The rise of artificial intelligence and big data analytics is set to revolutionise how businesses manage their production lines. The world is on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, and it could change the way we use everything from cars to shoes.

SwissCognitiveThe first three industrial revolutions brought us mechanisation, mass production and automation. Now, more than half a century after the first robots worked on production lines, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are shaking things up again. Manufacturing is becoming less about muscle and more about brains Greg Kinsey, VP, Hitachi Insight Group

Industry 4.0

“Industry 4.0” uses technologies such as the internet of things to make manufacturing “smarter” – allowing companies to revolutionise the way they make and ship goods. “Manufacturing is becoming less about muscle and more about brains,” says Greg Kinsey, vice president of Hitachi Insight Group. “It becomes less place-specific. You start to look at 3D printing. The shoe industry is contemplating: do we actually need to produce all these shoes in lots of variations in southeast Asia, ship them around the world, only to go to the shop and it doesn’t have your size? Why not produce them at the point of sale – put your foot in the scanner, measure the size and shape, swipe your credit card and pick your shoes up later that day?”

Digital Transformation

The digital transformation of manufacturing and supply chains means that data from factories is directly analysed using technologies such as machine learning and AI. The process can lead to drastic efficiency gains – up to 10pc, says Mr Kinsey. Companies can also see manufacturing lead times slashed in half. “Consumers will see a wider variety of products, to the point of mass customisation, where you can design your own,” says Mr Kinsey. “Product will become linked to emerging demand, so we’ll never be in a position where things are just ‘out of stock’.”  […]