DataProphet has reduced spot weld defects in the body shop of a mature vehicle assembly plant by 75%. We share key takeaways and tips from our spot weld experience and other real-world implementations of AI to optimize manufacturing control parameters.

1. Take a proactive and holistic approach to process parameter optimization

In our experience, the most successful process optimization solutions are both holistic and proactive. Holistic process models capture the complexities of a system arising out of the extreme interdependence in a chain of processes. This includes the interactions between process parameters, higher-order effects that changes in one part of the system have on other parts, and physical constraints within which the process must operate. 

2. Augment human expertise with machine learning

The DataProphet approach minimizes the cost and complexity, and the potential unintended impact of an AI augmentation. In our vehicle spot welding system, as in many other deployments, we find that by empowering specialists with an Expert Execution System (EES), the factory technicians embraced the system as a powerful addition to their toolset; receiving the attribution and praise for the performance improvement.

3. Leverage transfer learning 

In our vehicle assembly case study, we took this transfer of expertise a step further: our client’s typical body shop contains dozens of clusters of robots, or “stations”. Each station conducted a weld at dozens of predefined locations on the vehicle. Within one technology, such as spot welding, these welds share a common set of controllable parameters, but each was uniquely specified in terms of their set-points. This is because each weld location is unique in important ways, such as the type and thickness of the materials being joined at that location. Given this difference between weld locations, and the discrete nature and relative uniformity of the succession of welds at each weld location, we took the natural approach of modeling each weld location as though it were its own mini-factory, and of modeling each weld as a discrete unit of production.

4. Implement continuous optimization

Factory processes are not stationary. Once-off and even regular data science exercises, resulting in a static set of AI-enabled insights or a static AI model, will fail to address this fact. In order to remain relevant and valuable, an AI model needs to continuously optimize the factory process(es) as upstream conditions change, which in turn requires the AI model to be kept up-to-date and to be made available “on-tap” to factory technicians. 
Read the full paper here to learn how you can optimize your plant control plans.