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7 ways to use generative AI in manufacturing

Jun 21, 2023

With recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), manufacturing companies can adopt advanced IT tools without a hefty investment.

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney are available to use today, either freely or through low-cost, month-to-month subscriptions. In manufacturing, generative AI is being used for everything from strategic planning and communication to product development, training and process improvement.

Explore these use cases (and example prompts) for generative AI in manufacturing:

1. Strategic plan development

Generative AI tools can do some of the prerequisite work to create a comprehensive strategic plan. In a near-instant, AI tools can produce a template or the basis of a plan, and it can populate materials you’ll need for information collection. AI can even coordinate some of the logistics for a strategic planning event.

Try some of these ChatGPT prompts to jumpstart your strategic planning process:

  • 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 for back-office employees.
  • What are 10 things I should think about before 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 can address foundational elements of the planning process and get things started, so you can focus on elements that are crucial for growing your business.

2. Effective communication

Generative AI tools can help you communicate effectively internally and externally — and they can save precious time that it takes to write and edit business content.

Try this ChatGPT prompt to develop a communication:

  • 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.

Will ChatGPT give you the perfect response? Maybe not. But you can revise the output to personalize the message. You get to focus on the important nuances of the message rather than the structure and formatting. ChatGPT takes away the blank state and speeds up the writing process.

You can also use generative AI to tailor existing materials for another audience. For example, an IT team could prompt ChatGPT to edit communications about a technology strategy to make it more digestible for general audiences.

With text-to-image AI tools, you can input textual descriptions from user manuals and instructions to produce visual aids for various steps or procedures.

3. Branding and marketing

Text-to-image AI tools can also help you improve customer-facing aspects of your business.

Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and Adobe Generative Fill create new, noncopyrighted images by using text prompts. Manufacturers can input textual descriptions of their products, and then AI models will generate corresponding images. This can save a significant amount of time and effort creating high-quality visuals for promotional materials or product catalogs.

Some generative AI tools also accept existing images. For example, you could upload an image and then prompt an AI tool to change the color or adjust the style.

4. Manufacturing process improvement

Generative AI tools can evaluate your current processes and identify ways to improve them. Put an outline of a process into ChatGPT, then ask for strategies or suggestions to optimize processing methods.

If your company operates in an engineer-to-order environment, the sales cycle is probably long and lengthy. In these situations, sometimes information isn’t shared across departments reliably. You could ask Chat GPT for a list of important information you need when taking on a new sales opportunity, and for a process to manage a long sales cycle. The responses will affirm whether you’re capturing all the information you need at the right stages, and how to share and review it.

5. Employee training and upskilling

Upskilling employees is an effective strategy for managing staffing gaps — especially amid the ongoing labor shortage. Training and development can also help high-performing workers move into leadership positions or take on new responsibilities.

AI tools can help you make personalized upskilling and training plans.

Prompt AI tools to create a training plan based on the skills an employee has and the skills you want them to develop to expand their role. You could refine the output with prompts that address preferred learning styles or ways to incentivize the plan to keep employees motivated.

AI tools can also help employees adjust to new roles. An employee can ask the tool to explain unfamiliar concepts and receive quick, easy access to a comprehensive explanation.

6. Quality assurance and testing

Manufacturers can use text-to-image AI tools for quality assurance purposes.

To try it, describe the desired attributes or characteristics of a product in text and see what an AI model generates. This can help manufacturers compare generated images against actual products to complete 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, an AI model can generate corresponding images of those conditions. This can be particularly useful in the automotive and aerospace industries, where virtual testing can identify potential issues before physical prototypes are built.

7. Product development

Manufacturers can use text-to-image AI tools to generate visual representations of products. 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 help you create custom products. Manufacturers can take text-based input from customers (such as preferences or specifications), and AI models can generate visual representations of the customized product. This enables manufacturers to offer tailored products without extensive manual design work.

How to use generative AI tools safely

While AI presents a variety of possibilities, it’s important to remember the very necessary human element.

First of all, they carry some risk. Information you input may not be secure, so it’s important to monitor how employees use generative AI tools. Limit the use of proprietary or personal information. And never submit a document, image or prompt that contains identifiable or financial information.

The output you receive is only as good as the prompts you submit. And there are endless factors you can include in a prompt.

Encourage team members to be creative and experiment so they learn more about these tools and potential applications for your business. And let them keep experimenting as these tools mature and new features are added.

The output you receive should not be viewed as a finished product, especially for text-based content. You still need someone to proofread and edit generative AI’s work before it’s finalized or published.

How Wipfli can help

Wipfli can help manufacturers unlock their full potential with technology such as generative AI. We can guide you toward the right tech strategy and incorporate innovation and automation you need to stay efficient and competitive. Contact us today to discover how we can help your business evolve.

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Jake R. Rohrer
Senior Consultant
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