Google Cloud: Breaking Through AI ‘Pilot Purgatory’

Latest research from Google Cloud identifies what is needed in manufacturing to break free from ‘pilot purgatory’ and accelerating AI adoption

Artificial intelligence (AI), technology that can be dated back as far as the 1950s is commonplace across many industries today. While the technology holds promise to transform the manufacturing industry, Google Cloud stated that “long-ongoing experimentation hasn’t yet led to widespread business benefits. Manufacturers remain in ‘pilot purgatory’, as Gartner reports that only 21% of companies in the industry have active AI initiatives in production.” 

However, recent research from Google Cloud - Google Cloud Industries: Artificial Intelligence acceleration among manufacturers - reveals that the outbreak of COVID-19 has spurred an increase in the use of AI and other advanced technologies in manufacturing.

“According to our data—which polled more than 1,000 senior manufacturing executives across seven countries—76% have turned to digital enablers and disruptive technologies due to the pandemic such as data and analytics, cloud, and artificial intelligence (AI),” said Google Cloud, who added that “66% of manufacturers who use AI in their day-to-day operations report that their reliance on AI is increasing.”


The Shift to Mainstream AI in Manufacturing

With more than half of manufacturers using AI day-to-day in their operations reporting that their reliance is increasing, Google Cloud has identified the top three reasons for adoption: business continuity (38%), help make employees more efficient (38%), and be helpful for employees overall (34%). 

“It’s clear that AI/ML [machine learning] technology can augment manufacturing employees’ efforts, whether by providing prescriptive analytics like real-time guidance and training, flagging safety hazards, or detecting potential defects on the assembly line,” said Google Cloud.

More specific use cases of AI in day-to-day manufacturing operations include:

  • Quality control: inspection (39%) and quality checks (35%)
  • Supply Chain Optimisation: supply chain management (36%), risk management (36%), and inventory management (34%)

Geographical adoption of AI in Manufacturing

Looking at the global adoption rate of AI in manufacturing, Google Cloud’s research reveals that the extent strongly varies between countries:

  • Italy - 80%
  • Germany - 79%
  • United States (US) - 64%
  • Japan - 50%
  • Korea - 39%


While Google Cloud comments that “it’s tempting to state this disparity is due to an ‘AI talent gap’.” However, the research indicates that “the missing link appears to be having the right technology platform and tools to manage a production-grade AI pipeline.”

The Future for AI in Manufacturing

As AI becomes increasingly more widespread, Google Cloud sees the industry moving away from ‘pilot purgatory’ to the ‘golden age of AI’. 

While Google Cloud emphasised that the manufacturing industry is no stronger to innovation, “the key to widespread adoption of AI lies in its ease of deployment and use,” concluded Google Cloud. 

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