Bridging the Gap series: The challenges of AI integration in industrial automation

AI is affecting nearly every aspect of industrial automation, but that doesn’t mean companies are not experiencing challenges. While AI can have a huge impact on everything from digital transformation to industrial networking to cybersecurity, 57% of survey respondents have experienced at least some challenges with its implementation. See video.

By Gary Cohen October 24, 2023

In the current industrial automation environment, it’s difficult to discuss any subject without the words artificial intelligence (AI) coming up. For many organizations, AI has become an integral part of everything from predictive maintenance to supply chain optimization to cybersecurity. But that doesn’t mean the adoption of AI has been seamless across verticals. There are many challenges of AI integration, including a lack of trust from the C-suite down to the factory floor.

Challenges of AI integration

Newly released research by CFE Media and Technology, covered in the Bridging the Gap Video/Podcast Series, took a closer look at how AI is impacting industrial automation. In our first episode, we covered the challenges of AI integration. Overall, 57% of respondents said they experienced at least some challenges when integrating AI technologies into existing industrial automation systems. The reasons for these challenges ranged from a lack of acceptance by management to a lack of client knowledge regarding AI.

“The overall distrust comes from the fact that people don’t understand that this technology is inherently difficult to understand,” said Bridging the Gap guest Jeff Winter, an Industry 4.0 and digital transformation thought leader and influencer. “Once again, because it’s trying to replicate human intelligence, people struggle to figure out how it works and how it’s going to impact them, especially because it’s so ubiquitous in its application. I would say it’s one of very few technologies out there that impacts every single industry, every single job function and nearly every single role from the shop floor all the way up to the CEO.”

Benefits of AI in industrial automation

While many are skeptical of AI, it’s also become nearly unavoidable in industrial automation. According to CFE’s survey respondents, the applications that will benefit the most from AI are predictive maintenance (cited by 79% of respondents), production optimization (67%), energy efficiency (53%) and quality assurance (48%).

“You can use it to help augment your decisions, and you can help use it to automate your decisions,” Winter said. “When you think about it like that, you’ll find better and more uses to be applying the concepts of AI both today and in the future as it improves.”

Bridging the Gap series

Future episodes of the Bridging the Gap series will focus on AI implementation, the strengths and weaknesses of AI and the business impact of AI. As companies progress on their digital transformation journeys, AI will likely be implemented into more and more processes. Current AI technologies are the worst they will ever be right now — and they’re already incredibly impactful. They are continually progressing and improving to help companies run more efficiently and make better decisions.

For those who think AI is just marketing fad that will eventually die down, Winter disagrees.

“The hype is real,” he said. “AI is one of the fastest growing technologies out there, and if you look at just the marketing behind every company, they’re scrambling to figure out how to take advantage of it, both for how they go to market and what they do with the value that they provide. So every company in every function is trying to figure out how to utilize this.”

To read the full cover story on Control Engineering, click here.

Author Bio: Gary Cohen is senior editor and product manager at WTWH Media LLC.