We tend to notice the AI that’s in our smartphones, powering our home assistants or piloting self-driving cars. But there is another tech revolution going on — out of sight for most of us — wherein AI and robotics are reinventing entire factories and industrial processes.
The IDC predicts that by 2020, 60 percent of factory workers will work with the help of robots, 3D printing, AI, and mixed reality on a daily basis. Industrial automation is changing manufacturing, as smart factories are boosting productivity and reducing costs.
At April’s busy Hannover Messe industrial trade fair in Germany, Microsoft demonstrated its ability to upgrade productivity not only in offices, but also on factory floors around the world. The company has over 8,500 worldwide partners including major industrial suppliers like ABB, Accenture, EY, GE, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, and etc.
Synced looks at five use cases for Microsoft’s IoT in factory and industrial applications.
Swiss food-processing manufacturer Bühler AG has developed a data-driven, cloud-connected optical sorter robot called LumoVision in partnership with Microsoft cloud and IoT. The bot is speedier and more accurate than human or other automated solutions, and greatly improves the food cleaning process by removing 90 percent of substandard grains.
Schneider Electrics recently merged with UK-based AVEVA to create its own industrial software unit. The group’s latest project uses HoloLens to optimize the production pipeline of Italian equipment maker ItalPresse. The company can build a virtual validation model using HoloLens prior to actually constructing new equipment prototypes, thus reducing production costs. At the Hannover Messe, Microsoft partner ICONICS demonstrated how technicians using a HoloLens self-contained holographic computer could work alongside robots on the production line. Wearable devices can send workers instructions and allow them to check production indexes in real-time.
Swiss industrial robot-maker ABB is using the Microsoft Azure cloud to build the ABB AbilityTM, the world’s largest industrial IoT platform. Azure services also power the ABB factory in Heidelberg, Germany, where the company is training industrial robots to learn and self-correct. When factory cameras detect an equipment problem or failure, the robot workstation will respond with a corrected process. The system now monitors over 8,000 different product parts, and has tripled factory production.
German pharmaceutical company Bayer’s environmental science business unit is digitizing the company’s decades-old mousetraps. New mousetraps equipped with sensors are integrated into Azure IoT’s remote monitoring systems and will notify pest control experts immediately upon making a catch.
Toyota Material Handling Europe will totally modernize its factory information and robotics system over the next 10 years. Using Microsoft’s Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform AirSim, the company is training loading robots to recognize graphics, automated processes, and work safely with humans. Toyota’s European division is also developing the T-Stream full-stack solution plan based on Microsoft Azure. Connected with Bing Maps and GPS systems, the platform enables technicians to provide advance maintenance services to customers.
Localization: Meiling Wu | Editor: Meghan Han, Michael Sarazen