Manufacturing sees urgent need to invest in AI for increased insight 

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Manufacturing firms around the globe are feeling the need to invest quickly in artificial intelligence, according to a new survey. The most pressing needs cited are enhanced visibility into processes and increased quality. 

The study was conducted by Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ: ZBRA), a digital solutions provider for manufacturing. 

The study showed that 61% of manufacturers expect AI to drive growth by 2029. At the same time, 92% of survey respondents prioritized digital transformation as a top priority. According to Zebra, this “underscores manufacturers’ intent to improve data management and leverage new technologies that enhance visibility and quality throughout the manufacturing process.” 

Zebra notes that visibility into processes is key to optimizing efficiency, productivity, and quality on the plant floor, yet a large visibility gap exists. Only 16% of manufacturing leaders globally report they have real-time, work-in-progress (WIP) monitoring across the entire manufacturing process.

While nearly six in 10 manufacturing leaders expect to increase visibility across production and throughout the supply chain by 2029, one-third say getting IT and OT (information and operations technology) to agree on where to invest is a key barrier to digital transformation. 86% of manufacturing leaders agree they are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological innovation and to securely integrate devices, sensors, and technologies throughout their facilities and supply chain. 

While digital transformation is a priority for manufacturers, achieving it is fraught with obstacles, including the cost and availability of labor, scaling technology solutions, and the convergence of information technology and operational technology (IT/OT). 

Zebra’s study also found manufacturers are shifting their growth strategies by integrating and augmenting workers with AI and other technologies to transform manufacturing and build a skilled workforce over the next five years. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of manufacturing leaders plan to reskill labor to enhance data and technology usage skills; seven in 10 expect to augment workers with mobility-enabling technology. The technology tools being implemented by manufacturing leaders include tablets (51%), mobile computers (55%), and workforce management software (56%). In addition, 61% of manufacturing leaders plan to leverage wearable mobile computers to augment their evolving workforce.

Consilia Vektor comments

Visibility is the first step to transformation; the adoption of AI and other new technologies including machine vision will first provide the data needed to make informed decisions. Then a second round of upgrades will enable manufacturers to leverage data more effectively to identify, react and prioritize problems.

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