The pandemic has accelerated the necessity and acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies across every discipline for its ability to make intelligent inferences from massive amounts of disparate data to improve operations and services. Companies are now realizing that they need to quickly pivot their business strategies to include AI or find themselves outpaced, but where should they begin? Robotics and automation in manufacturing would appear to be the most obvious starting point, but is it? For answers, we turn to the boldest and the bravest of disruptive innovators for best practices and guidance, namely, the Chief Technology Officer of Ford Motor Company
During an IEEE-Boston/IEEE-HKN (Eta Kappa Nu) Artificial Intelligence Seminar series, Dr. Washington shared tangible AI strategies that have helped Ford Motor Company maintain its legacy for disruptive innovations.
“Ford is Democratizing AI across our business in many ways,” says Washington. This includes an “Ecosystem” that includes over fifteen different areas, including finance, legal, propulsion, energy, materials science, as well as the more organic areas of manufacturing, self-driving vehicles and using robotics for automatic delivery right to your doorstep. At the hub of this ecosystem, Washington describes a “Digital network flywheel” and explains that “AI is essential to that Flywheel, which is fueled by data.”
Taking the leap into AI requires a strategy and a deep understanding of all aspects of your business. For Washington’s teams at Ford, they started by understanding the data and used data science experts to help forge the company’s AI strategy. Washington’s teams recognized that successful integration of AI usage across different business units required non-intimidating approaches to train employees. This led to the development of the company’s Mach1 Machine learning toolkit, which not only teaches employees about AI, but also includes user-friendly tools for AI to be used everywhere from measuring workloads to feature discovery in data.
The take-aways are this: Identify what your data is and where you are using it, utilize data experts to help devise your company strategy, identify the low hanging fruit of where AI can help your business and make sure you build in training and tools conducive to your employee population.
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During his talk, Dr. Washington offered advice to students in the audience to “stay curious.”
Despite Ken Washington being a Nuclear Engineer by training, his “stay curious” approach to disruptive innovations has led him to build technical adeptness across a diversity of topics including state-of-the-art AI algorithms, material science, energy and many more.
“We are actively recruiting a wide range of tech talent with emphasis on AI and coding,” said Washington. “There has never been a more exciting time to work at Ford as we transform the company and consumer experiences, including huge investments in AV (Autonomous Vehicles) and EV (Electric Vehicles).”
Therefore, I amend the aforementioned “take-aways” list with this most important ingredient: Make sure you grow employees with interdisciplinary talents who always remain curious.