Artificial intelligence in the industrial enterprise

Analytics can deliver insight as to how things are going, but artificial intelligence (AI) doesn't become a thing until you start using machine learning and semantics for insight.


Automation can improve a process. Productivity can gain from examination of workflows and leading indicators. And analytics deliver insight as to how things are going. But it isn't till you step over into the cognitive, with things like machine learning and semantics, that the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) is entered.

For the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), predictive maintenance of machinery and equipment is the first application demonstrating wide commercial acceptance. "This can be done with classic regression and predictive analytics. With artificial intelligence, however, you go beyond the structured deterministic to the fuzzier stochastic," said Jeff Kavanaugh, vice president, senior partner, Infosys. "With machine learning based on input such as audio signatures, the computer learns as a human would, by first paying attention to how a machine sounds when it's healthy and then understanding anomalies."

Infosys recently conducted a global survey on the adoption of intelligent automation. The survey's central point, that artificial intelligence technology is going mainstream, is a good one. A certain amount of skepticism is warranted, however, as to the specific figures.

Sample set asymmetry

A question often asked is whether companies have the data needed to enable machine learning, and whether the data is in a form suitable for such use. "People have more data than they think, but less than they hope," said Kavanaugh. "While there are a lot of data stores that don't lend themselves to machine learning, there are instances where great amounts of data simply aren't needed. At other times, companies can build on the power of accumulated data. Industrial manufacturers do have deep troves of simple data which can be converted to use cases, where they can go deep."

Asked to compare the potential impact of today's emerging technologies with those of the 1980s, when PLCs, DCSs, SCADA, CAD, and ERP were all introduced, Kavanaugh said, "The introduction of new technologies of the 1980s brought significant change, but it was basically the automation of rows and columns, applied to the plant floor and out in the field. Today, incorporating experience, a multi-attribute perspective of what actually happens, is a bigger part. We're talking about things that are inherently cognitive, in other words fuzzy. While the earlier transformation was from full analog to computerized operations, the current one is more pervasive, more connected, more intelligent—and ultimately—more profound."

AI as enterprising

Many readers of CFE Media engineering titles are looking for AI on plant floors. As a feature article in this issue by veteran technology journalist Sidney Hill Jr. suggests, it's in the enterprise as well. In fact, with control at the edge, ERP becomes the potential aggregation point for all data, bypassing traditional automation control systems. The impact could be profound.

For example, as an in-memory database ERP system, SAP's HANA was ahead of its time. Its latest advance is the introduction of a geographic information systems (GIS) capability, but not just as an application feature. Integration extends the capabilities into a standalone product. One database runs the business applications and the GIS. In a case example, one company already combines transactional data from SAP ERP central component with geospatial data and other data taken from turbines.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me