Frans, with your experience, how do you think foundries compare to other manufacturers in their application of digital tools?
Frans: Some other manufacturing environments are now quite sophisticated in their use of software and data, which is not often the case for foundries. With IoT infrastructure and Expert Execution Systems like Monitizer│PRESCRIBE, there is a real opportunity for foundries to leapfrog the older IoT systems and access the very latest technology without having to make an enormous investment.
Are there any common misconceptions about AI you hear from your foundry customers?
Frans: They can be worried that their data might be used in another customer’s AI – which never happens. Monitizer│PRESCRIBE can ingest and interpret all a customer’s foundry data and that certainly doesn’t include data from other customers.
Monitizer | PRESCRIBE is designed with full tenant sandboxing: every client’s datastore, database, and model is uniquely encrypted, and every component is isolated from every other component in the system. It is not possible to mix data or models between clients and the data is safeguarded with every possible measure.
Kasper: Some people think AI needs another in-house IT system that’s big, complex and very expensive. But Monitizer | PRESCRIBE is an online service, it simply gives you a tool to optimise quality and productivity.
Also, when we talk to foundry staff, some fear an AI system will come in and take over their job. But this isn’t about taking jobs. The information AI gives will help them make better decisions and improve their own performance. It will make them look good.
Are there any other AI-related advantages for foundry owners and their workforces?
Kasper: There’s a generational change going on in our industry. Engineers with 30 or 40 years’ experience are retiring and our customers are worried that their knowledge of how to keep their own unique processes running correctly will be lost. But their knowledge is encoded within historical process data. Monitizer | PRESCRIBE can access that and put it to work.
With more automation, the foundry also becomes a cleaner, more attractive place to work. You can spend most of the time in an office-like control room, which will be more appealing to today’s potential recruits.
Frans: By learning from human intelligence, expressed in millions of decisions made over the years, the AI becomes the central knowledgebase for the foundry. Then it can support less experienced engineers and operators in their decision making. A lot of value for manufacturing customers lies in selecting and extracting those good decisions so they’re never lost.
If AI helps foundries move from offline analysis to continuous guidance, what comes next?
Frans: The end goal is a foundry that runs its own processes automatically – similar to what the autonomous vehicle industry is aiming to achieve with cars. Staff will gradually move from continuously analysing processes and adjusting machines to focus on tasks they’re better suited for like innovation, creation and ideation. The plant of the future will re-configure itself for the optimal delivery of new customer orders, adjusting its configuration, production schedule, energy consumption and staff roles to give maximum efficiency.
Kasper: The system will adjust settings automatically, for example, when sand properties change, and you need more additives, or if the humidity changes and the sand dries out faster so you need to add more moisture. All these variations are corrected manually today and, even with Monitizer │ PRESCRIBE’s real-time advice, usually still will be, but the system will handle it all automatically in future.
How close is this fully autonomous future?
Frans: We’re not there yet, but it will definitely happen for some foundries in the next few years. Most foundries are starting to collect data and analyse it, so they are being assisted by data today. Our system goes from there to guiding them with specific real-time recommendations. The “self-driving” foundry is the next stop on the journey.
Kasper: We’re already helping customers fully automate parts of their DISA line, like moulding and pouring, or sand mixing and moulding, though complete automation of the whole line is a little way ahead at the moment. But I think it will arrive a lot sooner than completely autonomous cars.
Many thanks to both Kasper and Frans for a fascinating explanation of how they are working together to bring AI to foundries.
DISA’s AI solution Monitizer | PRESCRIBE is currently live with selected pilot customers and will be available in the coming months.