When COVID-19 first began its community spread in the US in March, we saw a very mixed reaction from industry at large. In some places, business continued as usual, often resulting in crippling COVID-19 outbreaks. Others completely shut down, causing massive losses in revenue and disrupting supply chains. This false dichotomy had to soon meet an end for businesses to survive the perils of the COVID-19 era. I believe that the path through this dichotomy will in fact be largely through emergent AI, data science, and remote monitoring tools. This belief has certainly been borne out in the successful outcomes we see from our customers with Plutoshift’s platform. Indeed, this has shown that COVID-19 has become both a moral and business imperative to modernize, and in the industrial space, the path to modernization in my mind is now very clear.
What has emerged out of this initial chaos and tragedy of global pandemic is the transformation, particularly in the industrial space, from a business that is principally driven by labor to the now recently (and well-deservedly) publicized paradigm of “hybrid” AI and human management combined. Perhaps the best discovery made as companies attempted to transition to this model, is that a business could still keep much of its workforce productive by using AI and other technologies to fill in the gaps in both management and COVID-19-specific policies. When it came to enforcing social distancing and other safety measures in the COVID-19 era, AI and remote monitoring tools stepped in to assist. Tools like ours have demonstrated that AI can be a value-add in far more ways than simply adding to the human element. AI and remote monitoring solutions also empower companies to use “harder truths” when it comes to administrative deliberation, certainly allowing industrial decision-making in particular to be an easier process. With an AI solution, industrial decision-making becomes less subjective and more objective; indeed, it allows these industries to find truths about their manufacturing processes far faster and with far greater accuracy.
AI managed by humans allows AI to do the heavy lifting without being intrusive. As such, these technologies work as a tool to find truths about manufacturing processes and indeed further lay the basic groundwork for automation, rather than trying to replace an entire workforce. Because of this, AI should be viewed as a tool that at this time makes industrial management both easier, safer, and indeed more successful, rather than something that subsumes management itself. This is in part accomplished by using this technology to help plant managers and other employees on the front line change their behavior to achieve better outcomes — improving workflows, as well as working better and smarter.
Through empowering the human element in this way, not only are better business outcomes achieved but environmental footprints are reduced. One of our primary successes here at Plutoshift has been reducing usage of chemicals, water, and other resources: enabling businesses to work both smarter and cleaner when these considerations are arguably more important than ever.
It is this powered tool — remote monitoring and machine learning — that will allow industry to continue running their plants and securing global supply chains despite being under the weighty and tragic shadow of COVID-19. Ultimately in this way, automation and remote monitoring tools will save lives by making remote administrative work in the industrial sector far more feasible and far more proactive to potential problems. Indeed, it even has the potential to predict catastrophe and thus allow preventive measures to be taken, something which I believe will most certainly save money and, more importantly, lives.
Thus, it is through the crisis of COVID-19 that we have seen a great growth in the use of AI which for some time languished in the industrial space, will finally play both a critical and a substantial role in our now rapidly changing global economy. This is a trend which I believe many are missing in the haze of the COVID-19 reaction. It has now become crystal clear that for industrial companies to thrive in the modern economy, they must be equipped with the most modern tools and utilities — which right now is undeniably AI, data science and data monitoring technologies like our own.