Post Pandemic Manufacturing - What Will It Look Like?

Industrial manufacturers today face a new, unparalleled challenge that may propel previously cautious companies to quickly adopt technology to cope with the new reality brought on by the pandemic. They may be forced to become fast-paced innovators.

How to produce the same with less people? How to ensure quality is not affected by a decreased human oversight? How to cope with irregular customer demand and increased need for agility in the production line?

Previously, human proximity in manufacturing assembly line was not the province of World Health Organization regulation. But today’s manufacturers need to decrease the number of people, eyes, and brains at work in a physical space. What cannot be done with human intelligence, though, can be supplemented and complemented with its Artificial Intelligence counterpart.

The manufacturing of products can be a demanding task, in particular when dealing with complex products requiring skilled labor and high precision. In recent years, the introduction of Deep Learning, the branch of AI that is devoted to capturing in software those “eyes and brains” so precious in manufacturing – for instance in quality inspection – is changing the industry. Today, Deep Learning is already used for everything from assessing component presence in packaging machines to custom label checking to pallet inspections, just to name a few.

In a post-pandemic world, manufacturing companies will make extensive use of AI-powered automation, running On-Premise or in the Cloud, to boost quality control without the need of extensive human oversight, while maintaining the same ability of detecting defects on production lines. Future production lines may look more sparsely populated, with a more balanced division of labor between humans, AI, and machines.

COVID-19 has been a major catalyst in accelerating AI adoption, and it is easy to foresee that organizations that fail to act on this trend will be at a competitive disadvantage as others innovate.