The smart factory is becoming reality, as manufacturers take advantage of the latest in machine learning, big data, and robotics for new levels of efficiency and competitiveness.

Big data analytics, machine learning, digitization, the Industrial Internet of Things — all these buzzwords are attached to Industry 4.0 and the “factories of the future.” But what is really going on with artificial intelligence and robotics? Most experts agree on the great potential of the smart factory, but actual combinations of next-generation automation and production are just beginning.

In this report, author John Edwards discusses with several industry analysts the growing role of AI within manufacturing. They cite examples of how AI and machine learning are enabling robots to see more clearly, manipulate objects more easily, and work alongside humans in dynamic environments.

In addition, not only can sensors and mobile robots gather data for analysis, but in combination with the emerging Industrial Internet of Things, they can share their observations and take action.

Cobots such as Rethink’s Sawyer offer flexibility by combining repeatability with human oversight.

In this report, experts at Carnegie Mellon University, Siemens, and GE Digital, among other organizations, discuss the need for business managers to make a case for the smart factory. Automation is key to staying competitive in the global economy, they say.

The industry analysts and automation users also explain how collaborative robots are adding flexibility to operations, expanding use cases. Cobots are also allowing small and midsize enterprises, as well as traditional strongholds of automation such as automotive production, to take advantage of the best capabilities of both robots and humans. The augmented or hybrid workforce can address concerns about robots taking jobs.

Finally, this report looks at how machine learning can be used for predictive maintenance, in which data from sensors and robots provide data to be analyzed in real time. From this, it’s possible to determine what parts need attention and to minimize downtime.

Business leaders implementing a smart factory need to demystify the hype around AI and robotics built up by unrealistic expectations from Hollywood, doomsayers, and cyber-optimists. To download this report, please fill out the form below.