COGNIMAN Conversations – with Dr Ahmed Nabil Belbachir

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My name is Nabil Belbachir. I am the coordinator of the EU project COGNIMAN. I’m also the Research Director at NORCE Norwegian Research Centre, located in the south of Norway.

NORCE does research and innovation. NORCE is devoted to developing sensors and solutions for companies, but also for societal challenges like energy, welfare of society, food production, operation and maintenance of critical infrastructure.

So firstly, my background is in computer vision and machine learning and when I hear there is a context, can you use enabling technology for an area like manufacturing in our case? So that just got me excited. So that was why we said this is an area where Europe wants to redevelop the manufacturing industries, which was very strong twenty to thirty years ago and has now gone down. Now we have to develop it. There are new challenges and AI, robotics, computer vision and data science can support this and that’s what we want to do. So we want to boost the industries.

A big challenge is that Europe is small compared to the rest of the world. And it’s also behind. China produces for everyone. So now Europe has to get back into manufacturing. They don’t have the economy of scale like China, but there are great people, there are great industries and technology where Europe is still leading and developing and having ownership. This is also one of the problems of Europe. You don’t find people like if you ask a small kid what is your dream job in the future, manufacturing doesn’t come. They don’t want to go to a factory and do routine work and sit and do manual work. So manufacturing is no longer a dream job for people.

There are some of those which start to open up. But I have to say thanks to additive manufacturing, which is making many things easier. Factories try to go back from Asia or Eastern Europe back to their locations because now the the difference also in wealth or the prices are not so high as it was like thirty or forty years ago. of course. But many also are creating new factories in Europe.

We have two from the processing industry. One is on the glass fibre production. In this case, we want to reduce the waste. There are many glass fibre producers in the world and to keep the one in Europe competitive, we know that production has a lot of waste. So we need to minimise the waste so that you increase productivity. The second one is steel production, which is about increasing efficiency in logistics and warehouses. How to basically improve the time to transport or to pick up the product from the warehouse and to send it to the customers or send it to the production side. So it’s more about efficiency and productivity. So the first one, the glass fibre is in Norway. The second is in Italy and then we have the third one, which is about additive manufacturing. It’s in Ireland and it is about medical implants, which are not manufactured by hand, but you have additive manufacturing like 3D printing. It’s a massive manual operation that has to be done afterwards to fulfil medical requirements which are high. So that’s why how we can use robotics and automation and AI to to deal with reducing the cost to make it competitive. And then there is the fourth one, which is deburring. You know, you have this production of energy infrastructure or large infrastructure, which is not something that you can, like finish it as you do automotive industry. It’s a big part. You have a lot of humans working around and the idea is how to make their life or the working life of those people easier because it’s very hard and tough to use robots to help with deburring work and that is in Spain.

There is no solution that works for everyone. But there is a kind of connection point which is about how to use AI and analytics, for instance, for all cases. How we can use sensors of perception methods? How to perceive them for anomaly detection? There are three use cases which use robots. It’s a human-robot interaction. Then you have a simulation environment. And then you have kind of one-to-one or one-to-three matching components that two pilot or three pilots are sharing together, like robotics.

Yeah, the operators have to be involved from the beginning. No one would know better than the operator about his daily tasks. So we have to involve them from the beginning. How to make your life easier and the life of future people easier so that manufacturing in Europe will be attractive and we can build plants because even if we build robotics in the future, without people, if no one is interested in manufacturing, then you will not get the plant in Europe.

One thing is the team. It’s very nice that you see there is really less conflict. So it’s very nice to see people are really engaged and I would like that people keep engaging all the way. Also, I see the use cases are very good because we have manufacturing, which can be like just multiplied for all the manufacturing sectors. We have the inspection and maintenance, which is a huge sector. We have additive manufacturing, a huge sector. And the logistics like the warehouse and so on, which is a huge sector. So these are all very ambitious goals, extraordinary. But I think we will have our success within this ambitious goal and that’s what makes this really a very nice journey and an extraordinary journey with the team, with the ambition and with our industry and pilots that we are working together.

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