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AI’s Pervasive Future: Manufacturing Finally Joins the Party

While everyone else jumped on the AI train, manufacturing companies have watched from the sidelines due to security concerns and proprietary constraints. Until now.

Those of us in the business of technology have witnessed the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and it began long before we started using ChatGPT to draft our latest email. Around for decades, AI happily existed in the background and has slowly been building as an innovative way to improve marketing lead scores or interact with customers via chatbots. However, ChatGPT and generative AI shattered that blissful background existence. AI is front and center now, with the potential to profoundly influence nearly every business function for the better. 

We’re clearly at a tipping point where many industries are eager to reap AI’s promised rewards—greater efficiency, faster processes, less overhead, etc. While some industries are racing ahead with measurable cost-savings and efficiency results, others are sidelined, held back by security concerns and large data constraints. If your industry is one of those outsiders, all is not lost. This year’s Dreamforce, promoted as the largest AI event of the year, just moved you to the top of the party invite list.

Moving Data from Quagmire to Quality

AI enthusiasm at Dreamforce was palpable. Salesforce, with its legacy in customer data management, delivered an AI-packed program that left anyone waiting in the wings knowing their time has now come as well. What made their argument so convincing? Solving the number one concern holding AI back: trust.

Salesforce has always focused on trust as their number #1 value, so they understand how critical comprehensive, secure, and trustworthy data is for AI success—a theme echoed throughout the Dreamforce event. 

Many industries today are stuck in a data quagmire. The most impactful AI applications require a vast amount of readily accessible business data, yet current generative AI solutions like ChatGPT fail to clarify their stance on data privacy. Smart business leaders won’t hand over their crown jewels to providers who can’t protect them. They require solutions that ensure data stays private and is not released out in the world for all to see.  

How can industries with vast amounts of proprietary data, like healthcare and manufacturing, take the AI leap? They certainly can’t ignore it all together, nor can we ask these industries to make confidential information public. Salesforce’s answer is to trailblaze a single platform approach to secure cloud data management. It is taking the reins in creating a more realistic AI future for these industries – built with an understanding that there is no valuable AI unless you feed it relevant, trusted data.

Safeguarding data while ensuring it's still accessible for AI-driven insights is a nuanced challenge. Data lakes like Snowflake, Databricks, and Salesforce’s own Data Cloud are paving the way by aggregating data from disparate sources and standardizing it to feed AI models. However, it's not enough to lock data away in digital vaults. Businesses must also harness its power to convert insights into action.

This is where single platform solutions like Salesforce demonstrate their inherent value. Layering AI business intelligence into process workflows and collaboration across the entire enterprise truly transforms the way companies operate. With a single source of truth, companies can expand collaboration across their organizations using secure, quality data that allows them to make the right decisions faster.

How Manufacturing Moves from Underserved to Overachieving

At Dreamforce, this single platform strategy came to life. Manufacturers witnessed how natively built solutions leveraged the power of a seamless data thread, spanning the scope of many traditionally separate systems, like configure, price, quote (CPQ), product information management (PIM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and quality management systems (QMS). The interplay between core Salesforce apps and third-party platform solutions unlocks more value from AI by creating a standardized data set from initial customer demand signals to supply chains to field service. This provides AI with more usable data, which in turn allows models to more accurately identify trends and make predictions.

Manufacturers who cling to traditional, on-premise systems are severely constrained. Working with siloed data, means this insight remains underutilized and unidentified as an input to your AI models. Legacy solutions simply lack the capability to extend into dynamic ecosystems like Salesforce. As innovative solutions like AI continue to make their mark on businesses worldwide, it will be the catalyst that pushes modern manufacturers to finally ditch their legacy on-prem technology.

For manufacturers to harness AI’s full potential, the key lies in unlocking that data. When they do, they will capture meaningful insights for both AI and humans alike, at the intersection of previously segregated information, including product, marketing, and consumer feedback. Business intelligence drives demand signals back through the supply chain for a more comprehensive understanding of what consumers want in terms of products and services - completely changing the game for the manufacturing industry. 

The emergence of cloud-enabled, extensible, and secure AI data platforms present leaders like those in manufacturing with a transformational business choice. Continuing on the previously perceived “safe” on-premise path actually now delivers more risk than safety. While deviating from current solutions to a modern platform may seem like the bigger gamble, the upside far outweighs any perceived risk. AI is just beginning to demonstrate its potential, and industries like manufacturing will either embrace it and crush the competition for years to come, or continue to silo their data and miss out entirely. AI is destined to be the biggest efficiency and revenue driver we will experience in our lifetime—where do you want your business to be? 

The future belongs to those who embrace cloud-based solutions, and with Salesforce leading the AI charge, I’m excited to report the future is here.

Additional to AI, there are multiple seismic shifts just over the horizon for the manufacturing industry. Make sure you're keeping up by reading the article The Manufacturing Revolution: 6 Trends to Watch.

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Post by
Ross Meyercord
CEO, Propel

Ross Meyercord is CEO of Propel Software, a SaaS provider dedicated to helping high tech, medtech and consumer goods companies build compelling and profitable products. Throughout his 30+ year career, Meyercord has worked in a variety of capacities, including directly with manufacturers to implement PLM and QMS solutions, managed global technology organizations, and has been instrumental in guiding customer-facing teams to increase customer success and drive corporate growth.

Fun Fact: When not working or with family, you will likely find Ross on the tennis courts.

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Ross Meyercord