AI is not an option anymore: the global economic impact of AI could reach $13.1 trillion by 2025. The companies that will be successful in the future are therefore the ones that are preparing their digital transformation today. But how can a small- or medium-size enterprise (SME) transform itself and become AI-efficient? Is this even possible for an SME without internal tech resources? Can an SME develop its own solutions?
The short answer is yes, it’s possible. There are multiple success stories of SMEs developing AI efficiently and propelling their companies into leadership positions in their segment, even if they’d never considered or used artificial intelligence before.
Mechanical and industrial engineering firm Solutions Serafin Inc. of Anjou, Quebec, produces spare parts and does technical repairs for bus, truck, mining, and off-highway applications. The company is embarking on its first AI project to develop fault detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and root cause analysis tools based on AI techniques. Ultimately, says company President, Max Serafin, Solutions Serafin will have the opportunity to work side by side with the future workforce to create solutions in various fields such as artificial intelligence software for structural health monitoring, charging infrastructure optimization, condition-based preventive maintenance for machine learning, accessible electric and autonomous training for the Canadian workforce and many more exciting projects.
So how do you begin? Start by asking a remarkably simple question: What could my business use AI for? Typical issues that SMEs have solved using artificial intelligence include understanding their clients, improving their operations, and optimizing their supply chain and stock management. AI is a tool whose power resides in personalisation, not in a one-size-fits-all approach. The number of questions it can answer is infinite.
It’s important to remember what AI fundamentally is: machine learning via data. So any SME looking to embark on an AI project needs to ask: Do we have data? If the answer is no, don’t lose hope. Not having data is actually a fantastic opportunity to start collecting it. Data will be necessary for the companies of the future to survive, and it is not too late to put a plan in place. And if you do have the data, then you are a step closer to determining how best to use it.
The first hurdle to overcome is figuring out where to start. At Mitacs, we can help with that initial step — and we can contribute to funding it. Our role is to help connect you with AI experts who can assess what you have, determine what you need, and develop a roadmap of where you want to go. Our goal is to build human bridges between industry and academia to leverage innovation projects — and get SMEs ready for a future in which AI plays a critical role.
Becoming data-driven and banking on AI is a fundamental but necessary change for SMEs to adopt if they want to fully compete in the future. Data is the fuel of the new algorithms and many SMEs have access to more valuable data than they think. Yes, AI is an option for SMEs and it’s not too late — but the journey must start now.