Overcoming industrial AI myths for a sustainable and profitable future

Posted: June 07, 2024

As industries navigate the complexities of reducing emissions to achieve net-zero targets while simultaneously driving commercial growth, the deep connection between sustainability and profitability has become increasingly apparent. These two concepts are intricately linked, yet organisations often struggle to balance the two. Fortunately, AI and digital technologies are powerful tools in the transformation process, enabling organisations to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions while increasing profitability.

However, the role of digitalisation in driving efficiencies and fostering innovation, sustainability and profitability across the value chain is often clouded by misconceptions. Many organisations find themselves unclear about the potential benefits or lacking the proper support to fully leverage these technologies, struggling to see how they can revolutionise their operations and unlock true value across their entire business ecosystem.

Here, I aim to empower decision makers with the knowledge necessary to drive meaningful change in today’s complex business environment by shedding light on these myths, and providing clarity and insight into how AI and digitalisation can be harnessed effectively.

Myth #1: Plug-and-play solutions mean you don’t need a comprehensive strategy

  • To succeed in your digital journey, you must consider your tech requirements and objectives as a whole.

While AI and technology are often seen as silver bullets for achieving sustainability and profitability, adopting and implementing these powerful tools effectively requires a comprehensive digital transformation strategy. The World Economic Forum estimates the rapid cost-saving potential of demand-side technologies at $2 trillion USD by 2030.1 Imagine the potential with supply-side technology.

However, before making any purchase decisions, organisations must consider critical factors to ensure the correct choice of solution, successful integration, maximum return on investment and a future-proof ecosystem.

First, take a holistic view of your existing operations, partnerships and aspirations to identify challenges, determine required solutions and define the intended application of the technology. Second, alignment and clarity around expectations are crucial when purchasing solutions through vendors and partners. All stakeholders must share a common understanding of goals and objectives. Third, seamless integration with your existing tech stack is paramount. A strategic approach incorporating planning, change management and stakeholder management alongside technology is necessary to unlock the full potential of AI and digital solutions.

The benefits are clear: Schneider Electric, for instance, prevented three full factory outages by adopting a thorough approach to industrial AI implementation, demonstrating the power of a well-planned digital transformation.

Myth #2: AI and technology replace human intelligence

  • For digital transformation to happen, human intelligence and artificial intelligence must work together.

While it’s unlikely that you believe that AI can completely replace human expertise, it’s important to explore the nuanced ways in which organisations can harness the strengths of both to drive efficiency, innovation, agility and growth.

The most successful applications of AI are those that leverage the unique strengths of both human intelligence and AI. While AI excels at processing vast amounts of data in real time, identifying patterns, and automating repetitive tasks, it is the human ability to contextually reason, exercise judgement and think creatively that drives true innovation and value.  

The principles of Industry 5.0 recognise that the greatest potential lies in the collaboration between human and machine and the strategic deployment of AI-infused technology to enhance human productivity and decision-making. As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, it’s crucial that we approach AI as a powerful tool that should be wielded with precision and purpose.

Myth #3: Sustainability is a cost burden, not a driver of growth

  • There is no future for growth and innovation without doing more with less; managing resources is critical.

Today, sustainability compliance is considered table stakes. It’s time we viewed sustainability in relation to business performance, such as operational efficiency or competitive agility. Sustainability makes good business sense at every level, from a brand perspective to supply chain improvements and industry collaboration. By integrating sustainability drivers—for example, reducing waste and improving efficiencies—into core operations and decision-making, organisations can unlock new opportunities for savings, growth and competitiveness. It’s about doing more with less and doing it faster.  

Consider that Duke Energy has collectively saved over $250 million USD, with a single catch saving $34.5 million USD. ACCIONA realised a 4.6% reduction in energy consumption by leveraging industrial AI.

Overcoming industrial AI myths for a sustainable and profitable future

Embracing AI to drive growth and environmental sustainability

  • You cannot hope to succeed in any business or industry sector without harnessing AI.

To make the most of AI and technology and take advantage of the dual benefits of sustainability and profitability, organisations must:

  • Conduct a thorough needs assessment and impact analysis before investing in AI and digital tech.
  • Consider the application of AI, its value and the human checks and balances required in new processes and workflows to unlock AI’s true potential.  
  • Foster a culture of change and continuous learning, collaboration and adaptation to effectively integrate AI and digital technologies into existing processes and workflows.  
  • Discover how to future-proof their investment by consulting with an experienced industrial intelligence partner and vendor.
  • Consider how to evolve an existing tech foundation and integrate new solutions for short- and long-term gain.

Long-term success requires big-picture thinking

  • The key to thriving in the modern industrial landscape lies in strategically adopting AI and digital technologies.

By setting the record straight on these myths and recognising the transformative potential of industrial AI and digital technology within a comprehensive strategy, organisations can unlock a wealth of opportunities. I believe that adaptability, collaboration and a holistic strategy will pave the way towards a more prosperous and sustainable future. As organisations strive to do more with less, the strategic implementation of AI and industrial intelligence across their value chains becomes increasingly critical.

By leveraging AI-infused tools, companies can uncover valuable insights, enabling their employees to identify meaningful opportunities and make informed decisions that drive environmental sustainability and commercial agility. Our AVEVA Industrial Intelligence Index (III) Report 2024 provides valuable, actionable insights into the power, manufacturing, infrastructure and chemicals industries. The report is based on research conducted with 500 global executives and is designed to help industry decision-makers navigate the ever-changing business landscape.

In this new era of industry, the successful integration of AI and digital technology will be the key differentiator between those who just make it and those who thrive. By embracing these technologies as essential components of a holistic strategy, organisations can not only navigate the challenges of today but position themselves for a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. 


1World Economic Forum (2024). Transforming Energy Demand. https://www.weforum.org/publications/transforming-energy-demand/ .

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