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AI for SMEs – The complete guide to implementing AI in your manufacturing company

AI for SMEs – The complete guide to implementing AI in your manufacturing company

A 2022 study revealed that 97% of companies recognize the advantages of AI, especially in optimizing internal processes. But only 1 in 10 use it.

To help others get started, we’ve compiled the AI4SME Guide over the last three years.

It’s made for manufacturing SMEs interested in implementing AI in their operations. Whether you’re at the initial stages of considering AI implementation or seeking guidance to optimize existing AI initiatives, this guide provides practical advice and recommendations tailored specifically to manufacturing SMEs.

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Meet your industrial transformation partner

The production industry is a significant economic sector in the Basel Area. To help companies succeed, we bring together stakeholders from industry, academia and startups to collectively advance innovation in the field of Industry 4.0.

To learn more about our Industrial Transformation Initiative, visit our website.

We want to help you prepare your company for the future

The skills we need in the future will be different than today. Every company has to explore what those skills will be and how they can be integrated before it’s too late.

Domenico ScalaPresident, Basel Area Business & Innovation

Imagining the future enables us to act now. AI is here to stay, but few SMEs have been bold enough to implement AI in their processes. Many don’t feel the need to transform. Meanwhile, the world around them keeps turning, eventually leaving them behind.

Besides missing resources and high skepticism around AI, we’ve found that many companies have difficulties finding their way into the AI world because AI projects are perceived as complex. An AI project requires a broad field of competencies.

Three years ago, we started working on a standardized process that would allow SMEs to quickly develop AI solutions and implement them in their manufacturing processes.

We called it the AI4SME Program.

From the start, we knew that collaboration was the key to innovation. We brought together our industry partners, active experts and community members and secured governmental support (NRP) to exchange ideas, share experiences and encourage one another.

With our combined knowledge, we’ve helped eight companies — two of which you’ll meet later in this article — to design and develop a proof of concept for an AI project that can meaningfully transform their businesses.

We still continue to support SMEs that reach out to us in their development of AI solutions. But to make our findings available to everyone, we turned what we learned throughout the AI4SME Program into the AI4SME Guide.

AI4SME Guide — A step-by-step guide to implementing AI in manufacturing SMEs

The AI4SME Guide is your first step to implementing AI in your manufacturing SME. It contains the combined knowledge our partners and us have gained in the past three years of developing AI projects.

The AI4SME Guide…

• provides insights on the need for innovation in manufacturing SMEs.
• helps you determine the relevance of AI adoption for your SME.
• contains information about support options in the Basel Area.
• addresses progress blockers like skepticism, resource limitations and uncertainty.
• gives step-by-step instructions to start your AI journey.
• explores the do’s and don’ts when implementing AI in a business.
• showcases inspirational success stories.
• links sustainability and AI.
• showcases future technologies.
• summarizes goals, successes, and learnings from the AI4SME Program.

The two following companies have gone through the AI4SME Program to develop a proof of concept for their AI project that can meaningfully transform how they operate.

KETAG uses AI to enhance energy efficiency

Küffer Elektro-Technik AG has more than 70 years of experience in auditing, repairing and improving drive systems of all kinds.

Through AI4SME workshops, KETAG developed an app called TSapp. It makes it easy for workers to find the most suitable and energy-efficient replacement electric motor.

According to EnergieSchweiz, electric motors consume about 20% of Switzerland’s electricity. Due to a lack of expertise and time pressure, broken motors get replaced by the same models instead of more energy-efficient ones.

With TSapp, anyone can scan the data of a motor embossed on its type plate. A matching algorithm compares this information with the IEC standard and automates the search for a suitable new motor. A corresponding list of recommended electric motors is provided, and thanks to the interconnection of suppliers, ordering them is quick and easy.

The solution is independent of the manufacturer and can read type plates of various ages up to 40 years old.

Liebherr-France uses AI to improve operational efficiency

The Liebherr Group is a Swiss conglomerate known for its diverse range of products, including construction machinery, aerospace components, and domestic appliances.

Through AI4SME workshops, Liebherr developed a solution for the early detection of dysfunctions in their production machines.

Production machines sometimes break down. When that happens, they need to be repaired, which costs money and creates downtime in production. Liebherr found that in around 5% of cases, spare parts are missing, which delays immediate repairs.

To anticipate failure, Liebherr identified collecting more (and the right) data as key.

Liebherr uses various sensors to record all relevant machine variables. The collected data is stored on a server hosted by Liebherr and accessible through a secure connection.

As a result, Liebherr prevented a lengthy machine shutdown in a quick intervention that lasted only 10 minutes.

Summary: AI4SME at a glance

Balance sheet including year 2023 with other exemples will be published in the AI4SME Guide.

In the last three years, we’ve helped eight companies to develop a proof of concept for an AI solution that could meaningfully transform their businesses. We brought together stakeholders from private individuals to companies and governments over three nations to exchange knowledge and innovate together.

Everything we’ve learned, we publish in our AI4SME Guide.

Get the full AI4SME Guide in autumn 2023

The full AI4SME Guide contains all the information you need to develop and implement AI in your manufacturing SME.

It’s available for free by the end of September. Get it delivered to your inbox on the publishing date:

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Sébastien Meunier Director Industrial Transformation.

Sébastien Meunier joined Basel Area Business & Innovation in 2016. Prior to this, he was Cleantech Manager at i-net innovation networks switzerland.

Are you interested in innovation and networking? In our Trinational Industry 4.0 Technology Circles we bring together researchers, developers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders for cross-disciplinary exchange.

Sébastien MeunierDirector Industrial Transformation