SURVEY: Increased Competition Sparks Innovation in UK Manufacturing
More than one-quarter (26 percent) of manufacturing companies cite concerns about falling behind competitors as a main driver for innovation in 2014, up from 19 percent in 2013, according to the EEF/Natwest Innovation Monitor 2014/15.
The report is based on a survey of more than 200 manufacturing companies from across the UK. It also suggests businesses are looking to target investment into fewer projects, following a spike in 2013.
Last year 61 percent of companies reported launching four or more innovations. This year it has fallen back to 15 percent – the same figure as 2010. More than half (56 percent) of companies are involved in two to three innovations, up from 36 percent in 2013.
Despite this, spending on innovation increased slightly between 2013 and 2014. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of companies report that they are have increased their expenditure on training staff around innovation in 2014. Only one percent said that this has decreased.
Natwest head of SME manufacturing Mark Eastwood put the focus on funding fewer projects down to a “more strategic approach to innovation, focusing on long term ambitions and growth.”
“It also seems that the sector is picking up and demand is increasing,: he said. “Manufacturers are facing more pressure on capacity. So instead of looking at a number of projects, they are now focusing on those that are going to achieve the biggest return.”
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.