How to get started with AI and automation projects

Artificial intelligence technologies (broadly defined here, including machine learning and intelligent process automation) represent new territory for chief information officers. Traditional IT processes won’t work, and the technology isn’t mature, yet CIOs know they can’t wait on the sidelines while competitors plunge ahead seeking to disrupt their industry.

This IDC PeerScape ($$$$) — “Best Practices for Launching Artificial Intelligence Initiatives” — explores how several early adopters of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies got started on their journeys, in a field full of hype, risk, and (potentially) great business value. These pioneers developed a set of guidelines for how to pick the first applications for AI, how to balance in-house and external resources, and how to make sure they have the right quantity and quality of data to feed AI systems.

For this report, I interviewed Sherif Mityas chief experience officer at TGI Fridays Inc.; Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer at health insurer Anthem Inc.; and Tom Sheppard, CIO at Brake Parts Inc.

My conclusion: To launch their first AI projects, CIOs must become educators, evangelists, and coordinators of cross-functional teams.

The ‘factory of the future’ will require massive investments in skills and data

I contributed — as a subcontractor to Lundberg Media — to a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services about the deployment of technology and data to front-line workers in the manufacturing sector (“The Factory of the Future: Manufacturers Invest in Data and Skills to Achieve Efficiency Goals,” free PDF to download).

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 12.04.27 PM

In a recent survey, 78% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “To be successful in the future, our organization must connect and empower its [front-line] workers with technology and information.” In the manufacturing sector, those workers are what one IT leader called “the deskless people.” They include the salespeople who deal directly with the customer; the employees operating machinery, making products, and keeping the processes running on the factory floor; and technicians out in the field servicing the manufacturer’s equipment at the customer site.

But the barriers to implementing this vision of automation — whether that’s mobile apps or augmented reality, for example — are many: the cost of deploying digital technologies to a broader employee base; a lack of effective change management and adoption processes; and a lack of workforce skills. Current workers need retraining. And they need secure, integrated, and trustworthy data to make decisions.

Pundits say the future of manufacturing involves more robots, sensors and mixed reality. But that will only happen if there’s a massive, comprehensive investment in technology, data and skills.

 

The future of asset management: No tool left behind

Stanley Black & Decker, at its annual shareholder meeting April 16, touted its line of RFID-embedded “smart tools” as the future of the industrial tool market.

The company’s ProtoID tools – such as sockets, wrenches and pliers – have RFID chips that are embedded in the tools (not applied to the exterior) so that they can be located at any time. The company also offers CribMaster storage cabinets that automatically keep track of the RFID-embedded tools.

“It’s especially important for people in airplane hangars, on military bases or in other critical applications where mechanics need to know where every single socket is, for instance, before a plane can fly or before a Hummer can leave its garage,” said John F. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of the company.

The CribMaster website notes that “whether it’s due to waste, hoarding, or even theft, inefficient tracking and control of these inventory items can quickly cause major problems.”

At the shareholders meeting, Lundgren said: “These tools make facilities and workers both safer and more productive, and we believe they’re the future of the industrial tool market.”

Consumers willing to pay more for eco-friendly food packaging

When it comes to food and beverage packaging, consumers are most likely to pay more for value-added features that relate to freshness and sustainability, according to a global study by Ipsos InnoQuest.

On a global basis, consumers were most likely to say they would pay more for “packaging that keeps food fresh longer” (55%) and “packaging that is environmentally-friendly” (55%). Following freshness and environmental benefits, consumers said they were likely to pay more for packaging that is re-usable (42%) and easier to use (39%).

Interestingly, more sophisticated packaging features were less likely to motivate consumers to spend more: packaging that prevents mess or spills, keeps food and beverages at the right temperature, and makes it easier to eat and drink on-the-go ranked lowest (34%, 33% and 31%, respectively).

Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars

Popular notions that electric cars will suddenly replace conventional gasoline-powered cars don’t acknowledge the possibility that there could be eco-friendly advances in conventional car technology. A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) finds that “internal combustion engines are improving their ability to cut CO2 emissions at a lower cost than expected, and, as a result, carmakers should be able to meet 2020 emissions targets mainly through improvements to conventional technologies.”

A key word there is should. It would take a concerted effort by automakers in several technical areas. Continue reading “Electric vehicles will face stiff competition from eco-friendly gasoline-powered cars”