Maintenance 5.0: AI revolutionises maintenance work

Ramin_KarimIndustry is undergoing a transformation to Industry 5.0, and maintenance work must follow suit. Professor Ramin Karim at Luleå University of Technology sees AI as a key factor in this shift, with the potential to automate, forecast and optimise maintenance processes.

– We’re now seeing a clear shift from AI for decision support to AI for decision making. With better fact-based analyses, we can automate maintenance processes and move from “data to action”. The growing level of automation in industry in turn requires a more automated maintenance process, Ramin Karim says.

Five challenges on the road to Maintenance 5.0

AI is revolutionising industry, but implementing AI solutions for maintenance can be challenging. Professor Ramin Karim at Luleå University of Technology identifies five types of challenge.

– The first is to choose the right technology from the plethora of options available under the AI umbrella. This requires a careful analysis of the needs within your organisation. The second challenge involves ensuring that the right expertise is available both internally and externally. It’s partly about having staff with in-depth knowledge of AI and partly about ensuring that everyone in the organisation has a basic understanding of how AI can be used, Karim says.

The third challenge concerns the legal aspects of AI implementation. Creating trustworthy AI solutions characterised by transparency, security and data protection is complex and requires legal expertise.

The fourth and fifth types of challenge deal with business models and environmental impact. Creating sustainable business models for both suppliers and customers requires new ways of thinking. Similarly, energy consumption and other environmental aspects of AI solutions need to be considered as an important part of responsible implementation, Ramin Karim says.

AI: Enhancing human intelligence

Karim sees the opportunities as a counterbalance to the challenges. He also believes that they open up new ways of working and improving the organisation.

– Say we remove AI from the equation, every organisation still faces a continuous learning process. We have to ask ourselves if we are doing things right, if we are doing the right things, and how we decide what is right and wrong. These questions are fundamentally business-related, rather than AI-related. But they can, and should, be applied to AI implementations to ensure that opportunities are realised, Karim says.

He argues that AI not only gives us new answers; it also gives us better answers to the questions we’ve always asked. It means we can now analyse whether we are doing things right with greater precision, handle larger volumes of data, and use more advanced algorithms.

– With AI, we finally have the capacity to create the large models needed to consider more parameters and get a more complete picture of the business. AI augments human intelligence, which is a major benefit for organisations.

It’s clear that AI does not replace human intelligence. Instead, it complements it in a powerful way. The analytical part improves our intellectual capacity, while the mechanical part automates work done by robots.

– We are now getting new robots that have a human-like anatomy and can perform more spontaneous activities. To benefit from AI, maintenance processes need to be automated and adapted to a more automated and autonomous operating environment. When we talk about Industry 5.0, we also need to talk about Maintenance 5.0.

Skills shortage: The biggest concern

The conversation with Karim makes it clear that all roles will be affected by AI. Therefore, it is essential that everyone reinforces their existing skills with a basic understanding.

– People in all roles, from top managers to those working closest to the machines, will be affected by AI and need to reinforce their skills. I think it’s only a matter of time before AI starts to be taught from primary school onwards, in the same way we learn to count. We will still need engineers, but they will require new skills to collaborate with AI and capitalise on its potential.

A clear example of a new skill and role linked to AI is the prompt engineer who interfaces with large language models.

– They are one of the most hyped professions right now, and they will become increasingly important in the future. Beyond prompt engineers, we will see a plethora of new AI-related professions, such as AI engineers, AI scientists and integrators. The demand for skills in the field of AI will only grow.

It is clear that successful AI implementation requires more than just technology. +Integration issues are crucial to ensure a smooth and efficient transition to AI-based processes. According to Karim, it is essential to involve all relevant departments, from legal to business development, in the implementation process. Each department has a unique role to play and needs to be prepared for how AI will affect its work.

– The biggest concern is that we will not be able to build up the skills needed to meet the challenges of AI. It’s not the robots and AI services themselves that will take our jobs, but those with expertise in the field of AI, Ramin Karim concludes.

Ramin Karim will speak on “The role of AI in the future of maintenance” at the conference Underhållsstrategi, May 13 at the Swedish Maintenance Fair.

Book your place here