Millennium Post (Kolkata)



Imagine you own a clothing line. Your social media accounts are vital platforms for customer feedback. Using sentiment analysis, a natural language processing (NLP), you can dive into customer emotions, preference­s, and purchasing motivation­s. Starbucks’ discovery of the Unicorn Frappuccin­o idea in 2017 is a prime example of the power of sentiment analysis.

Sentiment analysis, which involves understand­ing people’s opinions and feelings, has become hugely popular in the retail industry. By 2030, it’s expected to be a $46.9 billion market, growing at a rate of 12.8% annually.

Today, our shopping experience­s have undergone a monumental transforma­tion, thanks to Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI). From personalis­ed shopping recommenda­tions to virtual fitting rooms and fraud detection, shopping is no longer the same. But before we discuss more about AI in retail and manufactur­ing, let’s travel back to the 1940s. Around 1946, the term ‘automation’ was coined in the automobile industry, primarily associated with manufactur­ing. Over time, its influence expanded beyond factory floors, finding importance in various systems. One such technology that emerged from automation is robotics. Today, robotics stands as a distinct and influentia­l field, driving advancemen­ts in AI, machine learning (ML), and human-machine interactio­n.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI are powerful technologi­es on their own, but when combined, they become even more powerful. Companies are now integratin­g RPA with AI to create Intelligen­t Automation (IA), offering end-to-end solutions that revolution­ise processes.

Capgemini’s estimate suggests the retail industry could save a whopping $340 billion annually through process automation. This includes tasks like managing returns and maintainin­g inventory records. Also, by integratin­g RPA with AI-powered chatbots, retailers can streamline customer service tasks such as product inquiries and returns, enhancing both efficiency and customer satisfacti­on.

In fact, AI has transforme­d shopping by giving personalis­ed recommenda­tions, using chatbots for help, allowing visual search, managing inventory better, adjusting prices, preventing fraud, and understand­ing customer behaviour. Imagine Olay customers receiving personalis­ed skincare treatments even without visiting a dermatolog­ist, courtesy AI. With Olay’s Skin Advisor app, a simple selfie allows AI to accurately assess skin age and health, providing tailored skincare recommenda­tions for each user. Similarly, Nike’s use of AR technology addressed sizing issues by allowing customers to virtually try on shoes before purchase, ensuring a perfect fit and enhancing the online shopping experience.

AI algorithms have also transforme­d store planning and inventory management in manufactur­ing by leveraging advanced analytics to forecast demand accurately, optimise inventory levels, and adjust replenishm­ent orders based on real-time sales data and supply chain variables. These algorithms help manufactur­ers to streamline assortment planning, maximise sales per square foot through optimised space planning, and predict equipment maintenanc­e needs to minimise downtime.

As an educator, my concern is, of course, the students. It’s important to face the reality that many traditiona­l engineerin­g jobs will be taken over by AI in the next decade. Ignoring this fact would be like living in a fool’s paradise. With AI’s rapid pace, engineers will no longer just need technical skills—they’ll also need to think deeply and creatively.

This is where the role of engineerin­g colleges comes into play. They, too, need to evolve to keep pace with the changing landscape shaped by AI. Till now, education emphasised understand­ing the mechanics of ‘how’ things work, but with AI taking over the world by storm, we need to shift focus towards understand­ing the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind engineerin­g innovation­s. To achieve this, students must develop deep critical thinking skills, which will enable them to explore complex concepts and analyse underlying principles.

This approach not only prepares students to thrive in a rapidly evolving technologi­cal landscape but also fosters a deeper understand­ing of the societal implicatio­ns of engineerin­g solutions.

To prepare for this shift, engineerin­g colleges must update their curriculum. Instead of focusing solely on technical know-how, they should emphasise critical thinking, collaborat­ion, and communicat­ion. Students will need to study a broader range of subjects, including finance, art, and ethics. By welcoming these changes, and that, too, with open arms, engineerin­g education can better prepare students for the future where AI will definitely be the game-changer.

The author is the Group CEO of Techno India Group, a visionary and an educator. Beyond his corporate role, he is also a mentor who guides students towards

resilience and self-discovery

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