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Your competitors are using AI. Why risk falling behind them?

April 24, 2024
From a CIO and self-described “technologist” comes real use cases for this breakthrough technology with many industrial applications like tailoring individualized customer portals, purchasing augmentation, and simplified plant technical documentation.

If you feel like everyone is racing to get on the AI bandwagon, you are right—and they are doing it for good reason. The most significant benefit to anyone using the latest generative AI models is the speed at which they can use artificial intelligence to develop and implement new solutions to almost any problem with a highly shallowed learning curve.

The most significant detriment to anyone who isn’t using the latest gen-AI models is that their competition is using them, and rivals are exponentially jumping ahead in several ways. This presents the risk of having to play an interminable game of “catch-up” in the race to adopt AI.

See also: With AI, the time is now, say manufacturing technologists, futurist, 'evangelist'

I know this seems like the common story of “the sky is falling” being told by a techno-geek who sees a shiny new toy or technology and thinks it will change the world. However, gen-AI is a little different and is poised to change the way the world works, plans, and executes in the very near future.

The potential for business growth with AI is immense, and it's not just a shiny new toy. It's a tool that can revolutionize your operations, enhance your customer experience, and boost your competitive edge. If you have any doubts, I recommend the following:

  1. Go to openai.com and sign up for their ChatGPT product. ChatGPT is a generative AI program that allows you to interact with it using a simple text— “chat” —format. Basically, type any question you want into ChatGPT, and it will respond back.
  2. I strongly recommend upgrading your free ChatGPT account to the Plus account. This will grant you access to GPT-4, OpenAI’s advanced model that searches, reads, and learns from current internet posts. The enhanced capabilities of GPT-4 can significantly boost your AI experience and provide valuable insights for your business.
  3. I encourage you to download the ChatGPT app to your smartphone.
  4. Launch ChatGPT on your phone, put on your headphones, and press the headphone icon to start having a verbal conversation with AI.
  5. Think of a situation you are struggling with at work, describe it (verbally) to ChatGPT, and then ask it for advice.
  6. Continue the conversation. If you disagree, tell it, and explain why. If you don’t understand something, ask it to explain. Have a conversation with it!

See also: Simulation, AI, and their roles in manufacturing's future

If, after that experiment, you don’t begin to see the power of AI, then I fear you either don’t have a good imagination or are so good at your job that you don’t have any problems to test this with.

In the manufacturing space, this opens up a world of possibilities.

For example, in the real world, we are taking trouble tickets generated by our service desks and feeding them into a gen-AI model. This includes how the end user initially described the problem and the steps our technicians took to resolve issues.

From there, we are using AI to generate knowledge base articles to help resolve most of the reoccurring requests we see. However, it doesn’t stop there, because we also are using AI to learn how some of these requests are initially phrased. From that point, we can quickly develop a service portal that “learns” from its interactions.

See also: Revolutionizing manufacturing: The role of industrial AI

Essentially, using AI in this way has allowed our technicians to focus on what they do best, solving issues, instead of asking them to be experts at technical documentation writing. It also allows us to quickly develop responsive service portals without the need for complex database programming or anticipating how people are going to phrase the requests they have.

We also are working on a purchasing augmentation that involves the use of AI. This process entails analyzing current and planned projects, examining bills of materials to determine their associated lead times and on-hand inventory, and drafting vendor correspondence requesting quotes while citing delivery dates and demand. Once this information is gathered, the AI automatically drafts vendor correspondence requesting quotes while citing delivery dates and demand.

Podcast: Generative AI on the plant floor

The one project that I’m the most excited about (but is still in development) is using AI to create dynamic and responsive customer portals. Finding new ways to communicate more effectively with clients should be and will continue to be the endeavor of any company.

For the first time, AI can help make this happen almost instantaneously. This project uses AI to link the data between our customer relationship management (CRM), engineering, production, service, and financial systems to create a unique customer portal experience for each client. The concept embodies the idea that from our first contact with a client, AI will begin building a dynamic portal for that individual client, focusing on their most pressing needs.

See also: Five ways AI is changing the HR game

Suppose a customer is in the planning stages with us. In that case, AI will tailor a portal for them where communication with engineers is front and center while quickly directing them to design documents and approval processes.

Suppose we are in the process of producing products for our customers. In that case, AI will automatically retool the portal to show them production deadlines, shipping estimates, and communication methods with the production specialists directly associated with their orders.

Then, once the product has shipped, AI will dynamically redesign the portal to present them with access to knowledge base articles, access to service portals, and direct them to customer accounting where necessary.

In the past, this type of ever-changing portal would have been nearly impossible or required a comprehensive team of database experts and web developers. AI makes this all possible quicker and easier without as many resources.

Survey: Almost all manufacturers struggle with making use of data

Finally, the best part of all this is using AI to help develop AI solutions. In each of these scenarios, the ideas, brainstorming of possible solutions, project development, and continued election have been done utilizing conversations with AI.

So, if someone were to ask me, “Why, as a manufacturer, do I need to worry about AI in 2024,” my answer would be because your customers and competition are already using it and every day you delay in getting familiar with AI will leave you two days behind them.

The race to adopt AI is not just about keeping up, it's about staying ahead. And with the right AI solutions, you cannot only catch up but also surpass your competition, securing a leading position in your manufacturing vertical.

About the Author

Sean O’Meara

Sean O’Meara is chief information officer at Girtz Industries, an engineer-to-order manufacturer known for its power packaging solutions. He has been immersed in Girtz’s technological evolution since 2014 and champions fusion of cutting-edge technologies with strategic business processes to elevate the employee experience and fortify Girtz’s data security framework. He has helped the Monticello, Indiana-based company overhaul its IT landscape, encompassing system integrations, network enhancements, and the adoption of robust platforms.