April 27, 2019

It always amazes me as to how fast the corporate world adopts technology while our politicians wait and watch.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no different.  Let’s reacquaint ourselves with a working definition of AI.

Techopedia defines AI as follows:

“Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that strives to create intelligent machines.”  AI has become an essential part of the technology industry. Research associated with artificial intelligence is highly technical and very specialized. The core problems of artificial intelligence include programming computers for certain traits such as:

  • Knowledge
  • Reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Perception
  • Learning
  • Planning
  • Ability to manipulate and move objects

One other definition says:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

Basically, the same definition—The Rise of the Machines.

AI is only one part of the technology trend that is overtaking manufacturing and other commercial fields but it is finding its way into most technology.

According to Modern Material Handling, April 2019: “CFOs (Corporate Financial Officers) are shifting their priorities from cutting costs to rapidly investing in technology and data.”  This is according to Grant Thornton’s 2019 CFO Survey, conducted in partnership with CFO Research.  This survey found that a significant percentage of senior financial executives are currently investing in advanced technologies such as:

  • Advanced Analytics—38%
  • Machine Learning-30%
  • Artificial Intelligence—41%
  • Drones and Robotic Systems—30%
  • Blockchain—40% (NOTE:  Blockchain. A blockchain is a digital record of transactions. The name comes from its structure, in which individual records, called blocks, are linked together in single list, called a chain. … They work together to ensure each transaction is valid before it is added to the blockchain.)
  • Robotic Process Automation—41%
  • Optical Character Recognition 45%

Many CFOs are well on the way to implementing these amazing technologies:

  • 40% report that their finance function has already implemented advanced technologies and automation technologies in risk management.  This is compared to 20% in 2018.
  • 30% use machine learning, compared to 8% in 2018
  • 25% use AI, compared to 7% in 2018

The National Association of Manufacturers has released results from the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey for the first quarter of 2019.  This survey shows nine consecutive quarters of record optimism, with an average of 91.8% of manufacturers positive about their own company’s outlook over the time compared to 68.6% across 2015 and 2016.

One technology leading the field is robotic systems.  Robotic systems were shipped to North American companies in record numbers last year, with more non-automotive companies installing robots than ever before.  In 2018, 35,880 units were shipped.  This is a 7% increase over 2017.  Shipments to non-automotive companies grew 41% to 16,702 shipments for that year.  This growth came in several areas as follows:

  • Food and Consumer Goods—48%
  • Plastics and Rubber Products—37%
  • Life Sciences—31%
  • Electronics—22%

It is becoming quite apparent that companies, especially manufacturing companies, that do not embrace advanced technology will find themselves beaten by those who do.  They will be left behind simply because they will no longer be able to compete. 

Might be time to take a look and get on board.

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