Microsoft releases new book that takes an in-depth look at the role of AI in manufacturing

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a significant area of interest for Microsoft in the recent past. A number of partnerships have been undertaken by the tech giant with specific regards to this field. These include the involvement of firms like General Assembly, platforms such as OpenClassrooms, collaborations with higher education institutions, and more. As recently as yesterday, the company detailed how its AI-centric applications have been deployed by scientists to confront environmental challenges.

Today, Microsoft has announced the release of a new book, The Future Computed: AI & Manufacturing. This is the second book of its The Future Computed series, with the first one, namely The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its role in society being launched last year. The new one has been penned by Greg Shaw, co-author of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's Hit Refresh - which was released in 2017.

The primary focus, as is apparent from the title, resides upon the transformative nature of AI in the manufacturing sector, and how it has helped drive innovation in it through a number of ways. These include the enabling of safer work environments, new products and services, and optimizing of digital operations. The six key learnings from the book have been identified as follows:

  1. Manufacturers are already seizing and, in some cases, leading the industrial AI opportunity.
  2. AI is a journey.
  3. Central to digital transformation is cultural transformation.
  4. Those closest to the workforce are the most sensitive and attentive to AI’s impact on it.
  5. But there will be disruption and dislocation.
  6. Next-generation policies and laws are needed for next-generation technologies.

Microsoft believes it is important to view the complex questions raised by the increasing use of AI in high regard. This series of books is aimed toward encouraging broader conversations surrounding AI, and hopefully helping empower people in a respectful and mutually beneficial environment. Particular focus has been laid upon manufacturing in the second book, as industry holds a central role as the forefront of adoption of new transformational tech.

Çağlayan Arkan, Global Lead, Manufacturing and Resources Industry, Microsoft - who has also written the foreword for the book -, notes some of its significant features in the following words:

"The book also looks at how manufacturers will need to engage with governments and civil society to help craft new regulatory frameworks, guiding the use of this new technology as the industry transforms. These frameworks should address key societal challenges, including the need to retrain workers to take on new roles and be part of a talent supply chain capable of realizing the potential of AI in manufacturing. They should also address how to store the data generated from connected supply chains and digital factories safely, securely, and in ways that respect privacy and ensure that AI is used ethically. Drawing on insights from customers and policymakers from around the world The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing offers Microsoft’s perspective on how we might move forward on these important issues."

Various manufacturing customers including ABB, Colfax, Jabil, Tetra Pak, Toyota Materials Handling and ZF, have provided their thoughts about their journey through AI. Similarly, workforce experts, union leaders, and policymakers have also been interviewed. The importance of cultural change with respect to digital transformation in today's age has been specifically remarked upon as well.

As such, the book is noted to be a useful guide for essentially anyone interested in learning more about the significant role AI will play in the future of manufacturing. It is available for free download in the form of a PDF file here. Additional resources related to its content can be accessed through Microsoft's recently introduced online course, AI Business School, while the people and companies mentioned in the book can be read more about here.

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