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The Role of AI in Manufacturing: Insights from Tom Kurfess at SNX 2024

June 2024

Latest News - Corporate Happenings

The Role of AI in Manufacturing: Insights from Tom Kurfess at SNX 2024

June 2024

DALLAS — The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has been rapid and fraught with uncertainties, but Tom Kurfess, Chief Manufacturing Officer and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech University, is already embracing the technology's potential.

“If you want to walk away with just a thought, the bottom line is AI in manufacturing operations is coming,” Kurfess stated emphatically. “It is nothing to be afraid of. It’s going to make our lives easier. But we have to use it accordingly.”

Kurfess delivered his educational session on AI at SNAC International’s SNX 2024, held April 14-16 in Dallas, to a packed room of food manufacturers and baking processors. He expressed a positive outlook on AI's role in food manufacturing, emphasizing the necessity of correct utilization. This perspective stems from his position in the Georgia Tech engineering department, where the unofficial motto is “innovating at the speed of thought.” This philosophy fosters a favorable attitude toward harnessing AI and scaling existing technology.

However, Kurfess underscored the importance of balancing the advantages and disadvantages of the new technology.

“The problem with AI is that it loves to work on things we (already) understand,” he noted. “If it’s got to interpolate, great. If it’s got to extrapolate, not so good.”

He highlighted a critical limitation: AI can only grasp what humans teach it.

“A person never stops learning,” Kurfess added. “Why should machines?”

Kurfess’s key takeaway is straightforward: humans and AI need to collaborate. He explained that the prevalent debate often pits humans against AI, when the focus should be on humans working alongside AI.

“This is what it should look like … having humans working alongside AI,” he said.

“Times are changing,” he continued. “Things are moving quickly.”

Kurfess concluded his session with a quote from his favorite philosopher, Eric Hoffer: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth: while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

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