Trend Watch: Intelligent Automation

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It’s no question that automation is on the rise. But how companies choose to harness different automation solutions really comes down to need—and where they want to go in the future.

According to a recent prediction from Forrester, 35 percent of service companies will employ “physical robot workers” in the next year. The accuracy, repeatability, and flexibility that robots bring to the table can become real gamechangers alone for a company. But add the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and you can really unlock the potential of your business.

Whether it’s predicting the failure of equipment before it’s a problem or testing millions of potential drugs in a lab, AI can provide more insights and data to optimize workflows, process inventory faster and even give robots the ability to train themselves.

Let’s look at a few ways AI-powered automation is boosting efficiency across industries.

Automated order fulfillment 

Overworked order pickers running everywhere could soon become a thing of the past in many warehouses. Advances in AI and machine vision are now helping robots accurately select, move, kit and organize products.

Using detailed information provided by 3D cameras and sensors, AI-powered robots can support tasks handling a wide range of products with little to no need for programming or other human input.

An example of this is the sophisticated AI-enabled robots from Symbio Robotics. These industrial robots can quickly learn how to target objects in a disorganized bin and pick them up for highly precise kitting even when a robot has not been pre-taught the objects.

Data gathering and decision making

AI can free workers from mundane tasks, therefore allowing managers to use their talents where more skills are required, such as quality control.

This is what Norway Royal Salmon experienced in 2020 when a collaboration between ABB and Microsoft Azure allowed the company to automate its salmon monitoring operations. By pairing high-definition underwater cameras with AI technology, ABB gave Norway Royal Salmon the ability to count, weigh and assess the health of their salmon stock in real-time.

In other industries, like the warehouse sector, companies are using AI to make critical decisions like predicting a product’s demand or calculating when to replenish the stock of raw materials.

By eliminating human errors that come with using spreadsheets, multi-tasking, or simply human mistakes, AI can empower managers to focus on developing solutions that robots and software can implement.

Predictive maintenance

Whether they are used for pick and place, welding or palletizing, or other tasks, industrial robots produce seas of data. Compiling, interpreting, and using that data is the key to maximizing efficiency in your company. And this is where AI and machine learning can come to the rescue—they help manufacturers leverage robotics to their fullest.

By using a machine’s historical data and mathematical models to create actionable information, AI and machine learning systems can forecast issues, predict when parts will fail and schedule the necessary maintenance or repairs with minimal disruption.

Fewer breakdowns mean less downtime and better efficiency and safety. In fact, a report by McKinsey & Company shows that AI can increase availability by up to 20 percent while also reducing inspection costs by 25 percent. And that all adds up.

Five-star customer service

AI is making a difference in the hospitality industry too. Despite some initial skepticism, AI-powered robots have found their place in an industry that has traditionally depended on human interactions.

From answering guest inquiries to delivering food and drinks to hotel rooms,—the possibilities are wide open. And since each robot is connected to the same network, every interaction is registered in a one database and shared to provide new learnings for the bots and hotel management.

For example, this growing bank of knowledge could help inform a guest’s needs or preferences before a booking is even made. The result? Highly personalized customer service that can go a long way for guests.

Ready to see what’s possible for your business? Experience the latest in AI-powered automation and other automation technologies in person at the Automate show in Detroit, Michigan,May 22–25, 2023.

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