Google report shows auto OEMs leading AI charge

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Tech behemoth Google claims that manufacturing is entering a ‘golden age of AI’, with automotive OEMs leading the way.

In a new report from Google Cloud Industries, the Mountain View firm outlines how digital initiatives across manufacturing have accelerated since the COVID pandemic began, with 76 per cent of respondents relying more on data and analytics, cloud, and AI. The survey - which polled more than 1,000 senior manufacturing executives across seven countries - also found that among firms already engaged with AI, 66 per cent reported that their dependence on the technology was increasing.

The automotive industry is at the forefront of this digital transformation, with 76 per cent of OEMs deploying AI in their day-to-day operations. The next highest segment is automotive suppliers on 68 per cent, followed by heavy machinery on 67 per cent. According to Bryan Goodman, director of Artificial Intelligence and Cloud at Ford, Google cloud infrastructure is facilitating the Motor City company’s digital transition, moving AI projects past the pilot stage and into daily operations.

“Our new relationship with Google will supercharge our efforts to democratise AI across our business, from the plant floor to vehicles to dealerships,” said Goodman.

“We used to count the number of AI and machine learning projects at Ford. Now it’s so commonplace that it’s like asking how many people are using math. This includes an AI ecosystem that is fuelled by data, and that powers a ‘digital network flywheel.’”

The Google report found that the most prevalent use case for AI in manufacturing was quality control, with 39 per cent of respondents who use AI day-to-day employing it for quality inspection, and 35 per cent for product and/or production line quality checks. Looking downstream, manufacturers said they relied on AI for supply chain management (36 per cent), risk management (36 per cent), and inventory management (34 per cent).

Geographically, the extent to which AI is already being used today varies substantially between countries. While 80 per cent and 79 per cent of manufacturers in Italy and Germany respectively report using AI in day-to-day operations, that percentage is much lower in the UK (66 per cent) United States (64 per cent), Japan (50 per cent) and South Korea (39 per cent). UK manufacturers spend the highest proportion on AI, with the technology now accounting for 40 per cent of IT budgets.