Forget the Hype – Here’s Some Real AI

The true value of AI in manufacturing is its ability to become the brain for the manufacturing system.

Rob Spiegel

May 19, 2024

4 Min Read
Industrial artificial intelligence
Metamorworks for iStock / Getty Images Plus for Getty Images

At a Glance

  • A lot of AI products has been enterprise ready for some time.
  • Most of what’s called AI is single-variant analysis, something a child can do.
  • Manufacturers are trying not to disturb the process because it’s their business.

We are constantly hearing about AI, especially in the area of industrial systems. But what is actually happening in the real world? Industrial AI is often viewed as a fusion of artificial intelligence and industrial technologies. The combination is revamping manufacturing and production processes. The notion is that if you integrate AI algorithms with industrial machinery and systems, you’ll get optimized efficiency, productivity, and safety in manufacturing environments. Sounds great. But what’s really happening?

Delta Bravo founder and CEO Rick Oppedisano is offering a behind-the-scenes look at industrial AI solutions, using his experience with Nucor Steel, Rolls-Royce and more. He will share the “Holy Grail” of datasets used as the foundation for successful equipment reliability, quality and supply chains during his keynote talk Industrial AI: Cut Through the Hype and Get Real at IME South in Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday, June 4 at 2:00 PM. IME South features six different co-located shows: Design & Manufacturing South, ATX South, MD&M South, SouthPack, Plastic South, and Powder/Bulk Solids South.

Oppedisano will discuss the some of the success stories of Industrial AI Copilots and explain why some AI projects have failed.  He will share Delta Bravo’s AI Value Framework,  which is used to identify, score, and prioritize use cases with over 90 industry leaders since 2016.

Here’s an Epicore podcast with Oppedisano explaining what manufacturing will be like in the future.

We caught up with Oppedisano to get his view of industrial AI, its promises, its successes, and its failures.

What products in the market are already using AI?

Rick Oppedisano: AI is not new. A lot of AI products has been enterprise ready for some time. One is computer vision software. The software detects anomalies and potential detects defects. It’s a great way to make what used to be a subjective people task into something automated and more precise.

Is predictive maintenance a form of AI?

Rick Oppedisano: Conceptually, yes, but only if it’s taking all parts of the process into consideration. Most of what is in the market today is single variant forecasting. It’s just one variable, usually presented in the context of just one machine. That’s helpful, but it doesn’t tell you why the problem is happening. When I think of true, AI-driven predictive maintenance, it includes consideration of multiple datasets from across the process, like quality checks, ERP data, PLC data and other inputs we can put together to get an understanding of what correlates to the overall production problem. put it together to get an understanding of what correlates to this problem. Are we stressing out the machine, are we seeing drift? Now, everyone and their mother says they’re AI. But for predictive maintenance, the single variate approach isn’t AI; it’s something an educated child can do.

Explain how you use AI.

Rick Oppedisano: The number-one problem fo manufacturers is people. The average tenure of a worker in 2019 was 20 years. Now it’s three years. That means quality problems will be rooted in inexperienced people. You also have a disconnect between how my generation learned and how young people are learning now. They expect answers to be on a screen. Bridging this gap requires optimizing process and manufacturers are trying not to disturb the process because it’s their business.  This is our secret sauce- we’ve created a platform that integrates with everything that’s already there, and presents Actions and Insights built specifically for that operator in that point of the process for that manufacturer.  A custom suit, so to speak, built to enhance process, not disrupt it.

How is AI helping with these challenges?

Rick Oppedisano: It’s all connected. It’s an ecosystem. If you kill algae on one side of the pond it will affect fish on the other side. What we’re doing is taking data from different parts of the operation and creating a data set that connects the ecosystem. We create a demand forecast that matches the plant’s operation.  We use models to improve throughput and quality, reduce waste. We use that data to go back to the inventory and adjust it dynamically. The models we create can become the brain for the manufacturing system. There is going to be a progression to the brain that can help do tasks with greater understanding.

Ironically, the checkmate for using AI is people. Those who run manufacturing are afraid of AI solutions because they don’t want to disturb their operation. Yet they have to reconcile the inexperienced worker situation. The reason I started this company was to restore leadership in US manufacturing and drive a greater sense of success and purpose for the folks who work so hard to improve our quality of life every day. Will we be successful?  Who knows. It’s a big problem. But we’re taking a big swing at it and doing pretty well so far.

About the Author(s)

Rob Spiegel

Rob Spiegel serves as a senior editor for Design News. He started with Design News in 2002 as a freelancer and hired on full-time in 2011. He covers automation, manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, AI, and more.

Prior to Design News, he worked as a senior editor for Electronic News and Ecommerce Business. He has contributed to a wide range of industrial technology publications, including Automation World, Supply Chain Management Review, and Logistics Management. He is the author of six books.

Before covering technology, Rob spent 10 years as publisher and owner of Chile Pepper Magazine, a national consumer food publication.

As well as writing for Design News, Rob also participates in IME shows, webinars, and ebooks.

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