Three technologies redefining services in manufacturing
Manufacturing is in transition. Given the current geopolitical events surrounding the UK economy – it’s an uncertain time, not least within the UK manufacturing sector which is under immense pressure, having recently fallen in the global ranks when it comes to total output.
Beyond the need to adapt to the changing economic climate, there is also a growing demand to keep pace with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) which is transforming the sector, as well as adapting to ever changing customer demands. Within this changing landscape, manufacturers are up against it to meet and exceed these expectations.
To succeed, manufacturers are increasingly focussed on enabling their service teams to drive increased productivity and capabilities to deliver a differentiated customer experience. Our research found that manufacturing firms are pulling on the three technological areas of Mobile, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to maximise their service offering:
Mobile: the manufacturing ‘app economy’
The app economy has been talked about since applications were initially launched in 2008. Now the industry is worth upwards of £8.8bn in the UK. While the concept is by no means new, it has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives, both working and social. Hence why manufacturers must ensure they have adapted their business cultures to embrace a mobile-first approach that industries such as retail and entertainment have adopted for several years now.
This shift underpins a change in the times. Mobile apps in the workplace are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity. Employees need access to comprehensive data, that is up-to-date and easily visible. It is essential that service teams have access to high quality mobile customer service apps that provide the insight they need, in real-time. The use of applications ultimately makes it easier and quicker for technicians to retrieve their work schedules, log activity or product information in real time, which can make a big difference to the quality of service offered. Today, it’s not acceptable for a technician to turn up on site without access to the relevant data or product information, especially when face-to-face with customers.
AI: proactive, predictive service
AI is one of the most talked about and transformational technologies disrupting multiple industries. From case classification and intelligent routing to forecasting resolution time and service capacity, it can bring game-changing opportunities for the manufacturing sector and its service models.
More than 53% of companies are using predictive analytics. By pulling on AI, manufacturers are able to offer a proactive, not reactive, service. The technology can anticipate faults before they even happen, flag issues to customer service teams or agents and resolve the issue before it evolves. For example, Salesforce’s Einstein AI layer can analyse an impending technical fault and compares it with previous work orders. The insight is used to recommend tools, parts and techniques to solve the problem based on past experiences.
- Vivo aims to invest Rs 4,000 crore in a new manufacturing plant in India
- Tesla reveals its plans to explore the use of augmented reality within its production lines
- Daimler is set to acquire $23bn in battery cells, accelerating its electrification strategy
These steps are being replicated across the industry. Once a customer experiences this level of predictive service, they will no longer accept anything less, emphasising the importance of keeping pace.
IoT: helping manufacturers address issues before they arise
In the UK, 68% of manufacturers expect companies to start providing internet-connected products and services by 2020, according to our State of Service report. The expectation is there, but manufacturers are moving with caution. Understandably so given the current macro-environment.
Yet, McKinsey predicts the IoT market to be worth upwards of $517bn by 2020, with industries such as manufacturing, transportation and utilities set to spend $40bn on IoT platforms in that period. This is a clear indication of the steady, but growing, influence IoT is having on manufacturers and their service offering.
IoT brings operational efficiency. For example, imagine your washing machine breaks down, connected sensors can determine where the issue is occurring and trigger a request to an engineer. In a similar fashion to AI, it can initiate a request to an engineer on their mobile device to respond to the repair or assign someone else to the job. It's about taking a preventative maintenance approach instead of putting the manufacturer or the customer at an expense to deal with unexpected repairs or replacements.
Modern technologies, like AI and IoT, are introducing new services to customers with ease and speed that wasn’t possible before. There is a direct correlation between the adoption of these technologies and customer expectations, and customers will no longer accept anything less.
Time is now
Connected technologies bring the service offering together. With pressure mounting and digital disruption a constant challenge (and opportunity) manufacturers must invest in their service offering to bring a personalised experience to meet customer expectations.
It's certainly a time of significant pressure and economic challenges. Industry boundaries are being redefined. For those who fail to adopt such models risk falling behind, and ultimately being disrupted. However, manufacturers who recognise these opportunities and adapt accordingly to change, will thrive in this new era.
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’.