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Ford drives scheduling with artificial intelligence

Sharon Gaudin | Feb. 5, 2015
Automaker relieves burden of scheduling worker assignments with AI software.

While Kinnaird-Heether said the programming itself wasn't trivial, the most challenging part was convincing people that using AI wouldn't be a problem.

Getting buy-in
"My biggest concern wasn't that the program would be sound. It was more about getting people to accept it," he said. "It's new technology. It was a change in the way we had done things before. I was a new employee and I was taking something established and changing it."

The task involved getting people to understand that AI would make the program work better and to assure people that there would still ultimately be human oversight.

"After I used my best public speaking abilities and told them about the problem and presented them with the why, I presented them with the solution," said Kinnaird-Heether. "There were questions about how it would work. I tried to show people that it wasn't going to change anything and we were going to keep this as egalitarian as possible."

He noted that there wasn't much expense to creating the AI program - just his 20 hours of time. To offset that, Ford didn't have to pay to upgrade its automated Excel spreadsheet program, which was traded in for the AI software.

And on the plus side, Ford now is able to use it for other initiatives.

Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, said companies are smart to start small with AI, see the benefits and then go from there.

"There's a huge issue with workflow," he added. "It is important to start small and work out the bugs and see the way AI systems integrate into the enterprise workflow."

Kinnaird-Heether said he hopes the AI program makes other people in the company think about using artificial intelligence.

"I want to create a stand-alone application that people can use for problems they have," he added. "I think people are hopeful for the promise of what [AI] can be in the future.... I'll be in a meeting and someone will say I have this problem and I'll say, 'Hey, I can solve that.' "


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