Take a look today’s factory floor…See anything different from a decade ago? Now take a closer look. What you’ll see is that an incredible transformation that’s taking place–industry robots are helping workers focus on critical other areas. These same robots are armed with sensors that are feeding unimaginable amounts of data to AI and Internet of Things (IoT) powered solutions. The result is a new era of augmented intelligence where man and machine are creating smart factories where manufacturing perfection and employee safety are the new norm.
This is Industry 4.0
Global manufacturers will invest an estimated $70 billion on IoT solutions in 2020, up from $29 billion in 2015.
There’s a good reason why manufacturers are making these investments. By placing sensors in machines, they can collect vast amounts of data and share it with an IoT platform that’s equipped with cognitive computing, analytics and asset management capabilities. This is where the magic truly begins.
I’ll use the Watson IoT platform as an example. At this point the platform absorbs all of this data, learns from it and then delivers new augmented layers of intelligence. This intelligence enables employees to predict failures and detect early warning signs of failure in machines as well as the robots used in industrial processes. Imagine the business impact where breakdowns are a thing of the past in manufacturing plants.
And it’s not just about the machines, it’s also about the quality control of the products they are manufacturing. Successful manufacturing operations today require the highest quality of inspection that must be present at every stage of production and assembly. More than half of these quality checks involve visual confirmation, which helps ensure that all parts are in the correct location, have the right shape or color or texture and more.
Now on the surface, this inspection process may seem somewhat routine. But just imagine the number and variety of products being manufactured today. Consider the smartphone. Now imagine being asked to identify every single defect on the smartphone as it moves down the line. What are the odds of catching minute scratches on the screen or a slight nick on the casing. Now what happens when that phone ends up on the hand of a customer?
But the threat of one defect slipping by doesn’t have to be. A great example is our work with ABB. ABB has pioneered industrial automation for more than a century. Now, ABB is embedding Watson IoT into the manufacturing process. What makes Watson such a great partner for ABB is its powerful cognitive computing capabilities. Cognitive capabilities make it possible to evolve from simply gathering and predicting, to truly understanding patterns and relationships in the massive amounts of data being collected by the IoT. Together, we are introducing new visual inspection capabilities where real-time cognitive will help workers make better decisions and minimize costly defects.
Say Goodbye to Defects: Why Manufacturers Need an Extra Set of Eyes
How does visual inspection work? Essentially, teams submit images of normal and abnormal products from different stages of production into a “centralized learning system” which learns to instantly ID which products meet required quality specifications and which don’t. These systems continuously learn by taking feedback from the true experts, human inspectors and quality control experts, who can quickly intervene when a defect is detected.
Consider an automobile manufacturer. As car parts flow through the manufacturing process, teams will be alerted when a critical fault that’s not visible to the human eye is identified. This could be something as innocuous as an issue in the quality of welding. That’s the kind of defect that that you cannot afford to miss, and by identifying it then and there, quality control experts can immediately jump in and take corrective action.
And as teams add more data, the system provides more intelligence to the team. This intelligence helps people make the right decisions and ensures their business avoids costly production mistakes on everything from computer chips and smartphone screens to car doors. In fact, thanks to intelligent visual systems, global manufacturers are seeing a 10-percent reduction in manufacturing defects and we’re just getting started.
Cognitive visual inspection is a huge game changer and its benefits transcend industries. A semiconductor fabricator using industrial robots to capture product images throughout the assembly line process could use these visual capabilities to examine these images and identify something as small as residue on a silicon chip.
The marriage of IoT and cognitive visualization offer manufacturers the most welcome of promises – the ability to not only enable new levels of productivity, but deliver new levels of intelligence to teams. This intelligence will save manufacturers billions of dollars by ensuring flawless manufacturing quality.
This is the new reality and it is what makes the fourth revolution of the manufacturing industry so groundbreaking. And this intelligence, worker optimization and quality control is why manufacturers will willingly spend more than $260 billion on IoT within the next three years.