Analytics & AI in Advanced Manufacturing – Workshop

  • On 14 June 2021, DIGITAL SME held a workshop titled “Analytics & AI in Advanced Manufacturing” for members of the Focus Group Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other invited stakeholders.

  • Speakers from the policy and business community addressed the state of AI in the domain of manufacturing and analytics and shed light on the challenges and barriers to meet the specific needs of these sectors.

Rewatch the workshop here:

Access to adequate data, timing of AI-investment, and challenges to scaling up were identified as important obstacles for SME-adoption of AI-based technologies and analytics in manufacturing. DIGITAL SME’s Focus Group Artificial Intelligence, together with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), organised a workshop on Analytics & Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Advanced Manufacturing on 14 June 2021. Participants discussed challenges and opportunities in the development and adoption of AI in this very important sector of the European economy.

Today’s manufacturing systems are becoming increasingly complex, dynamic, and connected. Recent developments in AI have shown great potential for transforming the manufacturing domain through advanced analytics tools. However, it is not easy to keep up with the pace of innovation, especially for SMEs. Thus, many of them are in danger of being left behind with limited access to the new technologies.

Sarah De Nigris from the JRC presented to the audience the connection between the different sectors of the economy and the use of certain types of AI. Next, Dirk De Nutte, CEO of AI-startup The Grain, provided a comprehensive overview of the stakes relative to AI for industry and the massive changes it can bring to both our society and our economy. Finally, Ilias Zournatzis demonstrated a concrete application of AI in the field of analytics and manufacturing from the KYKLOS 4.0 project which he manages. Participants were also able to ask questions about these technologies and bring their critical feedback to our attention.

Complex and promising new applications of AI

AI is a critically important technology that has much to offer beyond the field of analytics and manufacturing. First of all, AI is a tool, not a technology in itself.  Nowadays, a clear shift of AI toward the topics of environment, climate mitigation and sustainability can be observed. Overall, the potential of AI application are almost unlimited—the options are so broad that it could completely transform our economy. One of the limiting factors right now is that the supply chain and the current production techniques cannot follow such an efficient and optimised technology.

An unprecedented opportunity for SMEs in particular

Concerning the use of AI by SMEs, the question of how and when a company should invest in AI was raised. Mr De Nutte explained that AI is necessary to scale up, but a well-built business plan should also back this project. Before considering using AI extensively, a company should consider that this use will directly impact its business model. Finally, he advised looking for help in order to properly scale up with AI.

Although AI is a great tool, many obstacles prevent it from being used in any given situation. Ms De Nigris explained that AI relies on the analysis of reliable and precise data, but many companies and economic sectors do not have access to such data. The structure of an economic sector, if it is too niche or does not need any scaling up, can also limit the development of AI technologies.

Finally, Mr Zournatzis showcased a concrete example of AI in analytics and manufacturing from the KYKLOS 4.0 project which aims to support SMEs to adopt emerging technologies for circular and sustainable production models.

DIGITAL SME would like to thank Ms De Nigris, Mr De Nutte and Mr Zournatzis for their presentations and all participants for sharing their feedback and questions. We will continue bringing together stakeholders to discuss AI-related issues and beyond to make sure that SMEs benefit from sharing knowledge and practical information.

Our Working Groups are the place-to-be to network and discuss policy and how it impacts your business—and you can join them! Go to digitalsme.eu/working-groups to learn more and apply.

P.S. Did you miss the event? Click here to see an exclusive recording and the slides for this webinar!