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September 23, 2019 | by Staff

How to Be Prepared for the Dawn of AI

At MSCI’s upcoming Aluminum Products Division Conference, set for Nov. 3-5, 2019 in Carlsbad, Calif. (registration here), we plan to ask how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the metals sector.

A new report from the MAPI Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation provides some food for thought in advance of that discussion. In “The Manufacturing Evolution,” authors Robert Atkinson and Stephen Ezell explore how AI will transform the broader manufacturing industry and will help build the workforce of the future.

The report also contends with the argument that AI and automation will eliminate certain jobs, or reduce overall employment. The authors argue, “As AI becomes more prevalent in various aspects of business management and operations, investing in people will become even more important. AI and automation will not displace people but rather combine their capabilities in new ways to create new forms of value and new opportunities.”

In other words, AI presents more opportunity than threat.

The authors argue the companies “that identify how to empower their workforces through AI applications will create the greatest value going forward.” Employers should focus on the development of “fusion skills” – the combination of human and machine talents within a business process – that will be necessary in training, explaining, and sustaining activities; for expanding employees’ capabilities; and for tasks in which humans and machines will jointly excel together.

Few manufacturers are prepared for this change in the workforce, however. Many have not yet even contemplated what it means.

The MAPI Foundation found that only five percent of its member companies have mapped where AI opportunities exist and have developed a clear strategy for sourcing the data that AI requires. Additionally, even though, “over the next five years, industry leaders expect significant growth in predictive systems and in their use of AI to manage intelligent supply chains,” more than half of companies – 56 percent – are not even considering how to account for the opportunity AI presents. Many organizations also have not introduced dedicated new job categories that are focused on AI.

According to Atkinson and Ezell, a lack of clarity about how to implement AI solutions to solve specific manufacturing challenges and a lack of interoperability between equipment are the most significant barriers to deployment of artificial intelligence.

The report outlines six steps companies can take to be prepared. Click here to read those recommendations, and to read the full report.