Computer Vision Solutions for Industry 4.0
The manufacturing industry has faced growing challenges in recent years. The sector is looking at a skills gap that is about to get larger, as 22% of skilled manufacturing workers are due to retire by the end of 2025. Manufacturing and related industries are also struggling to improve on existing inventory and supply chain management, especially in the face of recent disruptions caused by the pandemic. Finally, manufacturing needs to keep up with customer expectations for high-quality, reliable products at an affordable cost.
Computer Vision, or CV, can alleviate the biggest challenges facing the industry. CV, a subset of artificial intelligence, allows computers to take in information from digital images and then make decisions based on that information. When applied correctly, this means that CV allows computers to carry out the kinds of repetitive tasks that skilled workers would otherwise be doing. CV can improve efficiency and attention to detail while freeing up workers’ time for other tasks.
The future of industrial work is clear. Industry 4.0 will be highly automated, with faster production timelines and a smart warehouse, allowing for rapid production and distribution of products. It will also require a highly-skilled, educated workforce that knows how to use and operate cutting-edge technology, as well as safer workplaces so that employees can perform at their peak. Clearly, this represents a number of changes to what has been a fairly traditional sector. Computer Vision can help the industry to bring about those changes quickly and smoothly.
How Will Computer Vision Impact the Future of Industrial Operations?
It’s impossible to overstate the likely impact of CV on the future of manufacturing. Applications like object detection, object tracking, activity tracking, and pose estimation are ready to disrupt the industry’s production and distribution processes. Here are just a few of the changes that are likely to arise thanks to CV.
Today’s customers expect higher-quality products without defects, all at a low cost. In order to meet this demand, most companies are looking for ways to boost employee productivity.
That often means monitoring employees to cut down on unscheduled downtime. This is where CV can make a huge contribution. Half a century ago, the foreman was responsible for walking the factory floor to make sure that employees were hard at work instead of idling. Today, a network of computing systems can be used to monitor workers in real-time and check to see that they are all making the best use of their work time.
Some businesses have reported increases in productivity of between 10 and 12%. It’s worth noting that employees may also experience greater job satisfaction when they are challenged at work, which may lead to a virtuous cycle of increased productivity.
Automated Quality Control
Consumers expect reliable products that meet their standards. This means that effective quality control is crucial for the success of any manufacturing business. Otherwise, it is impossible to win over consumers and build a base of loyal customers.
Fortunately, Computer Vision can carry out quality control checks much more quickly and reliably than any human employee. CV means no longer waiting to laboriously examine batch after batch of products after the assembly process is over. Instead, the CV system can scan and continuously monitor products at every stage of production and can alert employees whenever there is a problem. That means that the production line can be shut down and any issues can be corrected before an entire line of products is ruined by a flaw in the assembly process.
Real-time Inventory Management
Successful businesses need to be able to maintain inventory control over all the raw materials used in production, as well as the finished products stored in warehouses. When it’s carried out well, inventory management can revolutionize the way companies do business. It can allow them to maintain the right balance of inventory, so that they always have the raw materials needed for production on hand, without wasting funds by storing too much in warehouses. Inventory management also means having enough finished products in warehouses to meet consumer demand at all times, even when it fluctuates.
This is an area where CV excels and can easily outperform human employees. Inventory management is often a tedious job, and human employees can commit careless errors while taking inventory. These kinds of errors are expensive, both in terms of the training requirements and the cost of correcting errors. Computer Vision, on the other hand, can work in a rapid and systematic way, without careless mistakes.
Computer Vision can go beyond simply tracking and recording the number of goods in warehouses. CV can flag any items that have been misplaced or stored in the wrong locations. CV can also identify shortages in raw materials and products, and, where applicable, can issue reports or order items to be restocked. CV can also track the movement of goods, identifying which products are in high demand and which are less popular. This is helpful for making key decisions about when production rates should be increased or decreased.
How Will Computer Vision Impact Specific Industries?
The impact of Computer Vision is already rippling through many industrial applications. Here are some of the ways that industries can benefit from implementing CV.
Computer Vision and the Construction Industry
Construction is a $10 trillion industry with tremendous growth potential. The industry has so far been highly traditional and resistant to change. However, advances in AI, data analytics, and related fields are leading to major disruptions in the industry.
Computer Vision has six major uses in the construction industry.
Avoiding Cost Overruns
Artificial intelligence can do wonders to keep project costs under control, especially when there is a significant CV component to the AI.
Project managers know that cost overruns are virtually impossible to prevent, especially on large-scale projects. Unforeseen costs often crop up once a project is already well underway, making it impossible to stick to the original budget.
AI software can help at every stage of the budgeting process. At the onset, AI can evaluate the timelines and material needs for similar projects in order to come up with a realistic estimate for the proposed new project. Then once the project is underway, CV can monitor the materials needed and the progress made in real-time, so that project managers can easily adjust their timelines and budgetary expectations. The more quickly these adjustments are made, the less dramatic the cost overrun is likely to be.
Computer Vision is capable of using 3D images and camera feeds to literally measure the “inches” of progress that a project has grown over time. This makes it easy for project managers to quantify their progress on a day-by-day basis. For the first time, measuring productivity can be an objective process, rather than a purely subjective one.
Construction Safety Management
Construction is a dangerous field, and construction workers are about five times more likely to die on a project site than any other kind of worker in the manufacturing sector. Fortunately, Computer Vision can help.
CV has the capability to scan pictures of any construction site and assess any safety risks on the site. For example, CV can monitor to see whether employees are wearing proper safety gear. It can also check for other risky behaviors or for poorly-positioned equipment that could lead to a safety risk.
Addressing Staff Shortages
There is a global worker shortage in the construction industry. CV can help with this in a few different ways.
CV can help maximize productivity by making sure that every employee is working effectively and that there are no unnecessary idle periods. CV can also help to decide how to assign tasks to each employee so that staffing is distributed throughout the construction site in an optimal manner.
Even the best equipment can break down and need repairs. CV can monitor equipment for telltale signs of wear and tear or breakages so that it can be refitted or maintained as needed.
The sooner that repairs are made, the more quickly equipment can be up and running again. Likewise, the sooner equipment issues are spotted, the more easily the issues can be repaired.
CV may also be able to monitor human employees for signs of minor injuries and exhaustion so that they can rest or get medical attention before these issues become more serious. Not only is this beneficial for the employees, but it also saves project managers from the kinds of mistakes that are often caused by overtired workers on the job site.
Computer Vision and Manufacturing
Manufacturing is another area that’s likely to experience a major disruption soon, thanks to the development of CV. Here are a few of the ways that CV will impact the industry.
Safety and Security
In many manufacturing sites, workers need to wear protective equipment like helmets, goggles, and face shields in order to keep themselves and their coworkers safe. Unfortunately, workers are not always diligent about using the right safety gear.
Computer Vision can use video and digital images to monitor the entire staff on a continuous basis, to see whether everyone is compliant with the rules about protective equipment.
More generally, CV can also “watch” employees to see whether they are following safety protocols and are sticking to approved areas. Of course, CV will always be most effective when it is used as a complement to human inspection, not as a replacement for it. When correctly implemented, Computer Vision can add a much-needed extra layer of security to any worksite.
Inventory is of crucial importance in manufacturing. Successful inventory management means maintaining a stock of raw materials as well as a large enough supply of products to meet consumer demand. Achieving this, without spending more money than necessary to store goods and products, is a difficult balance that requires careful planning and analysis.
Computer Vision can closely track the fluctuating supply of goods and products in a business’s warehouses. Coupled with other AI systems, CV can help managers to make important decisions about when to purchase more supplies and how much product to keep stocked in a warehouse.
Quality Control and Defect Detection
Consumers today have many options, thanks to the globalized economy. This means that they have high expectations for the products they buy, and quality control is more important than ever.
Unfortunately, quality control has traditionally been a costly process, requiring many intensive hours of labor. Many businesses still perform quality control the old-fashioned way, with employees painstakingly checking products over for possible defects. Not only is this process time-consuming and costly, but it is also subject to human error.
Today, Computer Vision can outperform human employees when it comes to quality control checks. CV can monitor products at every step of the manufacturing process, continuously checking for defects. This means that problems can be caught quickly, before they impact too many products, and before products are shipped to consumers.
The result saves businesses money and protects their reputations.
Automation is becoming more prevalent in the manufacturing industry. In the Tesla manufacturing process is a great example of this. some cases, as much as 75% of the assembly process has been automated –
Whenever assembly is automated, of course, it becomes all the more important to have an effective monitoring and supervisory process. That role can be filled by Computer Vision, which can monitor and guide the process to ensure that all of the steps are carried out correctly.
Guided Die Cutting
Die-cutting is a precision process that uses either steel blades or lasers to cut virtually any material to just the right shape and size.
Today, Computer Vision can “learn” a design pattern and then guide any die-cutting machine to perform accurate cuts. Not only does this save on the cost of labor, but it also reduces the risk of accidents and of human error in the die-cutting process.
Packaging is an area where human errors are all too common. It requires careful inspection and meticulous attention to detail.
This makes packaging standardization a great area for Computer Vision to take over. Unlike human beings, CV systems do not get tired or make careless mistakes, no matter how many times they count or inspect packages.
Most of the products manufactured today have barcodes printed on them. It’s important to verify that the codes have been printed correctly on each and every product.
Computer Vision can meticulously check barcodes to ensure that they are correct and legible on every single product.
Warehousing has many potential Computer Vision use cases. Here are just a few of the applications.
In many workplaces, it is vital for employees to use personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to keep themselves safe. Computer vision can perform a continuous check on every employee in the worksite to ensure that they are correctly wearing the helmets, goggles, face shields, or other forms of PPE required for the job. CV can alert managers whenever employees are not following the relevant safety regulations. CV can also perform other safety checks, such as ensuring that employees do not get too close to dangerous areas, or do not enter off-limits rooms.
CV is most effective when it is combined with human supervision and interaction with employees. When correctly implemented, CV can add a valuable new dimension to employee safety.
Inventory is a key aspect of warehousing. Successful warehousing means knowing where to stock products and raw materials so that they are always available to customers at the earliest possible date. However, achieving this can be difficult, especially for large warehousing firms that span several regions.
Computer Vision can closely track the fluctuating supply of goods and products in a business’s warehouses. When combined with other artificial intelligence systems, CV can help managers to make important decisions about where to build new warehouses, where to store products and materials, and how best to transport goods and products when they need to be moved.
Computer Vision also allows for advanced item recognition, so that products can be easily retrieved from wherever they are stored and shipped to wherever they need to go.
Security at warehouse locations is paramount to protect large quantities of expensive goods and materials. With the need for 24-hour site surveillance, CV provides immense benefits in supplementing onsite security personnel as well as allowing for robust remote location security.
The low latency power of Edge computing means facilities managers can receive real-time alerts to monitor conditions and unauthorized access in and around warehousing sites,
CV and the Oil and Gas Sector
The oil and gas sector is continually seeking out new ways to become more efficient, so CV is a natural fit for this industry. In an unpredictable global market, the data-driven process of AI systems may lead to great stability. CV may also improve safety and environmental protections. Here are a few of the use cases for CV in the industry.
Computer Vision has tremendous potential to improve the process for oil and natural gas exploration. CV systems can be trained to recognize the indications that an area may be home to natural gas or oil deposits. Once promising areas are identified, exploration can begin. If the preliminary process can be automated and made more reliable, then the exploration process as a whole may become less costly, and the risk of environmental damage may also be reduced.
Once oil and gas deposits are confirmed, CV can help in the actual drilling process. CV can monitor and inspect drilling sites on a continual basis to ensure that drilling is carried out safely and efficiently at all locations.
CV is capable of automating the monitoring workload. Its monitoring systems can identify specific events and carry out reporting duties so that managers are kept informed of progress at every drilling site. This cuts down on managers’ need to inspect each and every site while satisfying the need to maintain safety and follow proper procedures.
In a drilling operation, it is crucial that all of the equipment used is in optimal condition. CV can carry out regular inspections of all of the equipment being used, monitoring for signs of damage or wear and tear. This allows managers to repair possible problems before they turn into major issues.
Safety and Site Management
Oil and gas facilities are complex and potentially dangerous environments. From worker safety to controlling who can access worksites, Computer Vision provides considerable support in putting additional “eyes” on the entire operation.
CV can ensure workers remain in compliance and wear the correct PPE and then alert managers when safety protocols are not being followed. Quickly detecting unsafe conditions and unauthorized access to specific areas become much easier with the implementation of Computer Vision across the entire facility.
What to Look for in a CV Provider
Whether your business is in the manufacturing, construction, warehousing, or oil and gas sector, it’s important to find the best possible partner to help you implement CV solutions.
One of the most important qualities to look for in a Computer Vision provider is their experience. Have they worked across all the major CV categories? Do they have a flexible platform capable of addressing each sector’s unique needs? Do they have a track record of working with businesses in your sector?
It is also vital to choose a partner that shares your vision and values and has the ambition to match yours.
Finally, you should look at scalability when you select your provider. Ideally, you’ll want to be in a long-term partnership with your CV provider, which means that you’ll need a partner that can keep up as your business grows. Look for a provider with a sustainable business model and a record of working with businesses at various levels of growth.
What are the Advantages of Working with alwaysAI?
alwaysAI has extensive experience working with businesses throughout the manufacturing sector. Our staff can work closely with you to streamline your Computer Vision projects and smoothly adopt computer vision throughout your worksites. Working with alwaysAI guarantees your business:
- Best-in-class support
- On-demand support for your deployments, model development, and application-specific needs from a team of world-class machine learning experts
- The choice of a Computer Vision model from our catalog or your own model. You’ll be able to either train the model locally or in the cloud using our model training features, customizing your app with our powerful Python APIs.
- Simple, scalable deployment
- Ability to deploy applications easily and quickly to your existing Edge infrastructure on a wide variety of devices, like ARM-32, ARM-64, or X86
- Completely customizable CV solutions
- Capacity to design, train and improve applications tailored to your business needs.
alwaysAI is a San Diego-based firm dedicated to making Computer Vision accessible to every enterprise. Our team of technology veterans has a wealth of experience in machine learning, mobile and enterprise software, and global network integration. Visit us today to learn how Computer Vision can maximize your business' s potential, and get started on your journey right away.