Manufacturers know that if they want to remain competitive, they need to leverage the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). But the cost and effort associated with implementing new technology presents a challenge for many businesses.
Instead, you can keep your organization up to date by using advanced solutions that are readily available.
Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, are available for anyone in your organization to use today. They do carry risks: Any information you input will not be secure, so it’s important to monitor how employees use these tools. However, when used correctly, they can create new avenues for operational efficiency.
Here are seven ways manufacturers can start using AI to transform their operations:
1. Develop a strategic plan
A strategic plan is necessary not only for helping your company continue to grow but also for aligning your people under a single vision or goal. Yet the comprehensive nature of these plans leaves some businesses struggling with where to begin.
Generative AI tools help by doing some of the prerequisite work for you. They can formulate the basics of what your plan could be, the materials you’ll need for information collection and even the logistics behind a strategic planning event.
When using ChatGPT, here are some example prompts to consider:
- What are the important elements of a strategic plan?
- What research activities are recommended prior to a strategic retreat?
- Create a 10-question survey about business processes that can be given to back-office employees.
- What are 10 things that I should be thinking about prior to having people on site for a strategic planning retreat?
- Create a plan for the executive team at a manufacturer to develop a strategic plan in eight hours. The business makes metal widgets for the automotive industry and operates one production facility. The plan should be laid out in tabular format and include columns for session objectives, required attendees and expected time allocation.
Generative AI tools help you build these foundational elements so that you can focus on the parts that are crucial for growing your business.
2. Communicate more effectively
Generative AI tools can be used to help ensure that you’re communicating effectively both internally and externally.
One important aspect is that they save you time in creating content by generating the basics for you.
For example, you could submit prompts such as:
- Develop a two-paragraph email from the CEO of a manufacturing company to all the employees for the purpose of sharing news of an acquisition. The email should be cheerful and appreciative of the collective work that has been completed to date.
You can then take ChatGPT’s output and revise the specific details to personalize the message. This allows you to focus on the important nuances rather than the structure and formatting of the content.
You can also use generative AI to tailor existing material to better suit your audience.
An IT team could prompt ChatGPT to edit communications about technology strategy for an operations team by making the content more readable for a general audience. With text-to-image AI tools, you could input textual descriptions from user manuals and instructions and have the tool produce visual aids for various steps or procedures.
3. Enhance your branding
Text-to-image AI tools can be used to help you improve the customer-facing aspects of your business.
Programs such as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and Adobe Generative Fill let users enter text prompts to generate new, noncopyrighted images. Manufacturers can provide textual descriptions of their products and the AI model can generate corresponding images that accurately represent the items. This can save time and effort in creating high-quality visuals for promotional materials or product catalogs.
Some generative AI tools also accept existing images, allowing you to modify your branding to better suit the needs of your company. For example, you could input an image into the tool and then prompt it to change the color or adjust the style.
4. Identify opportunities for process improvement
Increase efficiency by using generative AI tools to evaluate your current processes and identify ways to improve them. By inputting the outline of your process into ChatGPT, you can ask it to provide you with strategies or suggestions for more optimal processing methods.
For example, if your company operates in an engineer to order environment, it’s likely that there is a complex, lengthy sales cycle. In these situations, it’s common for information to not be collected and transmitted to each department reliably.
Generative AI tools can help you by breaking down these processes. Chat GPT can be prompted with a list of important information you need when taking on a new sales opportunity and the process that you use for your sales cycle. From there, you can ask when you should be capturing information, how you can better transmit it and when it should be reviewed.
5. Upskill employees
Upskilling employees is one effective option for filling staffing gaps amid continuing labor shortages.
The right training and development plans can help high-performing talent move into leadership positions or take on new responsibilities. As you create training plans, AI tools can help you determine how to make them more personalized.
You can prompt AI tools to create plans based on the skills an employee has and what skills you want them to develop to expand their role. You could further refine the output with prompts for factors such as preferred learning styles or ways to incentivize the plan to help keep employees motivated.
AI tools can also help employees as they adjust to new roles. An employee can ask the tool to explain unfamiliar concepts and receive quick, easy access to a comprehensive explanation. They can also expand on answers with further prompting.
6. Quality assurance and testing
Manufacturers can employ text-to-image AI tools for quality assurance purposes. By describing the desired attributes or characteristics of a product in text, the AI model can generate images that showcase those qualities. This can help manufacturers compare the generated images against the actual products, facilitating efficient quality control checks.
Text-to-image AI tools can also be used to simulate product testing or virtual environments. By describing different scenarios or conditions in text, the AI model can generate corresponding images that represent those conditions. This can be particularly useful in industries such as automotive or aerospace, where virtual testing can help identify potential issues before physical prototypes are built.
7. Product development
Manufacturers can use text-to-image AI tools to generate visual representations of product designs based on textual descriptions. This can be helpful during the initial stages of product development and prototyping, enabling designers to quickly visualize concepts before investing resources into physical prototypes.
Text-to-image AI tools can also aid in creating customized or personalized products. Manufacturers can take text-based input from customers regarding their preferences or specifications, and the AI model can generate visual representations of those customizations. This enables manufacturers to offer tailored products without the need for extensive manual design work.
Using generative AI tools efficiently
While AI presents a variety of possibilities, it’s important to remember the very necessary human element.
Whatever output you receive will only be as good as the prompts you submit. And there are endless factors you can include in a prompt to adjust the output to your needs.
Encourage your team members to be creative and experiment so that they can better understand the capabilities of these tools and potential applications for your business. And let them keep experimenting as these tools continue to gain more functionality.
Similarly, whatever output you receive should not be viewed as a finished product, especially for text-based content. You will still need someone to proofread and edit any output before it can be finalized.
It’s also important to remember that these tools are not private. When using them, never submit a document, image or prompt that contains any identifiable or financial information for either you or your clients.
How Wipfli can help
Wipfli is here to help manufacturers unlock their full potential. We offer guidance in developing the right tech strategy, incorporating innovation and automation so that you stay efficient and competitive. Contact us today to discover how we can help your business evolve.
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