With the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI), businesses of all sizes are wondering how they can use this technology to improve their operations. For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the opportunities presented by AI are particularly exciting. Here’s a look at some of the opportunities – and challenges – of AI for SMEs.
The first challenge that SMEs face is a lack of data. In order to train an AI system, businesses need a large dataset to work with. This can be a challenge for SMEs, which generally have smaller amounts of data than their larger cousins. However, there are a number of ways that SMEs can get around this issue, such as partnering with other businesses to access their data or using public datasets. In Singapore, SMEs are able to tap into a vast set of public data provided by various government agencies to merge with their internal data set from their ERP, MES, CRM, Inventory, and WMS to improve their business processes, create new products and enhance their go-to-market strategies. (https://data.gov.sg)
Another challenge is a lack of expertise. While there are many AI tools available, they can be daunting for businesses that don’t have experience in this area. This is where partnerships can be helpful; by teaming up with another business or an AI expert, SMEs can gain the skills and knowledge they need to get started with AI.
Opportunities for SMEs
Despite these challenges, there are many opportunities for SMEs to take advantage of AI. One area where AI can be particularly helpful is automation. By automating tasks that are currently being done manually, businesses can free up time for employees to focus on more important tasks. For example, customer service tasks such as responding to emails or social media messages can be automated using AI chatbots.
Many RPA (Robotic Process Automation) vendors are incorporating AI into their platforms and allowing deeper automation for efficiency, productivity and improved profitability for SMEs.
In addition, AI can be used for predictive maintenance, which can help businesses avoid costly downtime due to equipment failures. By monitoring equipment data and identifying patterns, AI systems can predict when maintenance is necessary and send alerts to employees so that they can take action before a failure occurs.
Finally, AI can help businesses personalize their products and services for customers. By analysing customer data, businesses can identify trends and preferences that can be used to tailor their offerings in a way that meets customer needs and expectations.
AI offers SMEs many challenges and opportunities. While lack of data and expertise can be hurdles, there are many ways around these obstacles. Automation, predictive maintenance, and personalized products and services are just some of the ways that small and medium businesses can take advantage of artificial intelligence.
About the Author
Colin Koh, Past President (2001-2005) of Singapore Industrial Automation Association, has been involved in Smart Manufacturing, IoT/M2M, industrial automation, 3D Printing, and Energy & Environmental business since the mid-’80s. Currently the Senior Manager of LKH Precicon P.L. He holds a Degree in Business Adm. RMIT and is a Certified Digital Transformation management professional and IoT Specialist.
Co-authors of “Industry 4.0: Navigating the Manufacturing in ASEAN” & “Smart Factory” www.asean4ir.com
Current member of IoT and Smart Manufacturing technical committee of Singapore Standard Council. Member of the Advisory Committee of Ngee Ann Polytechnics. EE Dept.