No matter how we feel about artificial intelligence in the workplace, we can’t deny its transformative power. Today, the ratio of humans to machines is about 70:30, with artificial intelligence automating processes that are mostly transactional, routine or predictive, said Peter Miscovich, Managing Director, JLL Strategy + Innovation, in a recent JLL webinar on the future of work.
In the next 25 years, Miscovich predicts we’ll see a 50:50 split, with employees collaborating much more closely with their machine counterparts. It may seem hard to imagine, but it’s already happening.
Here are three examples of how AI is transforming the workplace.
Artificial Intelligence In the Workplace: 3 Emerging Applications
1. Task and Process Automation
One of the most popular applications of artificial intelligence in the workplace is task and process automation. AI-driven automation (also known as robotic process automation) is different from traditional automation. In traditional automation, a developer creates a program that performs the same tasks over and over with no variation.
With robotic process automation (RPA), the software learns over time how to accomplish the task or execute the process faster and with greater efficiency. Unlike traditional automation, which operates in the background of specific platforms, RPA operates at the user interface level, which means it can be personalized for individual users and easily integrated with multiple solutions.
Many companies have incorporated RPA into their customer support and tech support teams to assist with simpler and more straightforward issues, such as resetting passwords. This frees the IT team up to work on more complicated problems. Many organizations have also begun applying RPA to their onboarding process, such as sending new hire documentation and inputting employee information into the HR database. This allows for a more streamlined workplace experience from the start.
2. Facility Maintenance
If you’re in the office after hours, don’t be surprised to see commercial cleaning robots. Earlier this year, Walmart announced it would expand the use of autonomous floor cleaners from 360 to 1,500 stores across the U.S. The new robot, known as the Autonomous Cleaner or Auto-C, must at first be shown the cleaning route by an associate but then uses machine learning algorithms to quickly learn the paths.
Auto-C machines use sensors to scan their surroundings for people and obstacles and then move through the store, scrubbing the floor as they go. The cleaners are also connected to the cloud, allowing owners to easily access utilization information, operation alerts, and analytics reports the machines generate. In addition, being connected to the cloud means software updates and upgrades are automatically deployed.
The cleaners use Brain Corp’s BrainOS platform, which enables them to navigate autonomously as well as collect data that the machines can use to adjust their cleaning routes. For example, if the machine learns the stockers always start in a specific aisle and it takes them four hours to work through the store, the cleaner can change its route to avoid employees.
3. Predictive Maintenance
Before the digital age, there were two approaches to maintenance: reactive and preventive. Reactive maintenance involves repairing assets that are already malfunctioning with the goal of restoring them to normal operating conditions. With a preventive maintenance strategy, facilities managers regularly inspect assets and perform routine service based on industry averages and best practices before anything breaks down. This reduces downtime and improves the useful life of assets.
Now, thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and the availability of artificial intelligence in the workplace, facilities managers are implementing predictive maintenance.
With predictive maintenance, facilities managers use IoT sensors to establish baselines for asset performance indicators (such as vibration, temperature and sound) and determine upper and lower limits for each. Following these initial measurements, sensors continue to collect data about the asset’s utilization, which is transmitted to AI-enabled software.
The software uses current performance data along with historical data to ensure the asset is functioning properly and informs the facilities team when an asset is heading towards failure so it can be serviced before there’s an issue.
How Will Artificial Intelligence In the Workplace Impact Your Employees?
Artificial intelligence in the workplace is already changing the nature of work. Research by the World Economic Forum shows we’ll see 75 million jobs disappearing over the next two years but 133 million new jobs emerging in key sectors—including jobs for data analysts, AI and machine learning specialists, software developers and digital transformation specialists.
While artificial intelligence will replace some jobs—especially those that are highly repetitive—it will enhance many others. For instance, artificial intelligence applications are being developed to better integrate virtual workplaces with physical ones. In the future, AI could very well be used to make our meetings more connected and immersive, allowing us to collaborate better with our remote colleagues. It could transform the way we learn. Some analysts believe that by 2025, the quality of the virtual experience will be as good as the physical one.
Artificial intelligence in the workplace will also empower us to be more creative thinkers and problem-solvers. AI is already automating many functions, but there’s no substitute for innovative workplace leaders with a vision.