From the editor's desk: AI in manufacturing and a virtual exhibition booth

October 2020 News

Artificial intelligence (AI) is seen by many as the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), yet its vision is not fundamentally new. The ideas have been around since the mid 1950s, but progress languished as the technology of the day simply wasn’t advanced enough to allow further research in the field.

Steven Meyer.

AI finally ‘made the scene’ in 1996 when IBM’s chess-playing computer, Deep Blue, exhibited true human-like decision making capability by defeating then reigning world chess champion, Gary Kasparov, in an exhibition match. The technology had arrived in the sense that it proved that the most powerful computers of the time could be coded to ‘think’ and not simply follow a set of pre-programmed instructions. But it would be another 20 years before the digital technology that characterises the era of the 4IR finally provided the platforms to take the benefits of AI down to the plant floor of a modern manufacturing facility.

In principle, the applications of AI are almost unlimited. In practice though, the main areas of interest in manufacturing at present are in quality and maintenance management. Two areas where it is relatively easy to collect the data required to baseline the before and after performance, and thus quantify the benefits of an AI project in monetary terms.

A recent report by the ARC Advisory Group indicates that while there are no defined limits to the use of AI in manufacturing applications, the success of any AI project depends on a clearly defined use case with measurable targets. Both maintenance and quality management fit the bill because the relevant data is easily accessible, and the AI is used in a way that aids human decision making, rather than replacing it altogether.

According to ARC, even though this only represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of possible AI applications in manufacturing, it is likely that rather than supplant human problem solving and creative thinking, for the foreseeable future AI will be used as a support technology.

Endress+Hauser’s virtual exhibition booth

Undaunted by the cancellation of all major trade fairs this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Endress+Hauser has used digital technology to add an extra element to its already formidable marketing machine. By visiting the company’s new virtual exhibition booth, industry professionals are able to explore all the latest instrumentation and process automation technologies, almost as if they were at a live exhibition. Available on both mobile and desktop devices, this augmented reality experience allows guests to click and swipe their way through a 3D visualisation of the Endress+Hauser portfolio, discovering how the people for process automation can help them improve workflow, increase uptime and optimise overall operating effectiveness. Visit anytime you like, for as long as you like, from anywhere in the world. To take the virtual tour, visit


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