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Hitachi puts AI boss in charge to boost productivity

Forget about robots taking over your job — they might be more likely to take over the role of your boss and get you working smarter. Hitachi has been experimenting with software systems that can issue workflows and assign employee duties, and so far there’s been an 8 percent increase in warehouse efficiency and productivity.

According to Hitachi, the new programs are designed to assess fluctuations in demand and productivity levels based on a large database of previous corporate activity. The main benefits over previous automated systems are the way in which the new AI is able to adapt in real time to changes in workflow and unexpected activities — variations that would typically require new code to be added.

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Key to the new artificial intelligence code is its understanding of “kaizen,” a Japanese word meaning the continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, and related ideas. Wasted time and effort is gradually reduced as the system refines itself over time, and it’s this process than Hitachi says it has managed to tap into with its software.

What’s more, the program is able to sift through large volumes of data and select the bits most appropriate to the current scenario. In other words, it can look back on strategies used in the past that match the current day’s demand levels, worker configuration and even weather conditions. Crucially, it can work without the help of a human interpreter.

Perhaps we don’t have anything to fear from robots powered by artificial intelligence after all, just like Google’s Eric Schmidt has promised. In fact, once they take over management roles, we’ll all be able to finish work a couple of hours early. Of course, that day is still some way off yet.

[Image courtesy of Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock.com]