Automation, Business Models, IIoT, Industry 4.0, Industry Reports, Smart Manufacturing

Industrial AI: Job killer or job engine?

There has been a lot of fear mongering, and general misguided posturing about the death of the working and middle classes or even an existential threat to the future of human society as consequence of advances in AI technology. Putting aside the fact that AI is still only a tool and early in its developmental evolution, I wanted to take the opportunity of our upcoming collaboration with Professor Toby Walsh at the Industry of Things World Conference in Berlin’s to shed some light on this subject.
As part of this collaboration, Professor Walsh will be giving a keynote lecture on, will be giving a keynote lecture on “The future of jobs, knowledge and skills in manufacturing”, and in order to inform the direction for AI topics at the conference, we have decided to undertake frontier research into current and anticipated uses for AI particularly in manufacturing and the industrial sector.
The research project survey, which I would encourage you to complete, has just broken the milestone of more than 500 responses. The survey is still running until September 20, but I’d already like to give you some cursory insights from the preliminary results. The final results will be released at the press conference at the Industry of Things World Conference in Berlin on the 24th of September – and all survey respondents will receive a detailed report of the results.
So, what’s interesting about the preliminary results? First, a clear majority of our respondents so far are already practically engaged with AI in some way, i.e. they either have already implemented, have plans to implement or are evaluating implementation of AI into their manufacturing activities.
While it might seem inevitable that industrial companies at least evaluate the implementation of a technology that is so heavily prevalent in public debate, we were surprised by the success rate of practical AI efforts: the vast majority of respondents who had already implemented AI in their company either achieved, overachieved or significantly overachieved their goals.

IoT Survey - If your company has implemented AI, did you achieve your goals?
Figure 1: Proportion of Industrial AI users who felt their system implementation had met their goals. Source: preliminary analysis arising from the “The present and future of AI in the industrial sector” survey (n=694).

Of course, there are also obstacles for companies to embark on their AI journey, one of the most important being the lack of AI skills and knowledge – an indication that the topic for Professor Walsh’s keynote will not be lost on our audience…
This leads to the question everybody is really curious about … what do manufacturing experts believe will happen to the future of work with new AI implementations? Do they expect AI to be a job killer or a job engine?
Well, sorry, I will not tell you yet as we want to maintain your curiosity until September 24 … the only thing I’d say is that results are encouraging – stay tuned! There are lots of other interesting insights you can expect, e.g. which industrial AI use cases are the most common, how AI is expected to affect the bottom line of industrial companies, and how much they plan to invest in AI in the next 12 months.
All in all, we look forward to presenting an interesting map of how AI is impacting the industrial sector today and in future. So far, the survey results make me confident about this future – but maybe you have a different experience and opinion? Then please let us know by participating in the survey!
Co-authored by Dale Rickert, Nikolaos Kapetanis and Patrik Edlund