UK industries are leading the global change for AI investment

IFS has announced the findings of an international study examining the perception and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) within core industries. The research revealed that the UK is at the forefront of a global drive for AI investment, with a huge 99% of UK respondents planning to invest in AI, versus just 80% in North America, and 83% in mainland Europe.

The study – which polled enterprise 600 decision makers working with technology including enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM) and field service management (FSM) – highlighted that AI would predominantly be used to make existing workers more productive (60%) and add value to products and services (48%). Just 18% of businesses said they would be utilising AI to replace existing workers, while more than 60% stated AI would either increase headcounts or would keep them the same, countering fears it will lead to job losses. Those that did plan to use AI to replace workers overwhelmingly came from large enterprises, which employ greater numbers in the process-driven roles that are most likely to be lost to automation.

The findings come at a critical time for UK industries, with labour productivity falling at the fastest pace since the global financial crisis. Manufacturing in particular has seen a significant drop in output, decreasing by 1.9%. With the sector accounting for as much as 15% of UK GDP, even a small increase in productivity could result in significant benefits to the country’s economy.

IFS’s research also revealed that global spend will focus foremost on AI to support industrial automation as momentum for Industry 4.0 surges, with 45% stating a plan to invest in the technology. Customer relationship management (CRM) and inventory planning and logistics tied for second place at 38.9 percent.

“AI is no longer an emerging technology. It is being implemented to support business automation in the here and now, as this study clearly proves,” IFS VP of AI and RPA, Bob De Caux, said. “We are seeing many real-world examples where technology is augmenting existing decision-making processes by providing users with more timely, accurate and pertinent information. In today’s disruptive economy, the convergence of technologies such as AI, RPA, and IoT is bolstering a new form of business automation that will provide companies that are brave enough with the tools and services they need to be more competitive and outflank larger competitors.”

The benefits AI can bring to output have been felt first-hand by North American packaging manufacturer, Cheer Pack, which deployed a fleet of AI-powered autonomous vehicles to robotise material movements in its US factory.

Cheer Pack’s director of IT, Alex Ivkovic noted: “We expect the costs savings to be over $1.5 m per year. In addition, each and every employee will be re-tasked to a higher-skilled position, helping us with our labour shortage.”

At a time when UK manufacturers are facing the biggest worker shortage in 30 years, adopting a similar approach would be instrumental in tackling skills challenges, enhancing efficiencies, and boosting revenues.

De Caux concluded: “The findings of the study show that the time is right for companies to reap both business and financial benefits from technology automation. Falling for the hype of AI is easy, but success requires disruption to existing business models.  The technologies themselves are not a panacea, nor are they a universal solution to any problem. However, with the right data model and viable use cases, AI can support improved productivity and deliver significant benefits to both operations and the wider business. AI will be used by the vast majority of organisations in some form in the near future, extracting real value from intelligent processes, for the long-term.”

Download the IFS research study here.

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