Automation in labor-based industries is nothing new. However, technology is pushing automation’s capabilities further. The combination of the fast decision-making power of artificial intelligence (AI) driven systems with the tools of Industry 4.0 has greatly transformed and positively impacted operations and stakeholders.
One of the most important outcomes of AI and Industry 4.0 on automation in labor-based sectors is the potential efficiency gains. After all, the ability to run streamlined operations can impact profitability and make a business more competitive. Of course, certain tasks are better suited for automation than others depending on a business’s priorities for efficiency. For example, automating network management may be advantageous if a business requires high bandwidth and plenty of applications that labor industry managers use. However, if they require more in-depth network management, they should look elsewhere.
The same logic can be applied to other facets of a business’s production. Leaders need to look at every area of their business that requires little complex human thought.
Thankfully, there are many tools in the Industry 4.0 ecosystem that can provide this insight, thanks to real-time data analytics. Stakeholders can then directly adjust business processes and activities, which significantly reduces leakages in time and resources.
Some of the ways AI and Industry 4.0-driven automation make a business more efficient include:
Reducing Human Error
In labor-based sectors, some of the most significant risks to operational efficiency are mistakes made by workers. There is certainly a range of best practices that can minimize human error, including improving communication and backing up key documents on the cloud. However, another effective component is utilizing tech to automate repetitive or complex tasks. This could include adopting automated inventory management platforms that use sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT) to accurately track items and update records and ordering systems accordingly.
Predicting Maintenance Needs
Breakdowns can disrupt productivity and impact quality. AI-driven software can automatically gather current data on the operational output of equipment, its service history, and wider industry information. The system can then use analytics processes to provide accurate and regular predictive maintenance (PdM) insights. This enables managers to arrange for relevant upgrades in a timely and efficient manner.
Workplace safety must be a central consideration for all labor-based organizations. Your employees are your most important assets. Not to mention that you have an ethical and legal duty of care to your workers. The good news is that automation that is bolstered by AI and Industry 4.0 can boost and streamline safety.
Some of the ways this technology can be applied include:
Items in the IoT can provide an automated approach to real-time hazard identification. Sensors are placed in strategic positions throughout the working environment and, in some cases, on devices worn by workers. These instruments then collect data on such components as temperature, air quality, and noise levels. Software connected to the IoT ecosystem can then automatically monitor this data for hazards and issue direct alerts to staff and managers.
Some forms of automation can minimize the unnecessary exposure to hazards that employees face in their roles. This can take the form of collaborative robots (cobots). These machines work alongside human contributors to handle the most directly dangerous or complex aspects of workers' activities. At the moment, a growing number of cobots are utilizing AI software that tracks conditions and activities in real-time. This enables them to be more accurate, effective, and safe partners in operations.
Employee retention is an important part of any successful business. In some ways, automated technology can assist here. For example, the presence of modern tech is already impacting retention in trucking, by automating electronic timecard values and optimizing navigation systems to make them more efficient. By embracing AI and Industry 4.0, there are opportunities to improve conditions in a variety of industries that can increase employee engagement and loyalty.
Some of the areas of focus here include:
One of the concerns that many employees have about automation is that AI could take their jobs. Your business needs to ensure that the introduction of Industry 4.0 tools includes training that helps employees gain technical expertise in collaborating with, maintaining, and even innovating with new offerings.
For example, someone first exposed to AI in the manufacturing field might earn training for generative design to further streamline the process. More than anything, their experience in manufacturing can help guide their feedback with AI; further enhancing production. Skills acquisition helps reassure employees that you’re committed to helping them grow with the business rather than being shut out.
Minimizing Stress and Boredom
One of the most important outcomes of automation for workers is the potential to minimize stress. In many cases, AI and Industry 4.0 tech aren’t designed to take over the most intricate or creative parts of workers’ jobs. Rather, these tools excel at performing repetitive and unnecessarily time-consuming tasks. As a result, human workers no longer have to do tasks they may find stressful or boring and can instead focus on the aspects of work they find most satisfying.
Labor-based sectors, such as manufacturing, are increasingly adopting AI and Industry 4.0 tools as they move to automation, including inventory changes and predictive maintenance software that boost efficiency. Workplace safety can also be improved by the mindful adoption of IoT risk detection devices, while the opportunities for skills development and stress reduction because of such tools affect retention.
However, it’s important to recognize that the simple presence of automated elements doesn’t guarantee success. It’s vital to collaborate with your talented employees to gain an understanding of how automation can be best applied in your business. With a positive approach, all stakeholders stand to benefit.