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PCB-Nov2017

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56 The PCB Magazine • November 2017 In Norway, a recent survey showed that one out of seven en- gineers thought that their job could be performed by artificial intelligence (AI) within 10 years. If we look at the engineers in our industry, I would say it's fair to assume that the numbers are even higher, and that it will happen faster. But that will be nothing compared to what will happen to the rest of the play- ers in the supply chain. To explain why, we need to look at the underlying needs that drive the supply chain itself. As automation works its way onto the shop floors, it still struggles to replace humans in the supporting roles, such as designers, purchasers, brokers, and back-office staff. Where automation on the shop floor replaces humans in doing repetitive manual tasks, the supporting roles (at least some of them) require intelligence to understand and utilise information. Even as tech-savvy as our industry is, it still builds upon old technology (just a quick look at the expressions still used, like screens and stencils, con- firms this), and the human brain is great at making sense out of unstructured information. Some tasks are slowly being taken over by machines, but not particularly intelligent ones. One example is the ERP systems that are automating procurement and doing push and pull requests on deliver- ies or predicts needs and place orders. The 50-Year-Old Legacy The PCB industry carries the legacy of more than 50 years of development and language. To be manufactured, PCBs depend on people who understand them, compare them with their ge- neric requirements, and find part- ners for assembly or manufac- turing. Add to that the secrecy needed and the different for- mats used, and humans are pretty much your only option, for now. This is where AI comes into play. This universe of formats, languages, dia- lects and expressions is complex, but still operates Industry 4.0, AI and CircuitData by Andreas Lydersen ELMATICA THE PCB NORSEMEN

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