Within the Manufacturers Annual Report 2019 it is clear there is still confusion among British manufacturers about the adoption of artificial intelligence. 

Summarising from the report, a very large portion of those interviewed appreciate the benefits of investing in Smart Factory technologies but are confused by what digital technologies are.

In fact over 50% of those surveyed had no plans to invest in such technology (27% not on their radars, 26% unsure how to implement it). To add perspective 15% indicated digital technologies were widespread and only 2% suggested their entire factories were digitalised. Of the latter, 77% indicted that such investment would be used to improve design and production processes, with 74% highlighting that it will be used to streamline internal processes within production and administration.

Contrary to the above, 84% of respondents highlighted that Smart Factor technologies will accelerate innovation and design development. Richard Hagan, MD of Crystal Doors, was an early investor and was quoted in the report stating “it has reduced electricity costs, labour costs per unit and we have be able to take on work competing with much larger companies”. He also pointed towards more successful NPI projects. So why the lack of adoption? Such technology is still fairly new and the report highlighted that there is an alienation associated with it. Jargon is not helping its acceptance – what does Industry 4.0 or 4IR actually point towards?

As a business owner, MD or senior operations leader to help this I would like to point you towards a recent report written by Manufacturer.com entitled “The Future Computed: AI and manufacturing”. Borne off the back of Microsoft’s highly acclaimed “The Future Computed: AI and its role in society” the report provides clear pathways to introducing such technologies and how to familiarise all within a business into embracing its use.

Fear factor also plays a key role in its lack of investment. A team at MoneySaving Heroes.co.uk recently conducted a research into the Built Environment to understand their thoughts. 70% of respondents within production are concern their roles will become obsolete. Regarding specific disciplines, production came top, at 71%, HR at 63%, construction at 44% and accounting with 40% of respondents. 19% of the total people interviewed viewed AI taking over their roles within the next five years, with 63% of them highlighting this will be the case within the next decade.

 Tellingly, 51% saw further research into the area as a negative use of scientists time. Clearly there is a reluctance within the ranks and so not only do businesses need to educated into the technological innovations occurring within this space but ethically how they introduce such technologies into their workforces.