you've already taken some step into the fourth industrial revolution. Technologies such as robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, wearables and data analytics have already become widely available.

But more changes are just around the corner. Design technology will help streamline the development of new, customized products—and the machines that will produce those goods. With connections to cloud-based computing power and the ability to run hundreds of iterations in a day, the possibilities for increased efficiency multiply exponentially.

This shift will also bring new levels of assurance to quality control, making it possible to examine output at microscopic levels and determine if production meets standards. If it doesn't, you'll know where the process falls short.

With an AI-driven supply chain, you'll have an all-encompassing perspective that helps you anticipate and respond to swings in supply and demand. You can gauge your facility's needs against a supplier's production capacity, accounting for seasonal variations and non-business factors. These capabilities will give you deeper insight into your raw materials, their costs and their impact on profit.

Start capitalizing on AI

As a key component of the fourth industrial revolution, AI stands to disrupt the way you, your peers and your competitors do business.

More than likely, AI has already surfaced within your processes and procedures, especially if you're using advanced digital and data applications. Continued adoption of AI and the technologies it fuels will only increase your business's opportunities for success in the new landscape of Industry 4.0.


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