There is a case to be optimistic about achieving this goal; over the last decade, the emergence of AI and Automation technologies to the workplace have introduced an array of improvements that have saved us time and brought us closer to this fantasy. These technologies have brilliantly merged the strategy of human thinking with the talents of technology, thereby tackling some of our most complex and laborious tasks, while requiring less hours of input from us. With the grunt work been taken care of, we are left with more time to focus on what we are best at, which is creativity, driving value and interacting with people.
After reviewing Capgemini’s paper Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing Operations and my own observations of the market, I have highlighted three ways in which AI and Automation can help teams focus on creating value, becoming more effective and working more dynamically.
1. Focus on creating value:
In every industrial sector, there are repetitive and predictable tasks that are conducted manually. These tasks can be time-consuming, delivering low value and the employees delivering them can be overlooked. In 2016 a Gallup poll reported that 60% of millennials would consider leaving their jobs if they didn’t feel engaged at work, and with the cohort of millennials growing in the workforce, this can become a rising problem for organisations. So how can AI and Automation technologies provide a solution? Well, let’s say you work as a food product manufacturer and you spend all of your day researching historical sales and tracking weather data, a machine learning model can take care of the grunt work for you. It can collate data from various sources, use these to make predictions for future demand and assemble plans across your teams accordingly. Thereby freeing up your time to focus on improving customer service and giving you the information needed to focus on driving value into the business.
Source: Capgemini Research Institute analysis
More so, with these solutions in place, the value that team members bring to the workplace shifts from performing manual tasks to the way teams think, collaborate and solve problems. This environment allows for fresh ideas to flourish and for teams to be valued for their thought diversity, therefore everyone is given the opportunity to make a difference to their workplace.
2. Become more effective:
Things don’t always go our way at work, and employees spend many unproductive hours trying to resolve problems; sometimes not even knowing where to look. This can reduce the quality of work, frustrate employees and lead to a decline in customer satisfaction. Especially if employees don’t feel like they’re learning from the challenges.
One example of a solution to this problem can be to deploy intelligent monitoring solutions to help employees pinpoint errors, optimize the utilization of resources and collect the data needed to help resolve issues. When Coke One adopted this solution to improve their bottling process, they saved 30-40 hours of effort per month, imagine the additional value that teams can create with this saved time! All the while, the team managed to reduce their productivity leakage and increase customer satisfaction, an all-round win.
This is a fantastic example which illustrates how AI and Automation can complement human labour in the workplace, as oppose to the fear of replacing human roles. It creates a different kind of role division, one where the robots collect data and flag errors, which empowers humans to act effectively and utilise their efforts to think creatively about the development of the business.
3. Work more dynamically
AI and Automation solutions have encouraged organisations to build agile working models to be adaptable and thrive at the pace of change. Thereby the challenge for leaders has been to break down the information silos within their organisation, create the dynamics for teams to innovate at speed and adopt the culture of learning and experimentation. The positive effects of these organisational changes have been that they have led to non-hierarchal working models, which empower individuals to become stakeholders and take ownership over their work. The values that this working model bring to the business include:
- Focus on what is important for business
- Deliver better customer value
- Faster value delivery
- Better employee morale
- Streamlined work.
The personal benefits that I’ve experienced by working in agile teams include synergizing, being bold and learning more from my peers. Having the parameters to explore my own ideas, while sharing information on open platforms have led to the creation of innovation hubs, which encourage continuous learning while fostering a sense of community.
Returning to the source of inspiration for this blog, in the course of my career the advancements in AI and Automation have brought a positive enrichment to the way teams are working, solving problems and dedicating their time. I have witnessed automated platforms helping teams work more effectively and collaboratively, freeing up the time for individuals to spend thinking about areas of the business where they can personally make a positive impact; this can help us to feel more fulfilled and happier in the workplace. And potentially some part of the answer for how to keep employees engaged at work could be to enable these solutions to take care of the grunt work while creating the space for individuals to be the value creators!
Zeynep is a Consultant in the People and Organisation practice. She is currently delivering innovation projects for a multinational consumer products company, by partnering with start-ups to introduce AI and Automation to different areas of the business. She is a member of the Future of Work team and enjoys exploring how companies will need to adapt and re-design to survive the external forces of change.