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Is AI Critical for the Manufacturing Industry?

Over the last couple of years, we have heard about Artificial Intelligence (AI), but it is fair to say that few of us really understand how it works or its implications. AI has been touted as a labor-saving tool. Automation as a time-saver is a well-established sales technique. Consider the original time savers: automatic washing machines, TV dinners and indoor refrigerators or more modern applications of facial recognition software and virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa.

It could be fair to say that those using time-saving devices also feel in control of how and when they use these tools. But who has not been “surprised” to find their Alexa or Siri listening or later finding ads that reference a conversation held without virtual help. It can all feel a bit spooky. Yet, these intrusions have not stopped coverage touting the benefits of AI.

A blog from said AI could reduce labor costs and improve productivity and efficiency for manufacturers. The global AI market in manufacturing is predicted to be $48.9 billion by 2029, increasing at a CAGR of 51.9%. Machine learning would rise at a CAGR of 56.5% and 49.2% for the natural language processing segment, according to the blog.

These articles often follow a format, one warning that failure to adopt AI into company processes will mean the organization will sadly be left behind. This ongoing push for adoption is interesting considering any major AI players such as Elon Musk called for a 6-month pause on advanced AI development in March. Even as far back as 2018, Musk was quoted as saying “It (AI) scares the hell out of me. It is capable of vastly more than anyone knows, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”

If heavyweights like Musk are pushing for a pause, why is there a rush to implement a technology with incredible unknowns? For years, the manufacturing industry has worked to rebuild its image and attract younger generations. AI is also a known job killer with eighty-five million jobs expected to be lost to automation between 2020-2025. Plus, companies that do not focus on upskilling their workforce will not have people with the right skills for these automated roles.

Could there instead be a happy medium? In our own business, technology has been instrumental in helping Cleveland Deburring Machine Company evolve and improve upon the age-old practice of deburring. Human ability coupled with technological advancements continue to make the deburring process more effective for more industries.

Technology will always have its place in our lives and is important to manufacturing automation, but it is time to consider the reasons why AI adoption does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor.

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