2023 was the year when suddenly everybody was talking about AI. The creative industries worried about how generative AI image, sound, and writing technologies could lead to the end of acting, music, and scriptwriting careers. Actors suddenly found themselves contending with the enhanced risk of their images being used in contexts beyond their control without their consent - think of Scarlett Johansson who just launched legal action against an image-generating app (Lisa AI: 90’s Yearbook & Avatar) who used real footage of her to generate a fake and image and dialogue for her.
In other industries, be it ‘traditional’ ones like legal, banking, insurance and financial services, or more contemporary ones like computer programming, information technology, data analytics, and digital marketing, everybody started talking about how ChatGPT and other AI apps could transform their work.
For the engineering, manufacturing, supply chain management, and logistics industries, the entry of AI isn’t new. AI technologies have been around for some years, computer vision inspection systems being a key example. These tools are able to recognise the minutest of defects which cannot be picked up by the human eye or by manual inspection methods, thus offering the highest level of precision in assuring product quality and improving manufacturing outcomes. Automation and robotics (as well as cobots) are widely used in manufacturing and packaging processes.
Every day, these technologies are improved and simplified. Just check out Mitutoyo’s next generation AI inspection system to see how advanced defect detection has become.
The presence of AI technologies however, doesn’t mean that quality is guaranteed. Or that it eliminates the need for on-site quality inspections. In fact, it is the opposite. As generative AI image technologies improve and become ubiquitous, it becomes all the more essential to have independent verification of the products that you’re purchasing or manufacturing with your supplier.
1. Generative AI image technology can be used to edit, enhance, and alter product photographs
When you’re far away from your supplier, you rely almost entirely on the product photographs they send you in their work reports. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ you think, and you’d trust that the photographs they send you are a true and accurate representation of the products on-site, and that they’d show any defects or production errors.
With the entry of generative AI image applications, now that’s no longer the case.
AI image technologies can be used to edit the photographs; they can all be too easily used to ‘edit out’ product defects or other details. This would lead you to think that there are no issues at all and you’d approve the shipment, only to realize when you receive the goods that it isn’t actually the case. This can lead to extremely complicated situations with your suppliers (as it’ll be exceedingly difficult to return defective goods), your customers, and your finances.
2. AI image technology can be used to create false product pictures
It’s always been possible for product sellers or suppliers to take screenshots of product pictures and create the illusion that they sell those products. However, AI image technologies have made it even easier to create perfect and glamorous photos of beautiful products that may not actually exist.
A supplier that you found on AliBaba, Global Sources, Made in China, Instagram, may have all these beautiful products on their pages. But these products won’t exist in reality, or they may not be of the quality, workmanship, or design that you expected from the photographs.
Here’s an example of how easy it can be.
One of our engineers went to Canva, the content creation and graphic design platform. They’ve now got a text to image tool. Our engineer wrote, ‘ a beautiful cushion cover with Christmas designs in a gold and white background with silver tassels’. These are the product pictures he got from that -
While Canva missed out on the silver tassels requirement, it got the idea right, and we could easily post these pictures up on Etsy or on Amazon and say that we sell those cushion covers. That’s why it is extremely crucial to do an on-site verification of the suppliers that you’re dealing with and check their products in person. The earlier the better. Get this out of the way before you get too advanced in your discussions with the supplier, because otherwise you’d have expended a lot of unnecessary effort if it turns out that the supplier’s products aren’t what you’re looking for.
The solution: Third party on-site product inspections
What can you do to avoid these risks from generative AI image technologies? The answer is having independent on-site supplier audits and quality or pre shipment inspections at your supply source. The inspectors represent your interests and their objective is to show you the ground reality as it is. Like an auditor, the third party quality company inspector’s role is to independently verify product quality and check for defects. They record the defects as seen and provide you with a visual record of what was observed.
This provides you with an independent source of information and gives you additional accuracy and transparency into your supplier.
Quality and supplier trustworthiness can never be presumed. Even if your supplier has a consistent record of providing you with good quality products, this is never a given. Businesses were badly affected during the COVID pandemic, and many are still recovering. Suppliers that you’ve had long relationships with may, unknown to you, be in financial difficulties and could seek ways to reduce their costs by cutting corners here and there. While it may not happen now, it will ultimately compromise your product shipments
Having third party on-site quality control inspections is not just about finding defects. It’s about monitoring the health of your suppliers and making sure that they’re on track to meet your business requirements.
The core of AMREP's dedication to quality is still on-site QC inspections, even in the era of artificial intelligence (AI), where accuracy meets technology. Every AMREP product and its quality management solutions not only meets but exceeds the highest standards because of the human touch in workmanship, real-time adaptation, and an eye for subtle details. Our on-site inspectors maintain the AMREP history by standing steady as the protectors of quality while the brand innovates.