Most of these companies – 75 percent so far – are already looking into artificial intelligence with a view to tapping its potential and getting on board the transformation process before it is too late. Even so, many have been slow to adopt AI systems for a lack of basic insight into AI and real-world use cases to serve as examples. The methods and tools needed to integrate AI into ongoing operations, on-board employees, and select the right processes and technologies are also in short supply. The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO aims to make up that shortfall with the AI in Manufacturing industry network. Its mission is to acquaint manufacturing enterprises with AI, present best practices in real-world applications, and provide opportunities for these enterprises to connect with other companies and equipment vendors. Startups, technology vendors, research institutions and manufacturing companies from all over Germany are joining forces in this network launched in December 2020. “Our AI industry network provides the perfect introduction to this topic with more than 40 hours of networking, 15 participating AI solution providers, around 20 manufacturing companies, and a lean method of rolling out AI,” says Tim Hornung from Fraunhofer IAO. The idea is to examine AI as part of the larger manufacturing system, share ideas, and enable companies to put it to good use. The Fraunhofer IAO has been tasked to coordinate the industry network and organize and host regularly scheduled workshops.
Enabling enterprises to put AI to good use
The plan calls for various use cases and real-world applications of AI technologies to be presented and discussed in actual and virtual meetings. Various AI solution providers will also be invited to these meetings slated to take place at companies such as Siemens AG and Microsoft Corporation. These gatherings will afford participating enterprises opportunities to see some of the many AI solutions and technologies on the market today, hear accounts of how they were put into practice, and learn more about the lessons, problems and obstacles encountered along the way. Another item on this agenda is to look into current and future research activities. To this end, participants will gain insight into the work underway at leading research institutions and their laboratories such as the Fraunhofer IAO’s Future Work Lab and the Cyber Valley Initiative Tübingen, Europe’s largest collaborative AI research venture.
From fundamentals to rollout strategies
All-day meetings will take place within the year to foster a dialog with AI solution providers and AI users. “Company networks are a great way of getting acquainted with complex new technologies. This is a protected space where enterprises can learn from one another, avoid mistakes and experience best practices in action,” says Bastian Pokorni from the Fraunhofer IAO. Some 20 companies are already taking part in workshops to learn more about AI fundamentals and applications. Other topics include how to develop AI strategies, identify use cases within one’s organization, select AI methods and process data, design human-machine interactions and steadily improve up-and-running AI applications. These workshops also cover ethical design principles and rollout strategies.