Artificial Intelligence & the shape of companies’ future
11 September 2018
“We are at the start of the journey into AI and I am sure it will impact many areas of our business in the future, not least the profile of employees and skill sets required in some functions. I believe that training and recruitment will be a key success factor,” said Kevin Prince, General Manager of Atlas Copco Ltd. Atlas Copco provides compressed air and vacuum equipment, industrial power tools, and air, power and flow solutions. The company already has several live projects and examples of how they work with AI. These range from a chatbot for the FAQ on their website, to back office AI projects in administration and invoice handling. From a customer view, Atlas Copco is looking at combining machine connectivity with remote monitoring and intervention. In the future, Prince believes that AI will improve standardisation of processes, increase efficiency, reduce costs of operation, reduce errors and possibly increase the customer experience and satisfaction at Atlas Copco. Prince however also mentioned risks with implementing AI. “AI involves organisational change, just as the introduction of the PC did a couple of decades ago. A good Change Management programme will be essential to ensure staff understand and buy into the developments as they happen. AI is a journey and not a destination, we will need to adapt and change along the way to be successful.” Prince said that continued research into all areas of AI will be necessary to ensure safety and a fit with the workforce, suppliers and customers. He meant that the major changes that AI can offer will ultimately have an impact on all stakeholders. “Atlas Copco need to be fully aware of these to make informed decisions going forward, and at an equal or faster pace, have the wisdom of how to best implement AI within the company,” Prince said.
“Access to data has become an increasingly important resource for understanding customers’ needs, boosting customer loyalty, improving service and attracting more customers. With the help of AI and advanced data analysis, SEB can increase its level of service and proactively meet customers’ needs,” said Salla Franzén, Chief Data Scientist at SEB. SEB offers universal banking services in Sweden and is a corporate bank in the UK. Today, the main tool for AI technology within SEB is a virtual assistant, called Aida. SEB launched the assistant in 2016, initially internally and later also for clients. The internal Aida can guide employees in many IT and HR-related questions, while the external Aida can guide clients in many banking areas. Aida uses natural language processing and can, among other things, remember experiences and events, respond to emotions and run processes. Franzén believes that AI is a great opportunity to work more efficiently, but also to find new tools and perspectives in the way SEB works. She can already see the value of being a data-driven company and continuously identifying new areas where SEB can find new insights, revenue potentials and ways of working. But Franzén also cautioned the potential risks for the bank with this new technology. ”SEB is very involved in discussions on integrity, ethics and everything that comes with using data for decision-making. An AI model or tool needs to be taught carefully with highly-skilled data scientists pairing with very experienced specialists from the bank,”Franzén said.
“AI is already today improving our products and services and we see good opportunities to improve them further in the near future with more comprehensive AI solutions,” said Holger Spielberger, VP Business Process Excellence at ASSA ABLOY. Spielberger highlighted that AI covers a wide range of different areas such as reasoning, learning, perception, natural language processing and problem solving. ASSA ABLOY is the global leader in door opening solutions and has already implemented AI technology in production related areas and the success of these implementations will now be spread into other parts of the organisation while existing solutions will be further extended. From ASSA ABLOY’s perspective, pattern recognition, learning and problem solving are currently the most promising areas for the company to improve their products and services in the near future. Spielberger said that the first question for ASSA ABLOY was not how to implement AI, but rather what and where it would bring the biggest benefits for their customers. Consequently, they reviewed the end-to-end processes to identify the most promising areas for AI which was then discussed more extensively with both internal subject matter experts and external AI experts. Feasibility studies were conducted, and respective AI prototypes were developed. In the next step ASSA ABLOY started using AI within a smaller, controlled area which then grew step by step to a more comprehensive AI solution. Speaking of advantages with AI, Spielberger said: “Especially our customers are benefiting from these kind of computer systems since AI allows us to enhance efficiency, reduce time-to-market, improve quality based on more informed decisions and reduce the risk of intrinsic knowledge.” Regarding the main risk with AI, Spielberger highlighted the dependency on the system. However, “this risk can be mitigated by still having the subject matter experts in-house who regularly review and interpret the results of AI solutions,” Spielberger said.
“By using AI, we will be able to create consumer experiences that are even more personalised, contextual and seamless. For example, using Machine Learning and data for preventive and predictive maintenance to facilitate the ownership experience for consumers by ensuring that their appliance always works as it should,” said Johan Vallin, Electrolux’s Global Head of Data Science. Electrolux is a global leader in household appliances and appliances for professional use. Electrolux is already exploring AI in many parts of their key processes. Some of them are still being researched on, some are under implementation and a few are already in production. Vallin said that AI introduces a range of opportunities for Electrolux and their ability to create new consumer experiences in people’s homes. As more and more appliances in our homes get connected to the internet, the amount of data that can be analysed grows. This fuels our opportunities to apply AI as well as creating new smarter products and services. Vallin also mentioned the value that AI creates for consumers. For example, AI can be used to assist consumers through their cooking journey by using computer vision and image recognition to ensure that they will get the perfect taste of their meals. In terms of creating a more personal experience, AI will also help Electrolux to propose recipes that are tailored to consumers’ preferences and diets or to create comfort in their homes. It can be by combining data from sensors, smart devices and appliances like air conditioners or robotic vacuum cleaners to give consumers a more personalised experience according to their preferences and habits. Vallin emphasised that with AI comes opportunities, but so does responsibility. For Electrolux it means taking responsibility of protecting privacy and the use of data which is of great importance for the company. However, Vallin also highlighted the importance of conducting further research into the area to embrace innovation that can make people’s lives better. He said that there are lots of myths about AI, but when one starts to take a closer look “it is not that magical”. “Several techniques to simulate the human brain along with other mathematical theorems allows machines to do or learn certain things. This creates great opportunities, and, in my opinion, it will not remove more jobs than it will create new ones,” he said.