A C-level perspective: the incredible potential of AI in the manufacturing industry

  • 14/03/2024
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will drastically transform the way we work and it will happen rather sooner than later. If harnessed correctly – so strategically and with the necessary C-level support – AI will provide immense added value to your organization, allowing you to gain an unbeatable competitive advantage, especially if you are one of the early adopters in your industry. The time to act is now. Do not postpone your evaluation process. Basically, you have no choice. AI is a tsunami coming towards us, and whether you love it or hate it, it does not matter, you simply need to find a way to embrace it. Start today for a better digital tomorrow!

Leverage the Power of AI

One of best known key advantages of AI is its ability to predict. For many manufacturing companies, a machine breakdown can have significant implications. Production delays, out-of-stock shortages, supply chain disruptions... Imagine being able to let AI identify complex patterns that not only let you know why this happens but also give you the possibility to proactively address the issues. This way, Predictive Maintenance can prevent machine breakdowns. Predictive maintenance is nothing new, but with the power of AI, you can now truly embrace the benefits of predictive maintenance.

A few other examples where AI can help to predict can be found in the process areas of sales for instance. Predictive lead scoring or predicting the customer’s next purchase. Also within supply chain we could start predicting production bottlenecks and supply chain disruptions; or we could optimize the supply chain by forecasting demand more accurately.

Although these examples appeal most to the imagination, AI is a lot more than predictability.

Filip Bossuyt


Tim Claes

Chief Commercial Officer

Another key advantage of AI for instance is its ability to increase your productivity. You can now search for information in a smarter way. Tools such as Copilot from Microsoft allow you to more efficiently search through data within your company. You decide the sources AI can use to collect its information. This not only saves time but also allows you to utilize historical data for tasks such as preparing presentations, making comparisons with historical data, and more. You might have forgotten a certain source, but Copilot will dig up that exact piece of information you need, regardless of where it is stored.

The productivity gains extend beyond search capabilities. AI can also streamline manual processes, particularly in areas like machinery maintenance for instance. Connected factories using IoT solutions - through all kinds of sensors capturing data – can capture alerts from machines installed on a customer's site. An AI-infused process can look up the spare parts, request a quote from the supplier, and directly schedule a work order in D365 Field Service based on the delivery time. These automations can significantly improve efficiency and minimize downtime. During the whole flow, the end-user remains under control. AI will make suggestions, but in the end, it will be the person who decides to accept the suggestions or finetune the proposal in more detail. 

So, AI is not taking over your job, but instead, it is helping you to become more productive, it is making you a ‘super’ user. You are finally back in control of the vast amounts of information you need to take into consideration to do your job. That’s why we like the term ‘co-pilot’ so much from Microsoft. They are spot on. It is by injecting AI capabilities into various parts of your organization, that the overall operational efficiency will be increased in your company – and yes, then we are back on a strategic level. Then we are back in the boardroom discussions. AI will help you to increase your overall operational efficiency. A new Olympic minimum will be set over the coming years, so it is wise you take a jump start, and outperform your competitors for a while before they catch up.

As with any other IT investment, your choice of how to use AI should match your business strategy. What is the added value you will bring as a company by implementing AI technology? If your company is aiming to be the most responsive in field service, why not investigate how AI can help you make that happen?

We think it is important not to see generic AI as a one-size-fits-all solution. Sure, there are examples of computers defeating humans, but do you see AI leading a business? AI has the potential to solve problems quicker than humans, but the use case needs to be specific. There are for example some genuinely nice examples of how AI has supported crop optimization, and for Microsoft customers, we already see a lot of opportunities with their AI solution Copilot. So we’re confident that you can also find a way to leverage the value of AI in your manufacturing company.

Prioritize a strong foundation

In all the examples of how to leverage AI mentioned in this article, the results that AI creates are based on the data in your company. This means that your data quality is as important as ever. But even here AI can help you. Typos and other human errors are often the primary reason for data errors. So why not use AI to help people avoid mistakes by notifying people when the entered data stand out significantly compared to previously entered data in the same process?

Implementation of Artificial Intelligence

Now, you might be wondering, "How soon can we start implementing AI?" Shifting to an AI-powered organization could take five months as well as five years. The speed depends on what Peter Hinssen calls the “internal clock,” which is the rate of change within an organization. What is the organisational readiness for change? Do people feel the urge to change? To what extent is senior leadership actively involved to drive the change?

Our advice is to always use the ‘Think big, start small and scale fast’ approach. Shifting to an AI-powered organization should happen step by step, side by side. Two important types of AI exist, customizable AI and prebuilt AI. Depending on your AI maturity level, it is best to start exploring with prebuilt AI capabilities first and gain experience, before moving into the more complex tailor-made customizable AI projects. Infuse your business processes with AI.

Secondly the speed also depends on a company’s current situation. Before diving into AI, the fundamentals must be there. Nowadays, only some businesses have fully completed their digital transformation exercise and have a robust data strategy in place. It is essential to define how you can benefit from smart algorithms such as AI. Only then, you can start thinking about automation, optimization and continuous improvement.

What to conclude?

With AI you can create business value in countless ways. AI can enhance productivity, streamline processes, and bring valuable insights to your organization. By aligning your AI investments with your business strategy, it has the power to drive your company forward. But in order to really create value for your company, you have to take control and ensure that your work with AI becomes a strategic process - and not just a stack of random initiatives.

The modern digital transformation approach is to create a ‘digital red wire’, connecting the end-to-end business processes of all your departments, and translating this into a digital common thread infused by AI.

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