The New Work Style Innovation Enabled by AI and RPA

Though many companies have initiated work style innovation, a large number appear to have difficulty implementing effective measures. Skillful use of the latest technologies, such as AI and robotic process automation (RPA), will create major shifts in work styles and boost innovation. This article describes in detail work style innovation that makes the most of technological capabilities.
[Fujitsu Insight 2017 Work Style Innovation Keynote Report]

How Will the Singularity Change How We Work?

Iwao Nakayama
Chief Evangelist, Global Marketing Group
Corporate Executive Officer, Fujitsu Limited

Humanity has experienced a number of industrial revolutions. The first industrial revolution was triggered by the invention of the steam engine. The second was brought about by the discovery of electricity, while the third arrived when the computer was invented. Now, the fourth industrial revolution is predicted to be driven by AI, which will make full use of computers.

What will our future look like? How will society change over the next few decades? I think we will experience the greatest paradigm shift in humanity's history; this paradigm shift is called the singularity.

The "singularity" refers to the point in time when the technological progress of computers and AI is such that AI surpasses human intelligence; this is predicted to occur in 2045. More concretely, the singularity is expressed in terms of "a future in which exponential technological progress has tremendous impacts on society, leading to irreversible changes in daily living." The key elements of such a future are unquestionably AI and big data.

How big data is used determines the extent of AI's success

Big data can be roughly divided into two types: data in use and data not in use. Data in use becomes "treasure data" when extracted by AI processing. Treasure data can transform businesses, which makes it valuable data.

AI cannot perform deep learning without big data. If you are considering use of AI, it is important to internally store a wide variety of data for future use. Data that seems worthless at present may prove to be major treasure data in the future and help your company grow. Using such treasure data greatly influences a company's future growth and has a strong correlation with work style innovation, a topic that is currently attracting much attention.

From "big data" to "treasure data"

Examples of Work Style Innovation Using AI

How will our work styles change in the future? Let us examine a few examples of work style innovation using Zinrai, the AI developed by Fujitsu.

AI retrieves similar CT images and reduces decision times to 1/6

The first example is healthcare. Hiroshima University uses AI-based search technology to retrieve CT images that are similar to a given CT image taken at the university hospital. Data retrieval by Zinrai has achieved an accuracy of approximately 85% regarding the type of disease a given patient has. Meanwhile, it enables doctors to make decisions up to six times faster.

AI handles 24/7 call center operations

At call centers, operators search huge databases for appropriate answers to inquiries. Using AI for this task enables call centers to immediately return responses 24/7. AI reduces call center operators' workloads and supports work style innovation.

Product demand forecasting by AI streamlines purchasing, thereby improving efficiency

The recent diversification in consumer needs has led to demand for a lineup of a wide variety of small lots in distribution services. One Fujitsu client had 1.75 million SKUs; its system was unable to forecast demand by product. After introducing Zinrai, the system could use a huge volume of data to appropriately forecast demand and efficiently place orders.

What Is RPA, which Boosts Work Style Innovation?

In addition to AI, robotic process automation (RPA) is used to achieve work style innovation. RPA refers to use of machine learning to achieve automated reproduction of manual work processes.

Example of RPA in back office operations

The other day, I visited Fujitsu Communication Services Limited (CSL) to hear about how they use RPA. CSL covers contact centers, sales marketing, help desks, and back office operations. When they applied RPA to acceptance inspections and service termination tasks, they were able to find mistakes made during work.

An employee commented: "RPA has freed me from daily pressure because it finds the mistakes for us." During busy periods, task volume increases by five or six times, but securing a sufficient workforce to handle only such periods is unrealistic. Thanks to work automation enabled by RPA, CSL ended up not having to increase the size of its workforce.

Using RPA to check acceptance inspections and service termination information in back office operations

"Hybrid operations with people and RPA" are key

What piqued my interest during the conversations at CSL was the idea of "hybrid operations with people and RPA." Using RPA should not mean leaving everything up to the computer. The important point about using RPA is to always include people in operations. This clearly places responsibility should a problem occur. At CSR, a person is assigned to be in charge of each PC that runs RPA.

When introducing RPA, business process reengineering (BPR) is also important. RPA must be introduced only after clarifying work details and organizing tasks. At CSL, doing so enabled them to shorten the new employee training period and improve training efficiency.

Managers commented that "RPA helped us identify each task's difficulty level" and "RPA led to increased disability employment" as well as "RPA spared us from securing a larger workforce during busy periods" as introduced earlier.

Workers felt that introducing RPA made it easier for them to take days off, facilitated employee training, and enabled them to go home earlier and enjoy their private time. Employees in divisions using RPA scored as high as 4.38 (out of 5) on the ES Survey, which measures worksite employee-friendliness, while the overall company average was 3.70.

Five Rules for Successful Work Style Innovation

Many of you may be wondering what should first be done to use AI. Fujitsu offers AI seminars and workshops where customers can participate in group activities, generate ideas through discussions, and make new discoveries.

Training AI experts internally is also important. Our human resource training service, FUJITSU Digital Business College, offers the "AI and Analytics Course" for businesspeople. In this course, participants acquire a wide variety of AI-related skills. They can learn about competitors' AIs as well as Zinrai.

To conclude, I would like to introduce five rules for "unsuccessful" work style innovation.

  1. 1.Objectives are not shared with workers in the field.
  2. 2.Employees' awareness does not change.
  3. 3.The division in charge of promotion does not understand how business is actually carried out.
  4. 4.The division in charge of promotion seeks quick results without considering staff members' perspectives.
  5. 5.There is a lack of vision.

If you aim to achieve the complete opposite of these five rules, your work style innovation should succeed. Fujitsu will promote AI-enabled work style innovation through co-creation with our customers.

  • Iwao Nakayama Chief Evangelist
    Global Marketing Group
    Corporate Executive Officer
    Fujitsu Limited