Last updateTue, 22 Jan 2019 8pm


Will Smart Machines Obsolete Human Resources?

Is artificial intelligence (AI) going to take over manufacturing jobs and the jobs of human resources professionals? That is a question that concerns many employees and human resources (HR) professionals. After all, you don’t need an HR department for robots.

But in today’s marketplace, manufacturers and distributors must be automated to be competitive. This kind of automation is constantly changing, and the degree of automation is accelerating almost daily. In a survey they conducted of hundreds of medium and large U.S.-based manufacturers and distributors, enterprise resource planning (ERP) provider Macola learned that 77% of manufacturers already automate their core business processes with software. Eighty-one per cent of respondents reported that investments in technology have led to reduced cost and increased revenue, while 76% reported that errors were reduced and 95% reported better customer service.

With that kind of return on investment (ROI) and in the face of the increasingly competitive landscape, there seems to be no choice but to automate. But what effect does all of this have on the human resources in a facility? A recent webinar, “How Artificial Intelligence Can Improve Human Resource Management and Talent Development” shed light on this issue.

Improving Human Resources

Manufacturing.net sponsored the presentation in which Zsolt Olah, director of innovation and learning solutions at Performance Development Group stated that he believes that miracles can happen when humans and smart machines work together. He noted that businesses from the auto industry to Microsoft have have invested $14 billion in artificial intelligence just in the last five years. By 2020, they that number is expected to reach $54 billion.

Olah stressed that the life of a worker in the next 10 years is going to change dramatically. “Every technology goes through a process of acceptance,” he said. “At the very beginning, only the geeks and the visionaries know about it. Slowly it makes it to the top; everybody thinks that it’s going to solve every problem in the world. AI is at the top now. It covers many issues – mechanics, natural language processing, facial recognition, 3D printing. It is all coming together.” He pointed out that in the last 5 years, reams of data have been produced, but it largely hasn’t been utilized. But with AI, machine learning is possible. It is an artificial neural network; by showing data to AI, it can look at the data over and over and learn by itself.

“This is not done by coding,” he stressed. “AI learns by processing data. It needs lots of power, and recognizes patterns.” The human interaction comes in because AI doesn’t know what you want to do with the data. You have to figure out what you want it to learn,” he said. “This amazing technology learns by itself but the more you work with it, the better it gets. This is unlike applications which seem to work slower the more you work with them.”

For the humans working with the AI, it is a change because they don’t have to spend time digging; they just have to figure out what they want the AI to do with the data it is mining. “It will be automatic,” said Olah. “AI knows what and how to look for and it knows what you need to know to make the decision. You make the decision, based on what AI has given you. That is what AI does; it makes us powerful by giving us insights.”

Olah says that, contrary to taking away jobs, robots are just taking away are the repetitive, tiring tasks that humans are doing today. “Now you have a powerful assistant, like a super-human that can find the answer to your questions and list the options. He believes that AI has the potential to change employees’ lives. “As human HR people, you have to help employees reach their potential. Learning will be personalized – what you need, when you need it.”

Ray Jiminez, chief learning architect at Vignettes Learning expanded on this theme in the second half of the webinar. “Whatever we do, we will always be impacted by robotics,” he said. Nano fish are sent out into the oceans to collect data and interpret what is happening to water temperatures. Drones monitor the skies. And in Japan, AI is being used for elder care, because the need is so great and there are not enough humans to do the jobs. These functions require machine learning.

machine learningThere are three kinds of machine learning. Supervised: this is a task driver, like rote-learning. Feed the machine with data and it just helps process things faster. Unsupervised: the machine figures out things and learns from the input data, and set ideas. The deep learning comes in Reinforcement: once the AI sees the patterns, it can learn the algorithm and react to the environment.

To apply this to human resources, AI can take the information from performance results of employees and give HR humans real-time data showing what variances there are in performance, and make it possible to get real-time training designed for each employee. It programs itself. Next, because the managers are aware of the performances, real-time, they have coaching and follow-up with the staff. They can then look at the numbers and find out if the employee needs more training, coaching, or mentoring. Managers don’t have to send a query – the report just happens based on the data analyzed by AI. This increases the likelihood that executives could use the data to accomplish their work and improve their employees’ results.

“You can do things faster, and identify and track the top employees with machine learning. You can also extract patterns and achieve deep learning,” said Jiminez. “You have to prompt and re-direct learning machines to ask the right questions; the machines don’t choose what must be done next. That has to come from the humans.”


Deloitte says that for organizations to compete successfully, the company must leverage its employees’ knowledge very day. “AI is one way to capture that expertise, which is dynamic, and has compounding effects” said Jiminez. “It’s important to recognize expertise in our midst.”

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is senior editor of VALVE Magazine

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